Greenhouse Basics for Tomatoes

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Updated 1.23.24

A greenhouse is a structure designed to control climate factors that affect tomato plants.

Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes. They range from large commercial structures to home additions to simple hobby patio greenhouses to collapsible pop-ups you can store in your garage in the off-season.

They are especially helpful when you want to:

  • start tomato seeds indoors to be set out later in the garden
  • make up for limited growing space
  • protect tender tomato plants
  • propagate more tomato plants
  • overwinter tomatoes and other crops

2 types of greenhouse structures with Tomato Dirt

Two big choices to make

There are two big questions to consider when choosing a greenhouse for your tomatoes.

1. What kind of structure do I need?

Greeenhouses are either attached or freestanding.

Attached greenhouses

Attached greenhouses can be connected to a house, garage, barn, or other building.

Advantages of attached greenhouses:

  • Convenient to your home or garage.
  • Can cost less because you need not build an extra wall.
  • Can save money to heat and maintain because you can tap into the home’s systems.

Disadvantages of attached greenhouses:

  • Site location is determined by your existing home.
  • Size is determined by your existing home.
  • Insects, moisture, heat, and plant applications may seep into your home.

Freestanding greenhouses

Freestanding greenhouses are completely independent structures.

Advantages of freestanding greenhouses:

  • May cost less if you set up a small, portable structure.
  • Can offer more flexibility in size, site, and expandability.

Disadvantages of freestanding greenhouses:

  • May have inconvenient access if located far from house.
  • May cost more to construct because you need to build an entire structure.
  • May cost more to heat and maintain because you must extend utility systems and you must allow for exposed surfaces.

2. Should I build or buy?

At Tomato Dirt we’re all about “doing it yourself.” You can purchase plans, panels, greenhouse film, ground cover, shade cloth and a wide assortment of accessories to construct your own greenhouse. (Get plans here.)

But building your greenhouse may or may not be the more economical choice. Be sure to do an apples-to-apples comparison of costs (including your time.) Building plans can be low cost, but the materials needed for the construction can be expensive or hard to find. Increasing home gardening popularity has led to good greenhouse products ready to assemble with simple instructions. Greenhouse manufacturers often offer a warranty, too – not an option when you build your own.

Ultimately the decision depends on how large or small a greenhouse you need, the features you want, how handy you are, and the cost comparisons between building your own and buying a kit.

Special considerations…

  • If you live in a cold climate … you may need a year-round greenhouse, which requires tightly-sealed walls and interior heat source.
  • If you live in a windy area … you may need a structurally-sound greenhouse.
  • If you live in warmer region … you may need extra ventilation and shading.

More on tomato greenhouses

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Get more ideas on our Tomato Greenhouses Pinterest board...

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