Retired University of South Carolina law professor Tom Haggard has a backyard greenhouse for some obvious reasons, including protecting cold-sensitive perennials over the winter and starting plants from seed in late winter, but admits that offers him something else.
“In winter, when it’s been cold, I like going out every morning and sitting in it with my coffee. The earthly, warm, humid smell of it is pure delight,” says Haggard, who is 78.
The avid gardener, who lives in Forest Acres in Columbia, ordered the kit greenhouse, measuring 6 feet by 8 feet, from Park Seed catalog seven years ago. He added fluorescent grow lights to help with the seedlings and uses a small ceramic heater keep temperatures up.
“It’s a very small setup, but provides me with enough plants that I have to give a lot of them away,” says Haggard.
Enduring cold spells
With the end of Daylight Saving Time last week and the second wave of chilly weather this week, avid gardeners in the Palmetto State are shifting their attention to cool-weather plants, preparing for short cold snaps and thinking indoor plants.
For those with greenhouses, ranging from inexpensive kits to handcrafted ones, now through March is prime time.
Kyle Barnette, executive director of the Charleston Horticultural Society, says greenhouses can extend gardening year-round.
“One main reason (to have a greenhouse) is to be able to ‘winter’ your plants. Even in the most temperate zone you risk frost and freeze on winter nights and a well-insulated greenhouse is ideal to save those favorite plants,” says Barnette.
“It’s also a great way to grow from seed all year long which can end up giving you an abundance of plants throughout the full year. Greenhouses are also a great way to harvest fresh vegetables all year round and are excellent test grounds for rare and tropical plants you might like to experiment with and monitor on a regular basis.”
Barnette adds that one benefit that many may not consider is health, noting that studies have shown how both plants and exposure to light during winter can ease seasonal affective disorder, aka SAD.
Growing the greenhouse
With increased interests in urban gardening, local food and native, edible and pollinator plant gardening, the potential for greenhouses seems poised to follow the same upward track of the chicken coop.
Cal Looney, owner of Merchney Greenhouses in Liberty, says more people in South Carolina, particularly the urban areas of Greenville, Columbia, Charleston and Hilton Head Island, are interested in growing food and are interested in smaller greenhouses.
Merchney offers 12x12 and 10x10 greenhouses, ranging from $2,500 to $6,300 with accessories, but Looney says his focus remains on larger greenhouses for commercial and institutional customers, including schools such as St. Johns High on Johns Island and Dorman High in Roebuck.
“If you really wanted to promote it (smaller greenhouses) and get them out there, you could sell the heck out of them,” says Looney, who is 36 and been in the greenhouse business for more than a decade. “I don’t try to market to the hobbyist because it would require a call center that could field questions and I’d have to hire five more people to do that.”
The $340 setup
When 29-year-old Charleston resident B.J. Stadelman started his mobile plant shop, which he calls Haegur (Icelandic for unhurried, thought-out, measured and quiet), he ran out of room in his house in Wagener Terrace.
“My porch, both front and back, was full. I needed a little greenhouse,” says Stadelman.
So the Millennial recently hit the internet, found a 4x6 Palram model for $340 on the site of a big box store, and ordered it (shipping was free).
“I had to assemble it. I did it alone, but you probably need two people to do it. A few beers in, it took me about five hours to finish,” says Stadelman, who currently has it full with succulent starts.
To catch the most sunlight in his tree-filled yard, Stadelman placed it in the middle of his driveway. He also expects that when it gets below freezing, he may have to put a small heater in the polycarbonate structure.
“It (the greenhouse) is not big at all, but it’s big enough. It’s my propagation station.”
Another option in the lower price range is the manufacturer Flowerhouse, which offers a variety of small greenhouses that pop up, like a tent. As a result, they are portable for locating in different spots of the yard and also may be taken down for summer storage. Visit www.flowerhouses.com for more information.
Just before contractor Adam Martinelli sold his house on Crystal Lake on James Island, he finished a greenhouse out of materials leftover from remodeling jobs.
The beneficiaries of that effort are the new owners, Jessica Owen and Sean McBride, who are excited to have the sturdy, hand-made structure, just feet from the lake. The greenhouse has electricity, running water and plenty of windows for venting in the event it gets too warm.
Owen, a nurse practioner, says they are not experienced gardeners, but this winter they plan to start plants in the greenhouse for the spring. They also bought some citrus trees, some in containers that they can move into the greenhouse if the temperatures drop into the 20s.
McBride adds, “We’re looking forward to doing some gardening.”