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posted: 1/6/2013 5:04 AM

Suburban experts give advice on greenhouses

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  • Members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club collect plants outside a home greenhouse as they prepare for their annual plant sale.

    Members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club collect plants outside a home greenhouse as they prepare for their annual plant sale.
    Daily Herald File Photo, 2011

By Chelsey Boutan
Daily Herald Correspondent

Richard Hentschel says choosing a greenhouse can be just as difficult as deciding what kind of car to buy, since there are so many options.

But instead of weighing a desire for sunroofs and heated seats, hobbyist gardeners wanting a greenhouse have to decide on options like building materials and what size they want their structure to be.

For these reasons, Hentschel, who is a horticulture educator for the University of Illinois Extension, says homeowners can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars to purchase their greenhouses.

Before investing time and money into having a greenhouse built, Hentschel and two owners of suburban nurseries suggest homeowners first think about what they will use the greenhouse for and if the enjoyment they will gain from the greenhouse outweighs the cost and time commitment involved.

After considering these factors, the gardening experts agree that it will become clear to homeowners what kind and size of greenhouse they should purchase.

John Heaton said a greenhouse can be great for hobbyist gardeners who enjoy raising plants, but advises them to first think about the time commitment involved. Heaton, who owns Knupper Nursery in Palatine, said greenhouse plants may need to be watered a few times a week or even as much as every day if seedlings are sprouting.

David Tyznik said greenhouses are beneficial for homeowners who want to extend their growing season and transplant vegetables outside. Greenhouses can also be great places to store plants during the wintertime that homeowners collect, said Tyznik, owner of The Planter's Palette in Winfield.

Tyznik advises people who want a year-round greenhouse to put thought into the planning process, because vents will be needed to cool the greenhouse during the summer and additional utility costs will be incurred to heat the greenhouse during the winter. The best time to start building your greenhouse is during the summer or fall, because the ground isn't frozen yet and it allows you to get started growing plants in the spring, Tyznik said.

When a homeowner decides what he or she will use the greenhouse for, Hentschel said they can then think about if they want a hoop house, attached greenhouse, or stand-alone greenhouse.

Hentschel said a hoop house is a good option for a homeowner looking for a temporary, simple and inexpensive greenhouse that will last a few seasons.

Attached and stand-alone greenhouses are more permanent options and may require permits from your city or county. Hentschel said an attached greenhouse helps a homeowner save money on utility costs compared to a stand-alone greenhouse since electricity and heat can come from the house.

Heaton said a homeowner should have their greenhouse built to the size they want, because starting at a smaller size and then adding on later will incur more expenses for the homeowner.

Tyznik said a greenhouse ideally should be built in a full sun location, because it gives the homeowner the flexibility to grow almost any plant and lessens the likelihood of tree branches falling on the structure. Besides, a shade cloth can always be installed to add shade, he said.

To be able to afford a greenhouse, Hentschel said a homeowner may have to make some cost-cutting decisions in other areas of his or her life. But if the person enjoys growing plants, Hentscel said it will be worth it for him or her.

"The utility costs and upkeep have to be weighed and balanced against the enjoyment you get out of it," Hentschel said. "If that's your hobby and you don't do many other things, it may be a very acceptable cost."

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