Where is the best place to put a greenhouse?

Considerations for determining optimum location for growing, air flow, snow shedding and ground moisture

The first bit of advice we share when asked that question is “Do not put a greenhouse in a place that is not good for anything else”.

You need to pick the best spot to accomplish the goals for your greenhouse. Any of the reasons why this spot would be less than desirable, will come back to haunt you.

This is particularly true when it comes to ground water. If a particular piece of land is always moist or has a very high water table, moisture will be an ongoing problem. A greenhouse will trap and exaggerate excess moisture and become a very unhealthy spot for plants.

If the soil is sub-standard or undesirable where you put the greenhouse, you will be putting extra effort into bringing the soil up to standard.

Proper consideration needs to given to shading on the property. Plants grow in direct proportion to the amount of daily light they receive. Really analyze where and when shade happens. Vegetables and flowers need sun.

A greenhouse needs to be level from side to side so shed snow uniformly. With uneven snow load on a building, it will surprise you how little snow can be a problem. 

Excavation to level a site is usually expensive and messes with the make up of the soil. There are ways to build up the low side if that becomes necessary for the location of your choice.  Some end to end slope is not a problem structurally.

It is generally acknowledged that a north/south orientation will pick up the sunlight better but this is not a serious consideration unless you are into production crops.

If your prevailing winds are constantly hitting the side of the structure, there will be a sideways push which is good to avoid. This orientation will also encourage uneven snow loading. Ventilation is typically easier if the prevailing wind hits the end of the building.

Since the chances of having the “perfect” location, is not likely, it is important to evaluate all of the angles.  Some of the undesirable points can be worked around better than others.

By doing a thorough assessment and then prioritizing, you will be able to come up with the closest to perfect that is practical. You will also have an idea beforehand on what needs to be done sooner than later.

Here is to happy planning and planting.

Adding a Softcover Structure to the Side or End of Another Building

There are two ways of adding a structure to the side of a building. It can be done as a lean-to (half structure) that goes parallel to the building and up to the eave, or it can be a complete building at 90 degrees to the existing building. This article applies to the latter option.

When considering attaching an MSS structure at 90 degrees to another building, there are some important considerations to be mindful of before the purchase.

The first is that these buildings are almost always considered high humidity (especially when it is a greenhouse). This means that you will be subjecting that wall to a higher level of moisture. Extra waterproofing should be considered. This high level of humidity should be an extra concern if the intent is to use the warm air as a source of heat for the solid building.

The other thing to bear in mind is the potential snow shedding patterns from the bigger building roof. If the height difference is more than 2’, measures should be implemented to slow the process of shedding snow. Without slowing the rate that the snow comes off the taller building, the force of the impact could be triple or quadruple the weight of the actual snow.

If there is a likelihood of significant snow levels being shed, we recommend reducing the rib spacing of the first 12’ of the building. Going from 4’ to 3’ spacing will increase the strength by 1/3. Going from 3’ to 2’ is a 50% increase in strength. This will give your building the added strength for the impact of shedding snow and the volume that would potentially be on the roof.

The third thing that needs to be considered is how the cover will be fastened to your shelter at the wall. For a stand-alone building, you would be on a ladder or platform off the end but this is not possible if the end hoop is right against the wall.

One option is to have the first hoop about 2’ from the wall and then cover that section with something solid (plywood, sheet metal, Lexan, etc.). This will give you a place to crawl up and secure the cover into the wirelock.

Another option would have you put the first hoop about ½” to 1” from the wall. The wirelock channel would be installed on the underside of that hoop. During the cover installation, you would slide the cover through the gap and then wrap the cover around to the bottom. The wire inserts would be installed from the underside. This option is a little more tricky when doing the double plastic cover. After the cover is installed, the gap can be filled with square foam strips which are available at the building centers. Extra care must be exercised to protect the cover from bolt heads and nuts.

The third option would be to install the structure as per normal but about 1’ from the wall. The covering would be done as usual and once this is complete, the building would be slid up against the wall. This process is a bit risky since the building is not secured to the anchors for a short period. The longer the building is, the more challenging this option is.

The last challenge which needs some attention has to do with the method of ventilation which will be used. Typical ventilation flows through the building. In this scenario, ventilating though the building would also mean that you have to go through the attached building. It can be done, but you would be best to get some additional advice on the process.

If roll-up sides are going to be used, it must be noted that the attached building will interfere with proper airflow.

