Updated: July 14, 2019
In this modern world, greenhouse gardeners have a ton of choices of materials for their greenhouses, from advanced metals to plastics and even old standbys like wood. Wood remains the most popular building material for homemade greenhouses and cold frames, but should you go with a wooden greenhouse? Let’s look at the pros and cons of wooden structures.
Wooden hobby greenhouses
You’ll almost never see a professional nursery run out of a wooden structure, unless that nursery is very, very old. There’s a reason for this—large wooden greenhouses aren’t practical or easy to maintain. But that’s ok, because you’re not running a big greenhouse nursery. For the hobbyist, wood is one of the most versatile materials out there, largely because most people have some type of woodworking skills.
Wood is an easy material to work with, it’s readily available and it’s sturdy—after all, we build our houses out of it, so it’s definitely good enough to use to support a few sheets of plastic. You can completely customize your wooden greenhouse to any size you’d like and if it doesn’t meet your needs in the future, adding on is a breeze. In addition, if you need to relocate a wooden greenhouse, it’s not difficult to take one apart and put it back together again. Best of all, it’s cheap!
Maintaining wooden greenhouses
There’s one caveat to using a wooden greenhouse. Wood and humidity are natural enemies—you only have to take a short walk in a densely forested area to see what happens to wood exposed to moisture over time. For all the savings you’ll realize upfront with a wooden greenhouse (and they can be substantial, to be sure), you may end up spending that much and more maintaining the structure during its lifetime.
The conditions present in any good greenhouse are going to encourage mold and bacteria to move into the little grooves and pockets in the wood and from there they grow and grow. As the wood is eaten away, your structure suffers and becomes a source of infection for sensitive plants. This is no good at all, and it’s an unfortunate given with any wooden greenhouse over a long enough time frame.
With extra care and planning, you can slow or stop the microorganisms that are slowly eating your structure, though. Here are some tips for keeping your wooden greenhouse like new for longer:
Start with better wood – People love to build with white pine, and I understand why—it’s the most affordable option. But it’s also the softest option and most prone to decay. Choose pressure-treated wood, cedar or redwood to extend your greenhouse’s life.
Seal, seal, seal! – A high-quality deck sealant or a coat of glossy paint will go a long way to keeping your greenhouse around for years to come. In the fall, when you break everything down to scrub it to death, make time add another layer of paint or sealant to your wood frame before you put your greenhouse back together. The longer you can delay repairs, the more time you’ll have for gardening.
Disinfecting helps, too – When you wash down your equipment and shelves, make sure you spray your wooden structure, too. A little bleach water won’t hurt your sealant and it will kill off anything trying to get a foothold in that spot where you didn’t notice you missed the second coat of paint. The bottom line is that the more you can do to combat those little agents of rot, the better off you’re going to be.
Although wooden greenhouses can take some extra care to keep them in good shape, for many gardeners being able to throw one up without having to scrimp and save for months is well worth the long-term care. Wooden greenhouses are an excellent choice for the hobbyist, so don’t be afraid to get out your saw and power screwdriver and build the hothouse of your dreams.