A greenhouse is a structure designed to create an ideal environment for the cultivation of plants by harnessing and controlling natural sunlight and heat. A greenhouse consists of a framework made of various materials, such as wood, metal, or plastic, and is covered with transparent or translucent materials that allow sunlight to penetrate while trapping the heat inside. The most common materials used for covering the greenhouse include glass, polycarbonate, or polyethylene films.
Whether you have a small greenhouse for just a few of your favorite plants, or your entire vegetable garden is reliant on a huge structure, choosing the right greenhouse materials for your needs is key to having a bountiful harvest come.
When choosing greenhouse materials, you should take the following considerations into account:
- Climate : The amount of sunlight you get per day as well as the maximum and minimum temperatures when the greenhouse is in use determine the insulation value and the transparency of the covering material as well as the amount of ventilation you need.
- Weather: Not quite the same thing as climate, weather includes transient events such as high winds, snowstorms and hailstorms. A greenhouse in a location where these occur frequently needs a more durable covering.
- Crops being grown: If you’re growing tropical plants in a cold environment, you’ll need a thicker covering with more insulating value than if your main purpose for building the greenhouse is to start seeds early in the growing season.
- Cost: Some of the best covering materials can be very expensive. If you’re building a large greenhouse, you may have to economize by choosing a covering that’s almost as good as the best, but not quite.
- Simplicity: When building your own greenhouse, it’s natural to look for frame and covering materials that you can cut and assemble yourself without the need for special equipment.
Framing The Greenhouse
These are the most conventional options for greenhouse construction. They’re affordable and easy to maintain, but they’re also quite heavy. If you’re looking for a strong frame that will last for long, wood is a good choice. However, it’s important to make sure that the wood is pressure treated and sealed with a waterproof sealant or paint to protect it from the elements.
Advantages of Using Wooden Frames
- Wooden frames are attractive and versatile
- Once installed, wood is relatively easy to maintain: all you need is a coat of waterproof sealant or paint every few years to keep them in good condition.
- Wooden frames are also very sturdy and can withstand wind.
- They provide good insulation, which helps keep your plants warm in the winter.
Disadvantages of Using Wooden Greenhouse Frames
- It’s quite heavy, which can make it difficult to move around for installation.
- If not properly treated, wooden greenhouse frames will rot or warp over time.
Aluminium frames are a good option if you’re looking for a lightweight frame that’s still durable.
They’re less expensive than both steel and wood frames, so they are the most pocket-friendly option. Aluminium is also corrosion-resistant and doesn’t rust, making it a good choice for coastal climates.
Advantages of Using Aluminium for a Greenhouse Frame
- They’re very lightweight, which makes them easy to move around.
- They’re durable; with the right treatment you can prevent corrosion.
- They’re also thermally conductive, meaning that they transfer heat quickly and evenly throughout the frame, which helps keep your plants warm in the winter.
Disadvantages of Using Aluminium in a Greenhouse Frame
- It’s one of the more expensive options compared to other materials.
- It can be difficult to find frames in different sizes and shapes.
- It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other materials available.
Galvanized Steel Frames
Steel frames are the most durable option, but they’re also the heaviest and most expensive. They’re a good choice if you live in a cold climate, as steel is not affected by extremely cold temperatures. However, steel frames can be susceptible to rusting if not properly treated.
Advantages of Using Galvanized Steel for a Greenhouse Frame
- Galvanized steel frames are a good option for people who want a durable, low-maintenance frame.
- They’re really strong; so you need fewer beams to support your structure. With the right design, this can translate into a lot more light in your greenhouse.
- Galvanized steel is thermally conductive, meaning that it transfers heat quickly and evenly throughout the frame, which helps keep your plants warm in the winter.
Disadvantage for using Galvanized Steel for a Greenhouse Frame
- Most steel greenhouse frames are made to be used with polyethylene film rather than glass or polycarbonate. While this might be an appropriate option for commercial growers, it can look unattractive in your garden.
When choosing glass for your greenhouse, you have two main options: horticultural glass and toughened safety glass.
Horticultural glass is made of standard window glass specially treated to be used outside, but is not as strong as toughened safety glass. It can break easily if hit or dropped, so it’s not the best option if you have children or pets.
Toughened safety glass is stronger and more resistant to breaking, making it a safer option. There is less significant advantage to using polycarbonate over toughened glass, but the thermal properties of polycarbonate still make it the objectively better choice.
Pros of Glass Greenhouse Glazing
- Excellent light transmission
- Very durable and long-lasting
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Easy to replace and buy second-hand
- Natural substance
Cons of Glass Greenhouse Glazing:
- Heavier than polycarbonate greenhouse glazing
- More expensive to install than polycarbonate greenhouse glazing
- Very little UV protection for plants
- Lower thermal performance
Polycarbonate greenhouse glazing
Polycarbonate is a plastic material that is durable and shatter-resistant. Panels are made of two thin sheets of polycarbonate with a connective ribbing. The twin-wall structure helps significantly with insulating your greenhouse, and also with diffusing the light within the greenhouse. However, it can be prone to condensation and getting dirty if not installed properly.
Advantages of Polycarbonate Greenhouse Glazing
- Better thermal qualities than glass glazing
- Durable and shatter-resistant
- Better light diffusion
- Provides UV protection for your plants
- Low maintenance
Disadvantages of Polycarbonate Greenhouse Glazing
- Not as attractive
- Needs to be installed properly or can suffer from condensation or buildup of dirt
- Scratches more easily
- Not a natural resource
Polyethylene is a plastic polymer. It’s an extremely common plastic, found in everything from plastic shopping bags to toys. It’s a thermoplastic material, which means that it can withstand a lot of heat before melting. Polythene is a relatively atypical choice for home greenhouse growers; it’s used more for seasonal commercial greenhouses or hoop houses.
- Durability and flexibility against force.
- Lower cost.
- Up to 3 to 5 years’ life guarantee.
- High transmission and diffusion of light in Greenhouse.
- Practical maintenance and installation instructions.
Choosing the right greenhouse materials is crucial for successful agricultural production. Mazero Agrifood is an excellent choice for farmers looking to acquire greenhouse materials due to our expertise and commitment to quality. We offer a wide range of durable and reliable materials ensuring farmers have options that suit their specific needs. Contact us today on +254729777711.