Buying a Greenhouse

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.

Greenhouse materials

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.


Greenhouse Cleaning and Hygiene

As spring approaches and the growing season draws nearer, it’s time to start thinking about cleaning the greenhouse in preparation for the new crop. Greenhouse cleanliness is important to prevent any disease and infection spreading through your plants, and also to help maintain the general condition of the greenhouse.

Any old compost and fertilizer bags can harbour a range of insects and diseases and should ideally kept somewhere else such as the garden shed. Also, try to avoid leaving any dead vegetation in the greenhouse, put it in the compost as soon as you can. Pots, seed trays tools and staging should be washed with warm water and a little household (or horticultural) disinfectant. Clay pots can be soaked in a bucket of warm water to remove caked-on dirt and soil.

Give the inside of the greenhouse a good wash down with warm water and disinfectant. If you have a pressure washer, you can use it to gently remove dirt from the corners and crevices. A pressure washer is also useful for removing the strips of algae that form wherever the panes of glass overlap. Give the interior a spray with disinfectant after pressure washing and rinse again.

When you finished cleaning, check the hinges and sliding mechanisms on the doors and ventilators. Apply some light oil or WD40 where needed and replace any missing glazing clips. If you have automatic openers, refer to the manufacturers instructions regarding maintenance.

Try and treat the greenhouse environment as you would any other room in your house; a decent level of cleanliness will result in happier, healthier plants and crops

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