What's Green About a Greenhouse?

Prior to the popular name of 'greenhouses', in the 19th century they were referred to as conservatories and they housed plants and made the most of natural sunlight to feed the plants.

Unlike animals, plants lack mobility and have to get their food supply my incorporating different methods. Actually you can relate the way the plants get nutrients through their root system like capillaries do, through capillary action. To give you a better idea what capillary action is, think of the way a paper towel, held upright works when soaking up water, it wil l absorb the water and work against gravity to pull the water off the surface. Roots work in the same manner and extract nutrients and water from the soil and even the leaves have a collection method for sunlight and water.

So, what is the purpose of sunlight to the plant and why is it so helpful? Plants use a process called photosynthesis which is determined by the amount of sunlight they receive. This process uses light as the fuel to process and create nutrients for the plant to sustain itself. It is not only important in a sustenance sense but photosynthesis is necessary for the plants to grow and reproduce. But is using a greenhouse more beneficial than simply planting the material in the garden, and does a greenhouse help in growing plants?

The construction of a greenhouse is usually made up of materials for the walls, such as glass or plastic and roofing material. Sunlight itself is made up of a series of light waves, some are visible and others are invisible, like ultraviolet and infrared light. Elements such as glass and some kinds of plastic allow these light waves to penetrate into the greenhouse, but only selected few get out as efficiently as they got in.

One of those invisible wavelengths, infrared light, we experience as heat, does not escape back through the glass or plastic as easily as some other wavelengths. In the process of letting the infrared light in and hindering its escape, the greenhouse helps keep itself warm and even with ventilation a lot of air stays within the structure.

The effect of taking sunlight in and letting little escape causes the temperature in the greenhouse to be higher than the actual outside temperature. It may be easy to relate it to sitting in a closed car in the summer, the temperature inside the car is stifling and hotter than the outside temperature. That is the same effect that a greenhouse has and that is why they are sometimes called hothouses.

A well constructed greenhouse helps with controlling some of growing conditions and these conditions can be manipulated to some extent. This is one of the ways that a greenhouse is better than outdoor gardening, there is little you can do to your outside garden that will effect the growing conditions.

If you like growing delicate plants, a greenhouse provides these types of plants with more protection against weather elements such as wind and excessive rain than growing them outside. You can regulate the amount of sunlight by using shutters or screens and the structure itself protects against the wind. Greenhouses also have a more conducive environment that many plants thrive in and many times the soil is in better condition.

There is no doubt that greenhouses perform a functional utility for those of us that have green thumbs, but a well designed greenhouse has aesthetic qualities that make it a beautiful addition to a home. They have varied architectural styles and with the added beauty of plant growth, it can turn this utilitarian work horse into a grand piece of art.

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