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What is Greenhouse Farming?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Greenhouse farming is a term used to define virtually any major agriculture endeavor that is carried out using greenhouses. These allow farmers to grow many different kinds of crops in climates that may not be hospitable. The development of greenhouse farming techniques has generally resulted in more overall food for the whole world and helped to reduce world hunger problems. It’s also been helpful in allowing people to buy almost any fruit or vegetable at their local grocers, regardless of whether the food is out of season.

The capacity to carefully control temperature is usually considered the most important advantage of greenhouse farming. Farmers can create their greenhouses using materials that maximize the heat from the sun. Some farmers may also include heaters inside the greenhouses, which can be helpful in very cold climates. Other aspects of environmental controls, including careful adjustment of humidity, are also often useful.

Another big plus for greenhouse farming is that it allows people to take advantage of vertical space. In a normal farming environment, the growing area is generally a flat expanse, but this isn’t true when farming in greenhouses. Many farmers will have plants sitting in shelves or hanging from the ceilings, and this sometimes allows the farmer to pack more plants in an acre than usual.

Greenhouse farming can be more flexible than regular farming, especially when farmers have multiple separate buildings. For example, a farmer could set up a building that was perfect for growing a particular tropical species and then set up other buildings that grow plants that thrive in cooler climates. Each building can have perfect environmental controls to maximize the growing potential of each species.

It’s very common for greenhouse farmers to use a technique called hydroponics. This involves growing plants suspended in liquid. Sometimes this liquid is simply water, but usually it is infused with very specialized nutrient mixes. This often allows plants to grow larger and more rapidly than they normally would, and it lets farmers maximize efficiency.

The main disadvantages of greenhouse farming are generally related to cost. When farmers plant outdoors, they only require the money for seed, labor, and whatever additional costs are associated with equipment or land. Greenhouse farming introduces a whole new set of expenses related to buildings and maintenance of those buildings. Farmers who have to artificially heat the inside of their greenhouses generally have even greater costs to deal with.

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Discussion Comments

By croydon — On Jan 14, 2012

@pastanaga - Those systems can be really good, but they aren't great for anything that's bigger or more complicated than herbs. I think cherry tomatoes are probably the biggest plant I would attempt to grow.

A vine, for example will sprawl everywhere and if you have it in your living room it might take up too much space.

Not to discourage anyone from growing their own plants, but if you really want to give gardening a go you should try to get a property with a little more space, or maybe set up a community garden.

Modern neighborhoods usually have some kind of common garden, often with a greenhouse where you can grow a few things, or at least help out in exchange for vegetables and fruits.

Considering the price of those in the supermarkets you are definitely going to save money growing things yourself.

By pastanaga — On Jan 14, 2012

Something to consider if you want to give greenhouse gardening a go is arranging some hydroponic gear in your living room.

It sounds like it wouldn't work, but there are a few projects online which give instructions on how you can do it and make it look quite nice.

If you only have an apartment and limited space, it's a way to get vegetables that you might not otherwise be able to have.

They sell kits or you can build your own.

I personally think that more people should be trying to grow their own fresh vegetables. It cuts down on environmental pollution and it just seems healthier to eat something straight from the ground, rather than a vegetable that's been sitting in the supermarket for a week.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 13, 2012

My mother's partner has a lovely small greenhouse which he uses to grow tomatoes and cucumbers and a handful of other plants. He just bought the frame and plastic insets from online I believe and put in the foundation himself.

He's managed to get quite a few crops off it, and it's really the only way to grow tomatoes in a colder climate. The problem he's been having though is with drainage.

Since the frames needed to attach to something, he had to put in a concrete base, but it tends to floor in the rain and if he's not quick enough to let the water out the plants get waterlogged.

He's going to put in drains after this growing season, but it's something to remember if you are planning on making your own greenhouse. Take that sort of thing into consideration.

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