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Tips For Building And Running A Greenhouse To Be Proud Of

Dec 6, 2007
Building your greenhouse can be a family project, or you can get professional help to erect all or part of it.

A cement contractor built the foundation and walk for ours, and we did the rest ourselves.

Your first profit-making greenhouse can cost you as little as $200, or it can run into hundreds and even thousands.

You can build with inexpensive second-hand materials from an old dismantled greenhouse, buy all new material, build a plastic greenhouse or construct your house with completely or partially prefabricated sections.

What to Grow

Your very first year of under-glass gardening (a term that now means under-plastic, too) can show a profit, even if you are not an expert gardener. Indeed, the plants that are easiest to grow may be the very ones to click in your neighborhood.

Wax begonias, ivy, marigolds, philodendron, petunias, coleus, and cacti can be real profit-makers. Today every city has supermarkets, dime stores, and roadside markets, and these are all potential outlets for such plants. In Minneapolis, some of the drugstores carry small plants, and there are cafes where you can buy a pretty pink begonia as well as a blue-plate luncheon.

Many new home owners know little about gardening but welcome colorful plants if they don't cost very much, say 49 or 98 cents each. These may or may not be profitable enough for local florists, but suit to a T your kind of business.

Mail Order & The Internet

Your choice of profit-making plants may be dictated somewhat by your indoor gardening experience and the time you have spent as a hobby gardener or collector. As you gain experience your horizons will widen.

Many amateurs have learned through round robins (correspondence groups) what collector friends through the country are buying--or trying to buy. If you plan to go into the mail-order business, it would be a good idea to join one or more of these groups.

They will give you some good leads. Some garden magazines and many of the plant societies sponsor round robins. Membership in plant society round robins is free with membership.

The addresses of various plant societies will usually be found at the back of any magazine which sponsors round-robin groups. But the most complete source of addresses of all kinds of plant and garden organizations is the "Directory of American Horticulture".

If you enjoy growing uncommon or exotic plants--the so-called collectors' items--and yours is a small community where sales for these would be limited, you can solve your dilemma by carrying on a mail-order business. Doing business through the mail is not difficult. Later I will tell you about shipping restrictions and packing and how to develop a customer list for this type of business.

Without Heat

Heat is not essential for all kinds of greenhouse gardening. Although gloxinias, for instance, usually are grown in a well-heated house, a Minneapolis man has found out how to make a tidy profit from them without heat. In late February, he starts seedlings in his kitchen windows and in his basement under fluorescent lights.

When the weather warms up in late April, he moves the seedlings to an unheated pit greenhouse. By August, when the local market is just right for selling gloxinias in flower, he has quantities--and florists clamor for them. Actually he could sell many more if he wanted to expand his little project. And this is carried on in a greenhouse, without heat, in Minnesota's cold north country.

Another friend makes money from an unheated greenhouse by using it as a potting shed and starter room for potted roses, daylilies, and iris. She also has a heated greenhouse--a glassed-in extension of the south portion of the basement--which she uses for starting seeds of tender plants.

She has found that this is also the perfect place for a few potted orchid plants whose blooms are always in demand.
There are lots of types of greenhouse to choose from. There is the low-cost (often heatless) pit greenhouse; the lean-to; the attached-to-the-dwelling greenhouse; and the free-standing greenhouse which often has a handsome exterior.

The outside design, however, no matter how beautifully executed, is of minor significance when it comes to profits. In greenhouse growing, it's the interior that counts.
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