Imag­ine warmth: Dream about adding a green­house

The Progress-Index - At Home - - Front Page - LEE RE­ICH

Now is not the time of year for sow­ing, un­less it’s sow­ing an idea: As the weather turns colder and the land­scape be­comes washed in grays and browns, imag­ine a re­treat, an oa­sis of lush green­ery and brightly col­ored flow­ers suf­fused in warm, moist air. A green­house. Home or “hobby” green­houses run the gamut from lav­ish, Vic­to­rian-style con­ser­va­to­ries to prim­i­tive struc­tures cob­bled to­gether from dis­carded win­dow frames. Each cre­ates its own oa­sis. Even my cold­frame — noth­ing more than a large wooden box with a clear plas­tic cover — hints of the trop­ics each time its cover is opened.

For most of us, the green­house of our dreams would be a spa­cious con­ser­va­tory, cozy for its abun­dance of lush, trop­i­cal green­ery, with enough space among the 6foot-long ba­nana leaves and fra­grant cit­rus blos­soms to ac­com­mo­date a small din­ing ta­ble and chairs.

But let’s float back down to re­al­ity. That green­house is be­yond many a gar­dener’s bud­get, and it’s hard in th­ese en­vi­ron­men­tally aware times to jus­tify heat­ing a space enough to keep trop­i­cal plants happy in win­ter. Fuel needs rise dra­mat­i­cally with each de­gree you ratchet up green­house tem­per­a­ture.

Then again, newer green­house cov­er­ings, cou­pled with in­no­va­tive meth­ods of stor­ing ex­cess heat gen­er­ated on sunny days, can go a long way to damp­en­ing heat losses.

Be­fore let­ting your imag­i­na­tion run away with you though, con­sider whether you’d pre­fer your green­house to be free­stand­ing or at­tached to your home.

A free­stand­ing struc­ture of­fers the most flex­i­bil­ity in de­sign and sit­ing, and is bathed in light from all four sides. Also, there’s no need to in­te­grate it with house de­sign, or for it to look any­thing pret­tier than just func­tional.

An at­tached green­house re­quires more at­ten­tion to style but it does have some ad­van­tages. Co­zied up against your home, an at­tached green­house loses less heat. It can tap the heat-stor­ing ca­pac­ity of the home’s wall where it is at­tached, es­pe­cially if that wall is ma­sonry, and can even tap into the home’s heat­ing sys­tem.

On sunny win­ter days, ex­cess heat gen­er­ated in the green­house can be vented into your home. That moist heat is a lot more com­fort­able than the dry heat of home heat­ing sys­tems, although some cau­tion is needed against vent­ing too much mois­ture into your home.

And get­ting back to that ta­ble and chairs that might be squeezed into your green­house: How likely are you to trudge across the snow with brunch to your free­stand­ing green­house? If you have a wall fac­ing in a di­rec­tion that gets enough light for the plants you want to grow, the at­tached green­house is the one most likely to pro­vide liv­ing space as well as func­tional space.

De­cid­ing on the green­house’s size and what plants it will house also can help de­ter­mine heat­ing needs. No need to get into other de­tails just yet.

Let your imag­i­na­tion roam.

AP PHOTO/LEE RE­ICH

This im­age taken on June 10, 2011 shows a green­house on the prop­erty of a home. Home or ‘hobby’ green­houses run the gamut from lav­ish, Vic­to­rian-style con­ser­va­to­ries to prim­i­tive struc­tures cob­bled to­gether from dis­carded win­dow frames.

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