The challenge with using forced ventilation is “where does the air get into the building. It would be best to create a sketch of the building with thoughts as to what you intend to do. We will use our experience to advise you.

It is important to understand and work through these challenges before you purchase. We are here to advise.

Adding a Softcover Structure to the Side or End of Another Building

There are two ways of adding a structure to the side of a building. It can be done as a lean-to (half structure) that goes parallel to the building and up to the eave, or it can be a complete building at 90 degrees to the existing building. This article applies to the latter option.

When considering attaching an MSS structure at 90 degrees to another building, there are some important considerations to be mindful of before the purchase.

The first is that these buildings are almost always considered high humidity (especially when it is a greenhouse). This means that you will be subjecting that wall to a higher level of moisture. Extra waterproofing should be considered. This high level of humidity should be an extra concern if the intent is to use the warm air as a source of heat for the solid building.

The other thing to bear in mind is the potential snow shedding patterns from the bigger building roof. If the height difference is more than 2’, measures should be implemented to slow the process of shedding snow. Without slowing the rate that the snow comes off the taller building, the force of the impact could be triple or quadruple the weight of the actual snow.

If there is a likelihood of significant snow levels being shed, we recommend reducing the rib spacing of the first 12’ of the building. Going from 4’ to 3’ spacing will increase the strength by 1/3. Going from 3’ to 2’ is a 50% increase in strength. This will give your building the added strength for the impact of shedding snow and the volume that would potentially be on the roof.

The third thing that needs to be considered is how the cover will be fastened to your shelter at the wall. For a stand-alone building, you would be on a ladder or platform off the end but this is not possible if the end hoop is right against the wall.

One option is to have the first hoop about 2’ from the wall and then cover that section with something solid (plywood, sheet metal, Lexan, etc.). This will give you a place to crawl up and secure the cover into the wirelock.

Another option would have you put the first hoop about ½” to 1” from the wall. The wirelock channel would be installed on the underside of that hoop. During the cover installation, you would slide the cover through the gap and then wrap the cover around to the bottom. The wire inserts would be installed from the underside. This option is a little more tricky when doing the double plastic cover. After the cover is installed, the gap can be filled with square foam strips which are available at the building centers. Extra care must be exercised to protect the cover from bolt heads and nuts.

The third option would be to install the structure as per normal but about 1’ from the wall. The covering would be done as usual and once this is complete, the building would be slid up against the wall. This process is a bit risky since the building is not secured to the anchors for a short period. The longer the building is, the more challenging this option is.

The last challenge which needs some attention has to do with the method of ventilation which will be used. Typical ventilation flows through the building. In this scenario, ventilating though the building would also mean that you have to go through the attached building. It can be done, but you would be best to get some additional advice on the process.

If roll-up sides are going to be used, it must be noted that the attached building will interfere with proper airflow.

The challenge with using forced ventilation is “where does the air get into the building. It would be best to create a sketch of the building with thoughts as to what you intend to do. We will use our experience to advise you.

It is important to understand and work through these challenges before you purchase. We are here to advise.

Where is the best place to put the greenhouse?

Considerations for determining optimum location for growing,
air flow, snow shedding and ground moisture

The first bit of advice we share when asked that question is “Do not put a greenhouse in a place that is not good for anything else”.

You need to pick the best spot to accomplish the goals for your greenhouse. Any of the reasons why this spot would be less than desirable, will come back to haunt you.

This is particularly true when it comes to ground water. If a particular piece of land is always moist or has a very high water table, moisture will be an ongoing problem. A greenhouse will trap and exaggerate excess moisture and become a very unhealthy spot for plants.

If the soil is sub-standard or undesirable where you put the greenhouse, you will be putting extra effort into bringing the soil up to standard.

Proper consideration needs to given to shading on the property. Plants grow in direct proportion to the amount of daily light they receive. Really analyze where and when shade happens. Vegetables and flowers need sun.

A greenhouse needs to be level from side to side so shed snow uniformly. With uneven snow load on a building, it will surprise you how little snow can be a problem. 

Excavation to level a site is usually expensive and messes with the make up of the soil. There are ways to build up the low side if that becomes necessary for the location of your choice.  Some end to end slope is not a problem structurally.

It is generally acknowledged that a north/south orientation will pick up the sunlight better but this is not a serious consideration unless you are into production crops.

If your prevailing winds are constantly hitting the side of the structure, there will be a sideways push which is good to avoid. This orientation will also encourage uneven snow loading. Ventilation is typically easier if the prevailing wind hits the end of the building.

