4 Ways to Use a Greenhouse in the Summer

By Haley Bridgnell
Net-zero energy greenhouse at the Green Center

4 Ways to Use a Greenhouse in the Summer

4 Ways to Use a Greenhouse in the Summer

Greenhouses can often take a back seat during the summer months, when gardens are flourishing outside. But that doesn’t mean they’re un-used. In fact, year-round greenhouses take on new roles to continue growing. Here are 4 strategies for getting making the most out of your summer greenhouse.

Ceres solar greenhouse in the summer

1. Warm Crop Sanctuary

The first question that probably comes to mind is what to grow in a greenhouse in the summer? After all, most of us want to use our greenhouses for growing plants. One great strategy is to use the greenhouse primarily for heat-tolerant crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and basil. While shade cloth and heat-storage systems like a Ground to Air Heat Transfer (GAHT®) system can help control greenhouse temperatures, it is still a warm spot in the garden. Indeed, the greenhouse may occupy the sunniest spot in your yard. We recommend taking advantage of it by shifting what you grow in there to things that like heat and full-sun.

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2. Sitting Area

Many gardeners take their garden almost completely outdoors in the summer, opening up the greenhouse as a sitting area or extra living space in the summer. For these gardeners the perfect summer greenhouse is one that leaves generous room for morning coffee and a meeting area in the greenhouse. The fruit trees and vegetables that grow inside for most of the year are brought outside in the summer, and make a beautiful exterior display in the garden. If you are using a greenhouse in a hot climate, with more intense sunshine, a shade cloth should be added to keep the greenhouse a comfortable temperature for people.

The Green Center greenhouse, Woods Hole MA3. Year-Round Growing

Other growers use measures to prevent overheating in the greenhouse and stick to business as usual during the summer. They grow a wide array of crops, hot and cool. Sharon, in Boulder CO, noted of her solar greenhouse: “everything is so much healthier in there compared to my outside garden. Believe it or not, I still have spring greens, kale and chard, growing. The tomatoes, peppers, and basil are great too.” Adding shade cloth and controlling the heat gain is critical in the greenhouse. A Ground to Air Heat Transfer (GAHT) system is one way – it allows the greenhouse to store extra heat in the soil for heating in the winter.
In hot climates, a year-round greenhouse is the only garden that’s able to grow during the summer. At Judith and John’s greenhouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, the outdoor temps regularly soar above 100 degrees. Combined with the intense Colorado sun, many plants struggle outside.

An energy-efficient greenhouse provides a controlled environment to grow a wide variety of crops during the summer, including kale and chard, as well as heat-lovers like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. A combination of shade cloth, a Ground to Air Heat Transfer (GAHT), and evaporative cooler prevent Judith and John’s greenhouse (picture below) from overheating. It allows them to grow year-round.

inside a solar greenhouse summer growing

4. New Beginnings

While most gardeners focus on their outdoor beds during the summer, greenhouse growers should also be preparing for their second growing season that occurs in the greenhouse. Growing year-round often requires getting plants started early, in the late summer / early fall while the days are still long enough. This allows seedlings to get sufficient light and mature before light levels wane. The healthy, mature plants continue to grow in the greenhouse through the colder months, providing a year-round harvest. If started too late, seedlings will suffer from reduced light levels and come out spindly or “leggy.”

Thus, the summer greenhouse is a spot for new beginnings… You can start crops in trays or outside a solar greenhouse in the summerdirectly in the soil, depending on your planting plan. What to grow in a greenhouse in the summer greatly depends on your climate and greenhouse design. Just remember to plan for them well in advance.

Summer greenhouse growing tip:

We advise our clients to take off and store window screens during the summer, leaving the greenhouse open as an extension of the outdoor garden. Screens are not effective at keeping out harmful insects like aphids and white flies which are too small to be thwarted by a screen. Screens do block larger insects that can help the greenhouse – pollinators like bees, and beneficial insects like ladybugs. They also reduce airflow through the windows. Thus, leaving the greenhouse completely open to both the good and bad insects usually yields to the healthiest indoor garden. We also recommend planting flowers just outside the greenhouse windows and doors to help attract beneficial insects into the greenhouse. You might find yourself more  inclined to wander inside more as well.

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