Saturday, April 1, 2023

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How Does a Greenhouse Work?

Winter – a bane to gardeners. The frigid cold takes plant life, leaving those with green thumbs itching for the opportunity to get their hands dirty once more. Yet, some gardeners can continue with their work even after the land succumbs to white and barren fields. 

How is this possible?

Greenhouses, of course. These simple technological marvels are invaluable for those who wish to grow plants year-round, even harvest crops that are out of season. If you’re looking to sustain certain plants year-round, you might want to consider looking into grow room construction. Naturally, all crops are out of season during the winter, but greenhouses facilitate plant life, nonetheless. 

Yet, how is it that these wondrous facilities can maintain heat even during extremely cold weather?

The Benefits of Glass

When the sun beams rays down, the earth absorbs this light and converts it to heat, which it then gives off. To take advantage of this basic natural principle, the walls and roofs of greenhouses are made nearly entirely of glass. 

The glass allows short wavelengths such as sunlight to pass through easily, yet prevents most long wavelengths from escaping, making it an ideal material for trapping heat. 

As sunlight passes through the glass in the greenhouse, it strikes the floor and other objects within the enclosure. That light is then converted to longer wavelength infrared energy (heat), most of which is unable to penetrate the glass as it attempts to escape. 

This is known, aptly, as the “Greenhouse Effect.” You have likely heard this expression in conjunction with how the Earth’s atmosphere prevents warm air from escaping. The concept is much the same, with the atmosphere playing the part that glass plays in a greenhouse.

Therefore, even when it is cold outside, the greenhouse itself maintains its cozy interior, generating and maintaining enough heat to allow plants to thrive in what would normally be an inhospitable environment. 

Factors that can Affect Greenhouse Efficiency

There are, however, certain factors that can affect how well the greenhouse performs its function, making it necessary to provide supplemental assistance in some circumstances. 

If you live near the equator, chances are good that you will receive sunlight in abundance and likely need little in the way of help to provide enough heat for your plants to grow. However, sometimes that means that there is too much heat, which can have a detrimental effect on plant life. 

Other locations do not have as much exposure and are forced to rely on other means to ensure the proper temperature for plant growth. 

Unless you are in the Goldilocks zone, receiving a “just right” amount of heat, you may need to install a heating and air unit to regulate the temperature. This functions more or less as a precaution to prevent either extremes while ensuring an optimum atmosphere in which plants can thrive. 

Too Much Heat

In some instances of overheating, a simple solution is to cover the windows or roof with white sheets, which are effective at reflecting the sun’s rays. You could also ensure that the greenhouse is built within a shady area to reduce the amount of heat generated by the sun’s rays.

Proper ventilation can also allow excess heat to escape, as it circumvents the glass pane’s ability to contain heat.

Too Little Heat

One method to handle too little heat is to fill the greenhouse with items that collect heat during the day and continue to give off heat, even at night. One of the most popular options is water

Some greenhouse owners keep jugs of water or even aquariums of it for the sole purpose of absorbing as much heat as possible. Dark materials absorb more light, so jugs painted black or the use of black food coloring in the water itself can prove even more efficient. 

Of course, it’s always best to place these in direct sunlight to maximize the amount of heat absorption.

Other heat sink ideas include creating a central pit full of tightly packed items such as bricks, concrete, and other items or going with a modular grow room design that absorbs a lot of heat. Some greenhouses even establish a compost heap in the middle, which gives off additional heat while it does its job. 

The Benefits of a Greenhouse

Ultimately, a greenhouse gives you ultimate control over every aspect of your indoor garden, from the amount of water allotment for your plants to the organization and type of plants you wish to grow. 

Here are some of the major benefits: 

  • You can grow plants year-round, no matter what the growing season or whether they can exist in your environment
  • The greenhouse protects the plants from pest and animal threats, minimizing the need for chemical exposure
  • The Plants are safe from extreme weather, winds, or temperatures
  • They grant the ability to use an irrigation system of your design to ensure plants receive the proper amount of water
  • The use of natural light and proper materials can make it an energy-efficient option

The Bottom Line

Greenhouses take advantage of natural principles to ensure that the glass-based facility absorbs enough light to create a temperature conducive to sustaining plant life, even if the outside temperatures would prevent successful growth. 

By using glass panels that by nature allow sunlight to pass through, but prevent most long-wave heat to escape, it is possible to maintain plants year-long, even during winter.

They can also be modified to create a warmer or cooler internal environment depending on where the greenhouse itself is located, both globally and within its current atmosphere. Nearly every aspect of plant care can be engineered to specifications thanks to the nature of the self-contained structure. 

This means that gardeners have unparalleled control over their crops. It is even possible to arrange the greenhouse in such a way as to vary temperatures within certain quadrants, allowing the growth of completely different types of plants within a single greenhouse environment. 

However ambitious your gardening needs, greenhouses can be developed to make optimum use of space and natural resources. They can be as small as a walk-in closet or span the breadth of a wide field. Some even have multiple levels.

Now that you understand how greenhouses work, you can use them to your full advantage!

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