You know you’re a passionate gardener when you’re considering buying a greenhouse. Introducing a greenhouse to your current makeup will give you a whole new dimension to your gardening, and add a lot more enjoyment to your little green patch. However, like every new piece of gardening apparatus, picking the right greenhouse and using it is going to be something of a learning curve. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the choices out there, then read on. Here’s a guide to choosing and using the greenhouse that’s right for you.
Perhaps you’re still just curious about getting a greenhouse, and not sure whether or not you’d get much use out of it. The main advantage of having a greenhouse is that it allows you to grow plants and veggies that require higher temperatures and more shelter than others. Greenhouses also work to effectively stretch out the seasons. You’ll be able to grow spring plants slightly earlier and autumn plants slightly later. Over the summer, they’re excellent for growing tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. Through the winter, on the other hand, you can fill them with tough oriental greens. Protecting your plants from chilly nights, growing cut flowers and protecting your veg from the elements are a few other advantages. If you’re going through a particularly bad growing season, a decent greenhouse can be the thing that saves your yield and your spirits.
So, onto actually making the purchase. If you’ve been browsing greenhouses recently, then you may have found they’re not quite as affordable as you thought. However, if you live in the UK, odds are you’ll be able to find a pre-used greenhouse in your local area going for an absolute steal. Check your local paper, along with classifieds websites like Gumtree, and look for some good candidates. Obviously, they’re not going to be in pristine condition. However, many of them will be perfectly adequate with a little cleaning and TLC. The real bargains are usually from people who are selling their homes, and simply want to shift the greenhouse rather than go to the trouble of getting an accurate value. If you’re going to buy used, just be sure to take a couple of pictures of the greenhouse before you start loosening bolts, and use a permanent marker to mark out where there current glazing is. This will make it much easier to piece it back together back at your garden. If you’re still not sure about how much you’re going to use it, you may want to consider getting a lean-to greenhouse rather than a large, free-standing one. Lean-to models will be much cheaper, though the fact that they’re so squat can get in the way of some of your plans for growing. If you’re going to choose one of these, bear in mind that you’ll need a wall to build it against, that has to get a lot of sun.
Aside from the greenhouse itself, you’re going to need to budget for proper foundations. Any free-standing greenhouse needs a solid, well-built base in order to stay standing. Any good vendor will give you the precise measurements you need. These bases are most commonly made of concrete, but you can also use brick or certain kinds of timber, or a combination of these materials. If you want to make your greenhouse extra green, then you can buy some recycled plastic lumber as well. This not only helps the earth, but requires very little maintenance and will never rot, unlike natural wood. Again, the vendor you buy your greenhouse from will probably recommend the perfect material for the model you’re using.
If you’re a specialist who’s buying a greenhouse just so you can grow certain exotic species of plant, then you’ll need to think about how you’re going to heat it. Unfortunately, greenhouses are horribly inefficient when it comes to holding in heat. This means that you’re going to have to sink a lot of money into growing certain plants. It’s pretty common for some gardeners to buy a greenhouse exclusively for exotic plants, and then having to take their heating element out simply because they couldn’t pay for it! If you’re happy to forego plants from around the equator, then you may be able to get by simply using the natural heat of the sun. If you need an artificial heat source, choose electric over gas. Not only is it a lot cheaper, but also produces better growing conditions.
Now that you have a good idea of the type of greenhouse you’re going to set up, we’ll get into actually using it. If you don’t have much experience with greenhouses, then growing in one may seem fairly straightforward. However, there are still many ways that a newcomer can go wrong. You need to be aware of the best practices if you don’t want to end up shooting yourself in the foot.
One of the most important habits you need to get into is keeping the door open during the summer, and check the thermometer as often as possible. In your standard greenhouse, temperatures can easily get up to 30 degrees during the late spring and summer. This can be fine for certain plants. However, you may find that this raises veg which like milder conditions way too fast, or fade certain seedlings. Open the hatch and the door when the weather’s getting intense, and this will help to keep the temperature a little more stable. It’s also a good idea to take those plants which are best suited to milder conditions outside during the day. You may find that even with the doors and hatches open, plants like sprouts and broccoli seedlings will get massive stalks in no time. Pretty soon, they’ll be close to collapsing. However, if you get into the routine of popping them just outside every day, you might just save them. Certain crops like leeks and kale can also benefit from being left out of a greenhouse. If you’re really struggling with the heat, you can also get some products like Coolglass and brush them on. Think about this carefully before doing it though. You’ll only need to re-adjust if you want to grow heat-loving plants such as chillies.
Aside from temperature control, it’s also very important to keep your greenhouse organised and tidy. Of course, it’s your greenhouse, and if you wanted to take the easy route of leaving your tools and clutter around you can. Take it from a fellow slob though, you’ll end up regretting this! You’re going to need as much room as possible when you really get into seed sowing. You’ll need to move around a lot of compost and pots, which will be very hard if your potting bench is covered in all your different tools! You’ll also need a clear space for your pots once you’ve sown in them. Furthermore, if you keep your plants all squashed together you’ll end up creating a micro-climate, which will raise the temperature and could have a detrimental effect on your other plants. Finally, leaving piles of gardening tools and paraphernalia around is the perfect way to attract slugs and snails. I’m not going to lie to you, these slimy pests will find their way in at times whether you like it or not. Still, anything you can do to discourage them is strongly recommended.
Hopefully this post will give you a great start to owning a greenhouse. I know you’ll grow all kinds of gorgeous plants, and get years of use out of your greenhouse.