There is no better way to increase the range of plants you are able to grow than with a greenhouse. A greenhouse creates ideal conditions for a range of fruit and vegetables and prolongs the growing season long after summer has left us for another year.
A guide to choosing a greenhouse
Ok, so you’re keen to get stuck in and start growing those 5 different varieties of tomatoes, first of all check to see if you actually have a suitable site for your greenhouse. You’ll need somewhere that will receive plenty of sunlight and is not completely obscured by the shade of trees or houses.
An ideal site will allow the greenhouse to be positioned with the long side facing south; not essential but this will allow for maximum sunlight and warmth. If possible, pick a site that will also allow for maximum sunlight during the autumn and spring when the sun is lower in the sky. Take into account nearby buildings and trees which may obscure the sun at certain times of year.
The site will need to be reasonably level and not prone to flooding. Don’t worry if the soil is poor as all greenhouse gardening can be carried out using grow-bags and containers.
Basic types of domestic greenhouse
There are two basic types of greenhouse.
- Lean too – these have 3 sides and are designed to be positioned next to a wall or other vertical surface.
- Free standing – the conventional 4 sided greenhouse
Other types include hexagonal shaped greenhouses, mini greenhouses and plastic poly tunnels.
The most popular greenhouses are freestanding and are made from aluminium and glass. Aluminium doesn’t rust and will last for many years with no maintenance. Timber, although it looks stunning, will eventually need repainting or re-oiling.
Glass offers by far the best choice for the windows unless you have young children, in which case you might want to consider polycarbonate glazing for safety.
Polyethylene (as used on the poly tunnel type greenhouses) can tear easily and won’t stand up to strong winds particularly well, however they are cheaper and safer than glass.
What size greenhouse?
The size of greenhouse you choose depends on the available space and how much produce you want to grow. Greenhouse gardening is addictive, so get the largest you can because it wont be long before you’ve filled it with plants and vegetables. You may also need room for a potting bench or staging. A common size is 6×4 foot, but this often proves too small for the keen gardener.
If you just don’t have the space for a proper walk in greenhouse, there are other options available. Two Wests have a wide range of patio greenhouses which are ideal for the smaller garden.
During the summer, temperatures can become too extreme for the plants so the greenhouse will need ventilation. The more ventilation options the better. Two helpful aids to keeping the temperature correct are liquid shading and automatic window openers. Liquid shading (whitewash) is painted onto the outside of the greenhouse and reduces the effect of the suns rays. Automatic openers (auto vents) attach to the ventilation windows of the greenhouse and automatically operate when the temperature reaches a certain level.
Greenhouse humidity and watering
A good way to create a humid environment is to utilise a shingle floor inside the greenhouse. Lay an anti-weed membrane and cover with either pea shingle or the slightly larger 20mm beach shingle. During hot weather, sprinkle the shingle with water. The evaporating moisture will create the humid environment many plants and vegetables favour. For a vast range of greenhouse watering systems such as capillary matting, misting systems, gravity watering systems and soaker hose.