How To Choose A Greenhouse Or Polytunnel For Your Plot
12th November 2018
These buildings come in a wide variety of sizes, styles and price brackets, and deciding on the one for you can feel a little daunting. The first thing you should do is consider where you would like to site your greenhouse. This will make the decision about sizing for you. A perfect location will have some shelter from frosts and strong winds, and plenty of access to sunlight. Light levels are really important and you may have to consider cutting back any overhanging hedging. Also, be careful not to place the greenhouse too close to buildings or walls. After that, you can start thinking about the more specific needs you have.
The frame of your greenhouse will commonly either be aluminium or wood, with the former being the most popular material. This is largely due to the fact it is low maintenance – although the wooden types look beautiful and make a real feature in the garden, they will require some routine care to keep the wood in good condition.
One of the most important things to think about when it comes to your greenhouse is ventilation. Plants will require this to thrive, so in an ideal world, look for a structure with roof vents along both sides as a minimum. If you are strapped for time, it can be worth getting your hands on automatic vent openers, although these do have mixed reviews, so see what works for you.
Another element to think about is whether you want the glazing in your greenhouse to be real glass or a plastic alternative. This comes down to personal preference for a number of reasons – some people may prefer plastic over glass if they have young children, for example, and see it as a safer choice. However, real glass does have the benefit of allowing the maximum amount of light through, and it also doesn’t degrade over time in the same way plastic panels can do.
Once you have made the key decisions about the structure of the greenhouse, you can start considering what is going to go inside it. Shelving is a very useful addition and comes in a wide variety of styles, sizes and shapes. If you don’t have a huge amount of spare space on the ground, you can get shelves that attach to the walls, fold away when not in use, or even hang from the roof. These are also available in wood, aluminium or plastic, so you can fit them in with the look of your garden buildings.
Greenhouse heaters can help bump the temperature up that little bit extra over the winter months, so are a sound investment. This also helps you to avoid levels fluctuating too much. There are lots of different types to choose from – from electric to propane, paraffin to gas – and your decision here may be based on cost effectiveness, environmental concerns or both.
Another simple piece of kit that it is well worth adding to your under cover shopping list is a thermometer. This helps you monitor conditions and allows you to deliver appropriate care to your plants. Over the winter months, for example, you may have to add a layer of bubble wrap around pots, or adjust the temperature of heaters.
Polytunnels can be a really cost effective means of offering your hardy winter greens protection through the winter months, as well as providing a brilliant space for growing a multitude of veg throughout peak times in the season. As with greenhouses, your polytunnel should be sited in an area protected from severe frosts and gales, and somewhere you get exposure to the sun throughout the day. You can now buy tunnels with various different coverings – from the standard polythene to fine mesh netting, and fleece. If you are going for a traditional type of polytunnel, it is definitely a worthwhile investment to buy the highest quality polythene you can afford. This will last longer and minimise the risk of tears or degrading. The covering is an especially important consideration if you live in an area that is prone to gusty winds, as you will want to go for a thick, or perhaps even bubbled type to give you the strongest, most robust covering possible.
In terms of what goes inside a polytunnel, this can be kept as simple or as embellished as you like. You will need to add a path, and it is quite common to create raised beds for ease of access to the plants you are growing.
Watering systems make caring for the crops in your tunnel simple, and you can even hook up electricity to run heated propagators and the like, so before you set your structure up it is worth thinking about whether you need connection points for any of this equipment.
Shelving and benches are a great addition if you will be potting on inside your tunnel. If you don’t want to take up valuable growing space, you can get hanging types that attach to the frame. This helps with keeping everything you need to hand, but isn’t totally necessary, so again, it is down to personal preference and what works with how you garden.
A thermometer will help you keep your eye on the minimum and maximum temperatures, so you will know if your more tender crops need a little extra protection in the form of fleece or other insulating fabric.
When you own a polytunnel, an important element of your must-have kit will be repair tape, which is a saviour in the event that any severe weather conditions, clumsy use of tools or anything else may tear the covering.
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