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Backyard Greenhouses: Get Fresh Vegetables Year-Round

Backyard greenhouses can boost your gardening efforts all year-round

Written by Elizabeth Millard


 Backyard greenhouses can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but no matter what you  choose, location and proper ventilation are essential to successful growing. Jerry Pavia photo

Anyone who’s ever tried to navigate stacks of pots, soil, trowels, watering cans and other gardening paraphernalia knows how quickly a garage or basement can turn into an unworkable space for plant cultivation or anything else (like parking your car). Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: Build a backyard greenhouse.

Not only will a greenhouse give you the storage space you need, it also can help you get a jump on seedlings for the outdoor growing season. Plus, if you’re up for keeping it heated, you can have fresh veggies in the dead of winter or grow plants that aren’t usually viable in your climate.

Here are some factors to keep in mind if you’re considering a backyard greenhouse:


Zoning and Taxes

Most likely, your greenhouse will be an immoveable structure, unless you opt for a small, shed-like space. Because of that, check with your local zoning official about what permits you’ll need (if any), what’s allowed in terms of square footage and how it might affect your property taxes.



You’ll want your greenhouse to be convenient, especially if you’re growing in a cold climate and don’t want a long trek through the snow. Some people find the best solution is a lean-to greenhouse that’s attached to a house or garage. Others use it as a landscape focal point, with winding pathways leading to the structure. Whichever option you prefer, be sure to place the greenhouse near a water source (and protect your log walls).


Growing Space

This is one area where it may be helpful to overestimate your needs. Because a greenhouse could potentially be in place for decades, you have to consider how you might be expanding your gardening efforts. Give yourself plenty of growing area, as well as room to move around.


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 Unless you have very specific needs that require a customized build, you likely can get by with  a greenhouse kit. They’re affordable and easy for the DIYer to assemble. fotolia.com/coffeekai  photo

Power, Heat & Water

The most efficient tactic for greenhouses is running separate electrical lines to the structure. Although this may be an investment upfront, you’ll appreciate it for powering lights and heaters. If you want to get really professional with your backyard greenhouse, consider installing a misting system. They’re surprisingly affordable, incredibly convenient and quite effective for helping plants thrive.



Proper ventilation may be the single most important factor of greenhouse gardening. Every greenhouse needs to breathe, either in the form of fans or windows/panels that can be opened to allow air inside. Incorporating a good ventilation system that employs exhaust shutters and/or roof vents along with an exhaust fan and a quality evaporative cooler will significantly cut down the risk for plant disease, rot and mold.


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Unless you have very specific shelving, light placement and framing needs, it’s likely that you can make your greenhouse build more affordable by ordering a kit. These have come a long way in the past 10 years, and now there are many easy-to-assemble options that you can order online. They can range in price from $800 to over $5,000 depending on size and materials. But hiring local builders can be an equally affordable option, depending on where you live. Either way, make sure your flooring material is durable and offers good drainage to ensure your backyard greenhouse will be on solid ground for years to come.

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