Greenhouse Advantages & Disadvantages

Greenhouse growing has been around for many decades, but until recent times it was limited to wealthy families, academic institutions like universities and commercial plant breeders. Innovative greenhouse designs are now making greenhouse growing practical for individual families of more modest means. But a permanent greenhouse still involves a substantial investment, so individual families contemplating building a greenhouse should carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

Hispanic woman looking at potted plant in greenhouse
credit: Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images
A personal garden greenhouse can greatly extend your growing season.

Grow Your Own

With your own greenhouse, you are no longer at the mercy of supermarket produce suppliers; you can readily grow your own produce. You can grow off-season vegetables or flowers as well as types of produce that normally would not thrive in your climate. If yours is a relatively small parcel of land, an efficiently designed greenhouse can provide large amounts of produce from a small plot of land. A greenhouse also shields your plants from storm damage and untimely frosts.

Climate Control

A big advantage of owning a greenhouse is climate control over your garden. Within a greenhouse, you can regulate watering, heat, light and humidity to create your own micro-climate that lets you start plants earlier and keep them going later than if you planted directly outdoors. Climate-control techniques include using heaters to warm the structure during cold spells, natural materials that store the sun's heat by day and release it at night, and opening windows or running fans to keep temperatures down during summer hot spells.

Greenhouse Drawbacks

A personal greenhouse will generate high upfront building costs and ongoing operating expenses such as for water, lighting and supplemental heat. You'll need to choose a sturdy greenhouse construction kit or plan plus associated materials and supplies that will provide a long lifespan for the structure and a proper environment for the plants you plan to grow. Inexpensive plastic conduit and roll plastic can admit sunlight and retain heat. But they won't last more than a season or two and are very prone to wind damage. Glass or window-grade hard plastic on a sturdy wood or metal frame costs substantially more but will last much longer and can be opened up to ventilate the structure during heat spells.

Confined Environment

A greenhouse is a confined environment in which pests and diseases can spread very quickly. You must maintain tight control over what comes into your greenhouse in order to block diseases and animal or insect pests that can quickly destroy your plants. Any seeds or plants you buy for greenhouse growing should be certified as being free of all pests and diseases. Most garden vegetable plants require pollination for vegetable production, which can be a problem in a greenhouse. You may have to pollinate your plants mechanically or by hand, or find a way to introduce pollinating insects into your greenhouse.