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What to Grow in a Greenhouse: The Complete Beginners Guide to Greenhouse Gardening

What to Grow in a Greenhouse: The Complete Beginners Guide to Greenhouse Gardening

For any aspiring gardener, owning a greenhouse opens up an exciting new world of horticultural possibilities. The controlled environment inside a greenhouse allows you to successfully grow plants that normally couldn’t thrive in your outdoor climate. You can extend seasons, start seedlings early, grow heat-loving tropical varieties, and keep tender perennials over the winter.

But where do you begin when you’re just starting out on your greenhouse gardening journey? This complete guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from choosing the ideal beginner greenhouse to cultivating thriving plants inside it. Let’s get growing!

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right entry-level greenhouse is crucial - select based on size, glazing material, ventilation, temperature control, and cost.

  • Grow beginner-friendly vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, and radishes.

  • Herbs like basil, oregano, mint, and chives are easy to cultivate in a small greenhouse.

  • Choose starter flowers like marigolds, zinnias, petunias, and fuchsias for gorgeous blooms.

  • Start with just a few pots of easy-to-grow edibles and ornamentals - don't overwhelm yourself.

The First Step for Beginners - Choosing the Right Greenhouse

Before you can start planting, you first need to set up the optimal greenhouse for housing your fledgling collection of plants. As a beginner, you’ll want to look for a smaller hobby-style greenhouse that’s easy to install and simple to maintain. Here are the key factors to consider when selecting your first greenhouse:

  • The optimal size depends on what you want to grow, but a compact 6x8 foot or 8x8 foot greenhouse is a good place to start for beginners. This gives you enough room to house a nice variety of starter plants without being overwhelmingly large.
  • For an affordable option that insulates well and allows sunlight penetration, look for polyethylene (poly) film or rigid polycarbonate panels. These glazing materials check the beginner-friendly boxes.
  • Vent windows, roof vents, exhaust fans, and automatic openers are must-have features for proper ventilation and temperature control inside your hobby greenhouse. Sturdy framing and anchoring materials are also important components.
  • Basic hobby-style greenhouses for beginners can range from $100 on the cheaper end to $500 for a more equipped setup. You can expect to spend up to $1000+ for more interior growing space and higher-end features. Another option is to save money by starting with a DIY greenhouse kit.

When selecting your first greenhouse, be sure to go through our greenhouse buyer's guide to help you choose the right size, features, and budget-friendly options for beginners.  This way, you’ll be off to a great start growing your own plants indoors and out of season.

7 Easy to Grow Greenhouse Vegetables for Beginners

Vegetables are extremely rewarding, productive plants for beginning greenhouse gardeners. Here are some of the easiest edibles to grow in your greenhouse:

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are practically made for greenhouses. They positively thrive in the sustained warmth and full sun environment inside. For quick satisfaction, try growing cherry tomato varieties or choose full-sized cultivars for bigger fruit. To ensure proper pollination and fruit production, manually pollinate flowers by gently shaking the stems or using a small fan to circulate air.

Peppers

Peppers also love the greenhouse conditions of ample warmth and sunlight. Good starter options include sweet bell peppers for delicious crunch or spicy hot varieties for extra heat. Make sure to provide peppers with warm soil (at least 60°F) and plenty of potassium for vigorous growth.

Lettuce

Crisp lettuce greens are satisfyingly quick and easy to grow. Leafy varieties like looseleaf, oakleaf, and many types of romaine can be ready to harvest in a greenhouse in as little as 30 days. Lettuce needs consistently moist soil and cool temperatures around 60-65°F to grow best.

Cucumbers

Prolific vining cucumber plants will quickly cover every inch of your hobby greenhouse interior if allowed to sprawl. For a starter without much space yet, choose bush or dwarf cucumber cultivars. Provide trellises or cages as needed for vertical support.

Spinach

This super-healthy leafy green grows quickly and happily in the cool temperatures of a greenhouse. In hotter climates, spinach is a better greenhouse choice than heat-sensitive lettuce. Harvest leaves when they are young, tender, and ready for fresh eating.

Radishes

Perfect for the impatient beginner, radishes mature rapidly from seed to ripe vegetable, ready for harvest typically in just 25-30 days. Keep greenhouse soil consistently moist for plump roots. Sow new crop seeds every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply.

