Guide to Greenhouses for Southern Gardeners
Gardening - Jun 14, 2022

Guide to Greenhouses for Southern Gardeners

The COVID-19 pandemic inadvertently created a new generation of gardeners. Gardening eases our boredom, soothes our nerves, and provides food during a time of inflation. While millions of people began to garden as a coping mechanism, many are now in the third year of their new favorite hobby. 

If you are considering taking your gardening hobby to the next level, consider adding a greenhouse. In this article, we will explore why people in Louisiana and Mississippi use greenhouses, whether to buy or DIY, and the variety of design options available.

Why Greenhouses?

Frost

In both Mississippi and Louisiana, we usually have at least one significant cold snap each year. Many of us won’t forget the arctic outbreak of February 2021. At one point, Shreveport fell to a low of one single degree Fahrenheit. One degree!

After spending months tending to your outdoor plants, you don’t want to lose them in a freeze. By moving your plants to the greenhouse, you give them a chance at surviving the cold. 

Starting Seeds

You can more easily control the temperature and humidity inside a greenhouse. During a cold spring, this can help you grow vegetables and other plants from seed. Then you can transfer the seedlings when the outdoor temperature is right. Use space in your greenhouse to propagate root cuttings of houseplants, herbs, roses, and more.

Critter Protection

There is a gardening rule closely related to Murphy’s Law: if there are plants you don’t want animals to eat, animals will try to eat them. Deer, rabbits, groundhogs, foxes—they’re all hungry, and your baby lettuce smells like dinner. With the right materials (deer can tear through some plastic sheeting), you can mitigate some damage animals can cause. 

Greenhouse Elements

Orientation

In the summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. In the winter, we receive the most sunlight on the south and southeast side of a house. If you orient your greenhouse north-south, some crops will receive more sunlight than others. This article includes more information on site selection and orientation for greenhouses.

Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation

You will need reliable heating, cooling, and ventilation to properly grow seed trays and plants. This HVAC article from the UGA extension school goes over all types of heating systems and includes information on:

  • Heat conduction, convection heat transfer, radiation heat transfer, and factors affecting heat loss.
  • Ventilation systems including exhaust fans, pressure fans, evaporative cooling, mist cooling, and natural ventilation.

Amenities

These elements can help make gardening more pleasurable and convenient:

  • Waist-high benches are great for helping the sun hit your plants. Working at this level is also much more comfortable for the gardener. You can also use these benches for workspace and shelving.
  • Water access: if your spigot is far away, consider running a pipe to the greenhouse for a convenient water source.
  • Automatic controls and electricity: set it and forget it. You won’t have to constantly worry about the humidity and temperature of the greenhouse if there is a thermostat that automatically helps with regulation. 

Buying a Greenhouse

Greenhouse Kits

Many online retailers and big box stores offer the equivalent of an IKEA greenhouse. Though less expensive than buying a professionally made greenhouse and having it installed, they can be more flimsy and are more susceptible to damage in inclement weather. If you buy a kit, make sure that you anchor the greenhouse to the ground. If not properly secured, a greenhouse kit you buy at the hardware store can blow over in 40mph winds.

Greenhouse Dealers

There are a number of reputable greenhouse builders and dealers who deliver to Louisiana and Mississippi, but you’ll pay a premium to have a fully assembled greenhouse delivered to your lot. These greenhouses can be customized with waterproof electrical outlets, overhead lights, vents, and even ceiling fans.

Download Free Greenhouse Design Plans

If you’d like to build your own greenhouse instead of purchasing a kit or prefabricated greenhouse, there are some free greenhouse plans available via Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University. These plans were primarily designed in the 1970s, so some informations might be outdated or missing tech innovations, but they are a solid jumping off point in terms of design, framing, and structure. Keep in mind that if you build a greenhouse, you should check with your local municipality about building codes and permits you may need.

The top recommendation for hobby farmers from horticulturists and greenhouse management experts is a Lean-To style greenhouse. A “lean-to” is half a greenhouse built onto the side of another structure. When you orient your lean-to on the south side of another structure, not only do you get all the sunlight from the south, you avoid the cold winter wind coming from the north.

A lean-to requires one less wall, so it is easier and less expensive to build than a freestanding structure. A big bonus is its sturdiness against weather events like hurricanes. 

Slant Leg Greenhouses

Home Greenhouse (10’ x 12’)

Combination Greenhouses

Greenhouse & Storage Building (10×14): designed half for storage and half as a greenhouse

More Information

We’ve only scratched the surface on what information is available about greenhouses. For more inspiration and information, visit these greenhouse sources:

Get More Room for Your Greenhouse

Want to build something bigger than an 8’ x 10” greenhouse? The sky’s the limit when you move to the country. Southern AgCredit helps make gardener dreams come true by financing country homes in rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Start building the greenhouse of your dreams by contacting Southern AgCredit. Start a loan inquiry below.