Since the chances of having the “perfect” location, is not likely, it is important to evaluate all of the angles.  Some of the undesirable points can be worked around better than others.

By doing a thorough assessment and then prioritizing, you will be able to come up with the closest to perfect that is practical. You will also have an idea beforehand on what needs to be done sooner than later.

Here is to happy planning and planting.

Winter Care and Maintenance

These buildings are not industrial grade shelters and, as such, some caution must be exercised under some winter storm conditions….

Please see the WINTER CARE page in our installation guide for additional information. We also have a Winter Care FAQ page with articles we have posted on this topic

BEWARE of this sequence which creates a “worst case scenario”:

Freezing rain, followed by dropping temperatures, Lots of snow followed by rainfall. It is easy to triple the weight of the snow load in 30 minutes.

Our structures are designed in a gothic shape with a slippery cover to be lightweight and snow resistant. This encourages the snow to slide off quickly.
This is not an industrial high snow load building. We do our best to always point out applications where the capacity of the structure is being compromised. Extra hoops or thicker steel are an economical way to increase wind and snow load capacity. We take pride in the sturdy shelters we manufacture and supply, but must point out that we cannot warranty against weather conditions

Snow removal, when occasionally required, is a simple task. Uneven snow loading is deceiving, since the total weight is not a problem but the lateral force can cause the hoops to distort.It is rare to have any significant snow build up on the roofs; however,

DO NOT GO INSIDE A BUILDING WHERE THERE HAS BEEN OBVIOUS STRESS!
Be aware of these scenarios where excessive snow build up is possible and damage could follow:
A wet snowfall followed by dropping temperatures
A building 90° to the prevailing wind (drifts could form on the backside of the building)
A building attached to and situated downwind of a taller building (significant drifting)

A building 90° to another building that has a higher roof, could cause a surge in snow weight when the snow on the upper roof slides off.

Preventative measures for excessive snow build up (where possible):

Build structures inline with the prevailing wind
Build structures level from side to side to create uniform shedding
Do not attach your building to a larger existing building

Install a heat source to melt the snow

Economical additions to increase your structure’s snow resistance:

Install cable or tubular cross-ties at each pair of hoops, to create a triangle (when using cables there is no need to put them under tension)
Place wooden or metal support posts under the ridge. These can be suspended from the ridge with no more than ½” ground clearance. This will provide support as soon as there is load and structure movement will not dislodge your supports.

Use closer hoop spacing for the first 12’ section away from another bigger building

Pointers for removing snow:

NEVER remove all the snow from one side and then the other
Remove the snow off the top of your building before using a machine (snow blower, etc) along the sides

Use a padded piece of 1×4 wood on a pole (create a “T” shape) as the best tool for gently bumping the inside of the cover

BEWARE of this sequence which creates a “worst case scenario”:

Freezing rain, followed by dropping temperatures, Lots of snow followed by rainfall. It is easy to triple the weight of the snow load in 30 minutes.

Please call us if you have any questions about any of this. Thank you

Greenhouses 101: Shapes & Configurations

There are many choices for shapes, styles and sizes of structures. These choices, more then any other, will force you to strike a balance between strength and cost or return and cost. There are many variables that will affect the cost per square foot of your building. Only by careful research and evaluation will you determine if a particular choice is a valid consideration for your application. Our planning checklist can also help to ensure you have all your bases covered.

The focus of Multi Shelter Solutions structures are those that are ground to ground with a gothic shape due their versatility, strength and economy. Gothic refers to a shape that is slightly rounded coming up from the base going up to a peak to maximize snow shedding and wind deflection. By modifying the shape and reducing or expanding the hoop spacing, we can accommodate interior space requirements while achieving ruggedness to deal with the elements for years to come.

Ground to ground style refers to individual units as opposed to multiple units that share a common base. Individual structures deal with snow more effectively and will allow someone to easily customize a building for different applications or uses. Ground to ground units still have the inherent flexibility of being mounted on various bases as the specific application requires. This includes mounting the building on concrete blocks or a short wall. The width of a ground to ground structure can easily be modified or the length increased to create and area to suit a required need.

From our perspective, when we understand what it is that you are trying to accomplish and what you are dealing with, we can best advise the shape and size that would best get the job done in the context of your budget. Feel free to give us a call and discuss the planning of your project. We are happy to help.

Check out the presentation video and the rest of the series Norm spoke on Greenhouses 101 here. Stay tuned for the end of  January 2016 when he presents Greenhouses 202!