Green Onions

Also known as scallions or spring onions. These flavorful alliums are easy to grow in pots set inside the greenhouse beds. Snip green onion tops off as needed, and the bulbs will regrow for later harvests.

an image of the 6 Best Herbs to Grow in a Beginner Greenhouse

6 Best Herbs to Grow in a Beginner Greenhouse

Leafy fresh herbs are extremely versatile plants that are also very well-suited to greenhouse cultivation. Here are some great beginner-friendly herb varieties to start out with:

Basil

Basil is highly sensitive to cold temperatures and can be tricky to grow outdoors. But a greenhouse will keep your basil very happy indeed! Enjoy snipping fresh leaves all season long for flavorful dishes. Be sure to pinch off flowers to prolong leaf production. Basil needs moist, fertile soil and ample water.

Parsley

Both flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley varieties will take off and thrive planted in your greenhouse to provide vitamin-rich flavor year-round. The bright herbal taste of parsley enlivens so many dishes. It’s also highly nutritious, packed with vitamins A, C, and K.

Mint

Mint is a vigorously spreading herb that will benefit by being grown in containers inside your greenhouse rather than planted outside where it can take over garden beds. Enjoy fresh mint tea and unique flavor combinations with dishes. Cut mint stems back often to control its rambunctious growth habit.

Oregano

Pungent, aromatic oregano dries extremely well, so grow lots! The flavor will hold beautifully through winter. Oregano is very well planted in containers and prefers a spot with maximum sunlight. Prune back occasionally for bushy, compact growth.

Chives

Delicate yet flavor-packed chives are easy to grow in small clumps tucked in pots that sit right inside your greenhouse beds. Snip off just what leafy green you need at a time. Chives also produce lovely edible purple flowers.

Thyme

This Mediterranean herb thrives in hot, dry conditions, making the greenhouse environment perfect for it! Lemon thyme and common thyme lend incredible flavor to vegetables, meat, and many other dishes.

For a quick overview, refer to the table below summarizing some of the most beginner-friendly greenhouse herbs and their key growing needs:

Herb Water Needs Light Needs Growth Habits
Basil Moderate Full sun Annual
Oregano Low Full sun Perennial
Mint Moderate Part sun Vigorously spreading perennial
Parsley Moderate Part sun Biennial
Chives Low Part sun Clumping perennial
Thyme Low Full sun Perennial groundcover

the 6 Easy to Grow Greenhouse Flowers

6 Easy to Grow Greenhouse Flowers

In addition to edibles, you can grow a gorgeous array of ornamental flowers in a greenhouse. Here are some of the easiest, most beginner-friendly flowers to start with:

Marigolds

These bright, cheery annuals are famously easy to grow from seed and provide non-stop golden blooms. Marigolds also help deter pests like nematodes and tiny greenhouse-invading aphids.

Petunias

Available in just about every color imaginable, prolific petunias will bloom abundantly in your greenhouse from spring through fall. Try spreading Wave or Surfinia trailing types in hanging baskets. Deadhead spent blooms regularly to encourage more flowers.

Zinnias

Zinnias are known for their eye-catching, abundant flowers and tolerance of hot conditions - perfect for the greenhouse! Grow dwarf varieties in containers or cut taller types for gorgeous, long-lasting indoor bouquets.

Geraniums

Also called pelargoniums, these brightly colored favorites lend a cheerful, welcoming vibe to any greenhouse. Let the trailing types cascade from hanging baskets. Geraniums need lots of light to thrive.

Impatiens

Busy Lizzie is a tiny impatiens variety, but there are also many full-sized hybrids perfect for your greenhouse. Impatiens of all sizes provide tons of color in shady, moist corners. Keep soil consistently damp.

Fuchsias

The elegant, dangling flowers of fuchsias prefer humid greenhouse air and shady conditions. Enjoy their unique pendulous beauty all season long planted in filtered light spots or hanging pots.

an image of gardening tools with potted plants

The Essentials for Beginners - Learn to Take Care of Your Greenhouse Garden

Caring for plants growing inside the protected environment of a greenhouse is a bit different from regular outdoor gardening. Here are some key tips for maintaining a thriving indoor garden:

Watering

Check greenhouse plant soil frequently, even daily, for moisture, as the dry air and ventilation can lead to quicker drying out. But take care not to overwater either. Installing a misting system on a timer makes greenhouse watering easy.

