Basement Greenhouses - Growing Produce, Come Rain, Snow or Sunshine
Wouldn't it be a wonderful feeling to be puttering around in a warm spring garden, while snow drifts down outside? Well, that is no longer something you must imagine. If you have a basement that is not being used you can easily convert it into a greenhouse to grow the vegetables and plants you want.
Greenhouses not only nurture plants, they also nurture the gardeners. They are a useful tool to grow food and help in creating a spring-like ambience even in the harsh months of winter. They can be used for starting plants, raising young plants to maturity, and protecting them from inhospitable conditions. The structure you want to construct in your basement will entirely depend on your needs.
Basements are often the most under-utilized part of the house. They are either used for storage or in some cases converted into seating spaces. However, a lot of people are now going for the idea of growing their own food in the basement, or even converting it into a little summer garden during those cold months of winter.
A greenhouse is an investment of both time and money. If you are hoping to start your own basement greenhouse here are a few things that you will need to keep in mind.
Clear out Your Basement
Basements or cellars are often home to some of the worst leakages and moisture issues plaguing a house. Go in for effective basement waterproofing to ensure there are no stray leakages to interfere with your greenhouse.
If your basement is prone to flooding invest in a sump pump to keep the water out, or even better, seal the slab so that no water or wind infiltrates the environment. Remember, a controlled environment is primary in constructing a greenhouse.
The temperature of the concrete walls can rise and fall quite rapidly. It is a good idea to insulate the exterior walls of your basement with a sheet of fiberglass insulation. You definitely do not want the humidity of the room escaping. Stick a sheet of plastic on the ceiling of your basement as a vapor barrier to ensure humidity does not escape and seep into the house.
Create a Frame
Unless you are planning to use all of your basement space as a greenhouse, it is a good idea to get shelves and frames to keep your plants in order. Some plants need more light than others. When you place the plants, make sure you regulate their position according to the placement of your grow lights and the plants' light requirements.
You can use clay pots or plastic food containers or any container that catches your fancy. Make sure that they have holes for drainage. Another thing you must be careful about is putting trays under your pots to avoid water spilling out from the drainage holes onto your basement floor. Make sure your frame is structured in a way that provides the plants proper space while ensuring you don't break a neck watering them.
Use the Right Soil
Make sure that the soil you use is well-drained, moisture retentive and sterile. The last is the most important bit here. Unsterile soil may contain fungal diseases and weed seeds which can make it difficult to recognize your seedlings. You can try using commercial seed starting mixes or mix your own with peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.
When sowing the seeds it is a good idea to moisten the soil or grow mix before you plant the seeds. Try and moisten the mix and not make it sodden. For seeds that need surface planting you can moisten the seeds with a sprayer before planting them. Controlled conditions usually result in higher yields so do not over sow.
Set up Light Sources
This is probably the most expensive part of your greenhouse construction. Light in the wavelengths of 400 to 740 nm is generally known as photo-synthetically active radiation. The growth of a plant is driven by the quality and the quantity of sunlight it receives. If your basement does not have a window, or you are unable to install one, you can invest in grow lights.
You can go for simple shop light fluorescent fixtures or cool white 40-watt bulbs. Make sure you mount the lights on a fixture that can be raised as your seedlings grow. The most important factor to keep in mind is that the light should only be about two to three inches above the plants. Most plants require full sunlight and fluorescent tubes are much dimmer by comparison.
The intensity of bulbs wanes with age, so make sure you replace them regularly. You may also need a grounded extension cord to make sure your light fixture can reach where it must. Plants require the dark to rest; not giving them enough darkness may result in stunted growth. The norm is to keep the lights on for 16 hours of the day. You can use a timer to switch them on or off.
Maintain Optimal Temperature and Humidity
Warmer temperatures and high humidity are the perfect conditions for a seedling to sprout. You can go for a greenhouse cloche, a clear plastic dome that will retain temperature and humidity, for seedlings and plants with specific temperature and humidity needs. Most seeds sprout without hassles at 70 degrees, but it is always a good idea to follow packet instructions.
Plug all draughts in your basement. If you feel the plants need some ventilation you can put blowers on each side of the room, one to pull air into the room and the other to push it out. This will also help you control the temperature of the grow room. Keep the seedlings in a temperature of 50-55 degrees. This is not too cold for growth and can slow the development of the seedlings and encourage bushy growth. You can divide the space you have in your basement according to the development stages of your plants.
Growing your own basement garden can be an enriching exercise and help you extend the growing season and give you cost-effective produce throughout the year. It can be a beautiful space as well. Some people even go for growing orchids in the basement. So what are you waiting for? Start your basement greenhouse today.
KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.
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