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Why a Greenhouse is a Gardeners Best Friend

               halls

I think we’d all agree a dishwasher is a best friend in the kitchen and once you’ve had one you just don’t know how you managed without it. Well, the same applies to greenhouses in the garden; get one and you’ll soon wonder how on earth you gardened without it!

A greenhouse is ideal for sowing seeds, taking cuttings, growing tender plants and crops, overwintering tender plants or simply retreating to on a wet day. The biggest advantage of a greenhouse is that it allows you to grow plants and crops that need more shelter and higher temperatures than are found in the open garden so they become season stretchers giving earlier springs and later autumns. In our moderate climate, the weather is always changing which not only limits what seasonal crops you can grow but also limits you to species which can survive in temperate conditions. With a greenhouse, you will be able to moderate the climate that the crop needs to be able to thrive. No longer will you need to contend with winds, heavy rain, or drought when you can control the weather in your greenhouse.

When you have one, you can turn your gardening hobby into a full-time passion and whether you have many hours to spend or just a few minutes a day, having a greenhouse is great for anyone who loves plants. No matter what you want to plant and grow, you can do it in a greenhouse.

Choosing your Greenhouse

There is a huge array of options when it comes to choosing a greenhouse but the greenhouse you eventually choose will come down to two main factors - the area you have available and your budget. Our advice would be to go for the biggest you can afford as you will soon fill it up but a smaller greenhouse is better than no greenhouse at all.

Aluminium or Wood?

Wood used to be the only choice and some people prefer the look even they tend to be more expensive than aluminium models and do need more maintenance. However, nowadays aluminium models come in a hard wearing powder coating in a variety of colours so can look like wood or are available in lots of colours to complement your garden. Aluminium models don’t rust and are lighter to move if needed and mostly cheaper plus they also tend to have more available accessories.

    elite      halls lean

Walk in, or lean-to?

A free-standing greenhouse usually has four sides with a door at one or both ends and can go in any suitable spot. A lean-to sits against a sunny wall or building, its roof sloping away from the wall. You simply reach into a small lean-to or walk into a large one.

Where to site it


Finding the optimum spot for a greenhouse is vital. A sheltered spot away from winds with as much sunlight, as much as possible, on all sides, is crucial. For a long and narrow structure, an east-west orientation as ideal and if possible avoid positioning near structures casting shadows such as walls, fences, hedges and buildings and of course don’t site under trees as falling leaves will be a problem as well as shade. If you want to raise seedlings early in the year, you will need extra heat. An electric fan heater, and a propagator with a thermostat is the most efficient solution. You will need a professional to install an electricity supply, so think about this when the base is prepared as the nearer it is to the house the cheaper it will be. Bubble insulation also provides warmth


Foundations


A greenhouse must stand on a solid, well-built base made of brick, concrete, slabs, timber (such as untreated hardwood sleepers) or a combination. Make sure you allow extra room to position water barrels and to get round for maintenance and cleaning. It really is worth getting your supplier to install if you are not a handy sort of person.


Staging


It is really useful to have staging and shelving along least one side of the greenhouse, on which to perform a number of tasks and where you can place plants and seedlings nearer the light. Pots and other equipment may be stored underneath


Ventilation

You must control the temperature in a greenhouse keeping it below 80ºF/27ºC. During the summer this is achieved mainly through ventilation. Always check that there are sufficient roof and side vents, 10sq ft of ventilation for every 50sq ft of ground area. During hot weather louvres near ground level allow in cool air that will then heat up and rise, exiting through top ventilators, thus providing an effective throughput of air. If you are away for any length of time, automatic vent openers will prove very useful.


Glass Options

 Standard Horticultural Glass

  • Cheapest option
  • Clear glass for maximum light
  • Splinters into shards and can therefore be dangerous
  • Breaks easily under slight pressure eg when cleaning or fitting

Toughened Safety Glass

  • Much stronger than standard
  • Disintegrates rather than breaking into shards
  • Clear glass for maximum light
  • Should conform to all safety standards

Polycarbonate

  • Expensive
  • Ultimately the most safe option
  • Similar to double glazing, offers better insulation
  • Harder to break than standard glass
  • Transmits 85% of light with good diffusion
  • Cavity between glazing can attract condensation and algae
  • Lets in less light
  • More vulnerable to wind damage

Heating Choices

Heating will be a deciding factor on the variety of plants you are able to grow and the number of plants that can be kept over winter. Temperature during the winter shouldn't dip much below 7ºC and throughout the year the daily variation shouldn't be more than 10ºC, this can be controlled by a combination of heating, ventilation and insulation. The main types of heating used in a domestic greenhouse are:

Electricity

  • Easy to use, reliable
  • Clean, no odour or fumes
  • High temperatures can be achieved
  • Temperature can be controlled by accurately and cost effectively with a thermostat
  • Fan heaters provide uniform heat and good circulation
  • Fans can also be used to cool in warmer months
  • Professional installation is required to install waterproof cables and sockets

Gas

  • Propane and butane are easy to use
  • High temperatures can be achieved
  • Temperature can be controlled by a thermostat
  • A spare cylinder must always be available
  • May give off harmful fumes
  • Causes condensation

Paraffin

  • Cheap to buy but running costs may be high
  • Temperature control is difficult
  • May give off harmful fumes
  • Requires frequent re-fuelling and daily maintenance
  • Creates humidity and condensation

Extras

All manufacturers offer a range of extras like blinds, rainwater collection kits, thermometers, work benches, automatic vent openers and lots more to help you get the most out of your greenhouse so advice from your local dealer is invaluable when choosing.

                vent opener     rainwater kit

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HALLS AND ELITE GREENHOUSES BOTH STOCKED BY GROVES NURSERIES

Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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