There are numerous reasons and benefits to having a greenhouse in the garden; including the ability to over-winter many species of plants and fruits (such as strawberries, geraniums and mint) as well as the summer advantages of being able to produce bumper crops of tomatoes, excellent varieties of semi hardy and delicate plants such as orchids, cacti and vines and of course, cultivate various fruiting species of plants such as grapes, in the ceiling of the greenhouse.
Before purchasing a greenhouse, however, you will need to select a suitable size and model beforehand. There are numerous types on the market and the specifications are wide ranging. Wooden greenhouses offer a degree of tradition, blend into their environment well but come with major disadvantages. They require almost yearly maintenance, including painting the frame, removal of mould on the structure and ensuring that the base is structurally sound and free from rot. Wood is also expensive. Aluminum framed greenhouses are far cheaper and keep their frame in good condition without fear of rot or discoloring. They are quicker to assemble and easier to glaze too. They also require very little long term maintenance and glazing is easy to remove and replace if needed in due course as a result of breakages.
Glazing is a major concern to many who own or are planning to purchase a greenhouse. Traditional pure glass single pane glazing offers the best growing environment; it retains heat in the winter and allows the maximum amount of light in for young plants. It is, however, dangerous if in proximity to young children and the occasional flying football! The alternative, which is far more expensive, is polycarbonate glazing (thick translucent plastic sheets) which replaces the glass panels. These are far safer, but don’t allow the same light levels in and degrade over time, becoming brittle and breakable with minor impacts. This must all be considered prior to purchasing a greenhouse for the family garden.
The site of the greenhouse is the most important contributory factor in ensuring successful growing inside. Ideally, the plot where it is placed should receive a good amount of sunlight in the morning, up until around 2pm in the afternoon, when it should ideally slip into shade. A greenhouse that receives blazing heat in the afternoon will soon increase in temperature to above 45°C in the summer, killing many of the plants within it whose enzymes will not tolerate such extremes. It is also a grossly unpleasant working environment to work in a sweltering greenhouse, even to water, in the heat of the day.
Greenhouses should be built on sound footing, using slabs or concrete as a floor, with high benches for potting and storing plants. In the summer, protective shade netting can be installed into the interior of the framework, under the glazing, to reduce heat slightly, however, it would be wiser to simply select a better site than in the middle of a sun-baked desert! If needed, place the framework on a single-brick-high wall, to add a couple of inches of height to the structure if you are tall, as this will save endless periods of crooking your neck to view what you are potting. Good luck with any new greenhouse purchases and happy growing.
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