Temperature Regulation

Proper ventilation and air circulation prevent dangerous overheating inside the greenhouse. But take care that warmth-loving plants don't get chilled. Aim to maintain temperatures between 60-80°F for most veggies and herbs. Consider installing a small space heater on a thermostat.

Pest Prevention

Before starting any planting, thoroughly disinfect the entire greenhouse interior to prevent pests and diseases. Monitor closely and use sticky traps, beneficial insects, or horticultural oils as needed to control invaders. Remove infested plants immediately to prevent spreading.

Air Flow

Reduce humidity and mold risks by installing exhaust fans or wall-mounted ventilation windows to maintain constant gentle airflow. Proper greenhouse ventilation also nourishes plants and controls pests.

Lighting

Maximize available natural sunlight through careful glazing material selection like polycarbonate panels. Supplement with grow lights as needed for sun-loving plants. Rotate pots and trays for even light coverage.

Tidiness

Keep hose coils, tools, debris, and weeds cleaned up so they don’t harbor insect pests or diseases. Remove spent plants immediately. Keep paths clear for easy access.

Tips for Greenhouse Gardening Success for Beginners

Here are some tips for a gardener just starting out with their first small greenhouse to ensure an enjoyable and successful experience:

  • Start small - don’t overwhelm yourself all at once. Begin with just a few starter pots and add on gradually.

  • Seek advice from more experienced greenhouse gardeners - learn techniques and avoid pitfalls.

  • Research your plants' needs before purchasing, and choose beginner-friendly varieties to start.

  • Don’t give up! Greenhouse gardening has a learning curve. Persist through initial trial and error.

  • Monitor conditions daily and adjust temperature, water, or ventilation as needed. Greenhouses require close attention.

  • Have fun! Growing plants in a greenhouse should be an enjoyable, creative hobby and satisfying experience.

an image of a tall glass greenhouse in a garden space surrounded by plants

    Conclusion

    Constructing and cultivating plants in a greenhouse is an incredibly rewarding and educational gardening activity for plant lovers of all levels. As a beginner, start out with just a few easy-to-grow plants like lettuce, herbs, and tomatoes. Check the ventilation and temperature inside the greenhouse daily, provide lots of light, and keep the greenhouse interior tidy and clean.

    In no time at all, you’ll gain experience, confidence, and the green thumb skills to expand your greenhouse gardening horizons. Start out simple, then sit back and watch your small greenhouse garden grow and flourish!

    FAQs

    What are some common greenhouse growing mistakes beginners make?

    These mistakes include overcrowding plants, improper watering, inadequate ventilation, and temperature regulation, inviting pests or diseases by introducing untested plants, and failure to provide even light exposure. Insufficient lighting, forgetting to pollinate plants, and neglecting greenhouse maintenance are other pitfalls to avoid.

    How do I keep my greenhouse neat and prevent pests?

    Keeping your greenhouse neat and pest-free is really important. To do this, remove spent plants immediately, keep tools tidy, eliminate weeds or debris, repair any openings, and wash surfaces with a mild bleach solution before each growing season. Use sticky traps or beneficial insects and consistently monitor for any signs of invaders.

    What are some fun greenhouse herbs, fruits, or veggies, I can grow as a beginner?

    Some fun edibles to grow include cherry tomatoes, herbs like basil and mint, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and peppers. For flowers, consider starting out with petunias, marigolds, zinnias, geraniums, or fuchsias. Make sure your greenhouse has the right conditions for what you want to grow.

    What type of lighting should I use inside my greenhouse as a starter?

    Many starters rely primarily on natural sunlight entering through the glazing. But you can supplement with LED grow lights and fluorescent lamps hung from the frame of the greenhouse to provide additional light. Focus extra lighting on sections of your greenhouse used for starting seedlings or propagating plants. Mount LED or fluorescent lights inside the greenhouse to evenly cover trays and tables where you grow plants.

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    About The Author

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

    As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

    His main focus is on sheds and generators!

    In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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