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Choosing a Greenhouse

Decide which greenhouse is right for you

Choosing A Greenhouse

greenhouse | building | grow your own

Red Cedar Wooden Greenhouse

The Greenhouse is one of the most expensive parts of a smallholding or urban self-sufficient set up. However, a suitable greenhouse will pay for itself many times over through its lifetime for its owner and also provide many years of enjoyment.

Types of Greenhouse

There are many different sizes and shapes of greenhouses available at prices to match all budgets, from polythene polytunnels to cinder block and timber constructions. The main choice is between a lean-to greenhouse or an apex greenhouse.

A lean-to greenhouse, as its name suggests, is built leaning against another structure - usually your house. This is excellent if you have limited space, but it also cuts down the amount of light entering the greenhouse and the space available for growing. An apex greenhouse is freestanding and has an apex roof whch lets in light from both sides and permits growing on both sides. One advantage of a lean-to greenhouse is that the house on which it is built acts a heat sink preventing large temperature fluctuations between day and night, but if your property does not have a wall in a suitable orientation, there is nowhere suitable to build a lean-to greenhouse.

The larger the greenhouse, the less it will cost per square foot of growing space, so it is best to buy the largest greenhouse you can afford. You will have no difficulty in filling it! Greenhouses are available in sizes from as small as 4 x 6 feet, to 12 x 24 feet, and commercial greenhouses which can be much much larger are also available for tens of thousands of pounds. It is almost always advantageous to select a wide greenhouse rather than a long narrow greenhouse of equivalent square footage since this gives you a larger usable area for planting.

Glass or Plastic

Toughened safety greenhouse glass

The next big decision is - plastic or glass. Plastic is cheaper, easier to fit, is not brittle unlike glass, will not break when hit by footballs, will not crack under large temperature fluctuations, and is easier to seal. But, glass lets more light in than plastic, and barring breakages, will continue to do so forever. Plastic becomes more and more translucent over the years and also can be scratched. The more light gets into your greenhouse the better it is for your crops and the better your yields will be.

If you do choose glass then you have another decision to make - toughened (or safety) glass or horticultural glass. Horticultural glass is cheaper than toughened glass but it breaks more easily, and when it does break it will spray shards of sharp glass around which is of course very dangerous for children, pets, and yourself. Toughened glass on the other hand it much more expensive, but it shatters safely on impact (like a car windscreen) and it is much much less likely to break in the first place.

Greenhouse Construction Material

Aluminium greenhouse with plastic windows

The material from which your greenhouse is built is the final important consideration. Aluminium is light weight, corrosion free, and requires no maintenance. It is also cheaper than wood (typically red cedar), but does not look as nice, and it also heats up and cools down much faster. Wooden greenhouses need to be treated every few years to protect them from rot.

Greenhouse Accessories

An ideal greenhouse will have guttering enabling you to collect rainwater and store it in a water butt. Rain water is much better for your crops than treated drinking water from your taps.

Staging is also important. These waist-high slatted surfaces are used when you are planting seeds and doing other work in your greenhouse, and most commonly used for propogating seed trays.

Finally you also need ventilation which takes the form of openable windows in the roof of the greenhouse, and a suitable door - usually a sliding door with aluminium models and a standard door with wooden models.

NEW - Click here to visit our Greenhouse Directory with details of suppliers of greenhouses and related accessories including staging, shelving, and heaters.

Shopping List

Here are some useful links to relevant products:

Article Published: 12:37, 20th Apr 2011

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