Many gardeners think that they are helping the planet by growing their own fruit, vegetables and plants within their own greenhouse. Other gardeners might have other agendas: perhaps they are trying to save money on supermarket fruit and vegetables. Or, perhaps their greenhouse provides them with a series of projects that help them enjoy retirement.Whatever the reason for owning a greenhouse, we wonder how often owners stop to consider how much they are helping to save the planet? If so, are they looking at every way possible that they could be reducing their energy usage and utilise the natural supplies of energy possible?
In order to make your greenhouse environmentally friendly, we have put together a few tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Take the time to apply some, or all of the tips that we suggest and you could make a real difference when it comes to helping to save the planet.
During the cold winter months, your greenhouse needs to be sufficiently heated, to ensure your plants are thriving under the right conditions. However, the cost of heating, and the energy that is sometimes used to do so can be expensive. Furthermore, by heating your greenhouse, you are likely to consume more of the world’s natural resources. As such, it is vital that you do not cause additional wastage, in order to save costs and fuel.
The two most common forms of heating a greenhouse, are gas or electric. Gas is good to heat plants which need to be kept at a low temperature, as they provide an instant source of heat. However, it is difficult to focus the ‘path’ of gas heating and therefore a lot can be wasted. As a result, electricity is often a better source of heating as it focusses directly on the plants, meaning less wastage.
Other sources of heating are available. Ground source heat pumps take advantage of the earth’s natural heat, providing a central heating system by storing the heat from the earth and transferring it to other environments where it can be effectively used. What is good about heat pumps is that they work the other way, cooling the environment by taking heat away. As such, they are a good, energy-efficient way of using the earth’s natural energy.
On a smaller scale, some gardeners prefer to keep rocks and stones in their greenhouses. These retain additional heat when conditions are hot, and release them to provide extra warmth when the temperature drops. This method, however, is only a small-scale solution.
Solar panels have become popular with governments, and provide an energy-efficient method for generating electricity from the sun’s rays. It therefore makes sense for solar energy to help heat greenhouses. Solar greenhouses trap the solar energy during the day, and release it at night when it becomes much cooler. The glass is designed so that glazing is ‘oriented’ to receive as much solar heat as possible during the day and this is particularly effective during the winter months.
Solar greenhouses also provide extra insulation for areas of the greenhouse which do not receive any (or much) direct sunlight. So, areas which do not benefit from the sun’s heat, are insulated and therefore their warmth is effectively retained. This works especially well in gardens which are naturally well-shaded, or in areas where the greenhouse has had to be carefully located, to shield the plants from adverse weather.
Solar greenhouses are also constructed to minimise heat loss. This is done through the type of glazing used, in terms of insulation and material. Minimising heat loss produces obvious benefits, working towards keeping a more consistent temperature in the greenhouse environment.
Considering and planning to use the right insulation, can help to keep your greenhouse as energy efficient as possible. If you consider the amount of heat that can be lost through drafts and structural inefficiencies, you realise how much heat can be saved if you can prevent it from escaping. Spend some time in a draughty shed or greenhouse and you soon learn how cold it can get!
Concentrate on sealing any cracks in your greenhouse, as soon as they arrive. When a window gets damaged or smashes, immediately replace the pane to keep the temperature at a consistent level. Make sure that when you are installing fittings (i.e. a door or a vent), you do so carefully and properly. Ill-fitting fixtures provide further unwanted cracks and gaps which will lose heat quickly.
During particularly cold months, bubble polythene provides a good form of insulation for your greenhouse as it traps heat in its bubbles and keeps the surrounding environment warm. The only downside with using this, is that it can affect the amount of light entering the greenhouse, so be sure to take other steps to protect the light entry.
When you have greenhouse leaks, you might choose to replace areas of the greenhouse causing that leak. Before you have the time to do this, however, you can provide a temporary solution to the leak by taping some plastic sheet over the leak – stopping any immediate damage. Make sure that this is only a temporary fix though – the sooner your greenhouse returns to normal, the sooner your greenhouse is at its best state to grow your plants.
During particularly cold weather snaps, your plants can be heated in much the same way that you would choose to heat yourself. Fleeces can be draped over certain plants (just be sure not to damage any of the plants more fragile features), and this is particularly effective during frosts. Ensure that you remove the fleece afterwards however, to give the plant maximum exposure to the sunlight.
Blinds also provide a good form of heat retention during colder days. These can be fitted both internally and externally to shade your plants and also to keep heat inside the greenhouse.
Whichever method you choose to retain or produce heat, we implore you to consider the effect that your working practices are having on the planet. Through your ownership of a greenhouse, you have already cut down on your carbon footprint (removing the need for fruit and vegetables to be shipped in from other countries), so follow this up by using energy efficient working practices.