Cover your greenhouse with materials that can withstand the weather and provide your plants with plenty of natural sunlight. Weigh the pros and cons of each available greenhouse covering material, including cost and durability, but leave the greens in the store. Greenhouses should not be covered with colored materials.
Fiberglass panels are often used to cover greenhouses because they are durable and can last up to 20 years. Clear, frosted, or green fiberglass panels are available for about $1 to $2 per square foot. Clear or frosted panels allow 78 to 90 percent of natural light in, while green panels will not provide enough light for your plants. If using clear or frosted fiberglass panels, purchase only the "greenhouse quality" panels.
Acrylic or Plexiglas panels are a good choice for greenhouse coverings because they are durable and will last at least 10 years. They are available in clear or a variety of colors but use clear acrylic panels rather than green or any other color. Clear acrylic panels cost about $1 per square foot and let in about 90 percent of the natural sunlight.
White Plastic Cover
Polyethylene film is cheap at about 20 cents per square foot but usually lasts only one year. Use clear film that is 4 to 6 mm thick. The opaque green color does not let enough light in. A double layer can be used to reduce heat loss in the winter, but it will reduce light intensity by 8 to 10 percent. A single layer of polyethylene film will allow 85 to 88 percent of natural sunlight to reach your plants.
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Glass is a good choice for a permanent greenhouse. It lets in about 90 percent of the natural sunlight. Glass is much more expensive, but lasts much longer than any other greenhouse covering material. Double-strength glass panels are often used, but tempered glass is a better choice due to its greater strength and durability. Frosted tempered glass or "hammered" tempered glass can be used, but avoid green or any other colored glass.
Direct light consists of the direct rays of the sun. Diffuse light consists of scattered light waves. When direct light passes through a translucent material, it becomes diffuse light. Examples of translucent materials are frosted glass and some plastics.
In nature, diffuse light occurs when the sun's rays are scattered by the atmosphere or clouds. In contrast to translucent materials, clear materials like regular glass allow light to pass through the material without scattering.
You need to keep these properties in mind when choosing greenhouse glass. This is why the question arises when choosing plastic for a greenhouse - does the greenhouse plastic have to be transparent?
If you plan to use a greenhouse to germinate seeds and start moving plants outdoors, the plastic must be clear because it will allow direct sunlight, which will heat the soil and promote germination. However, if you want your plants to mature in a greenhouse, use opaque or frosted plastic to provide diffused light.