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The Best Beginners Greenhouse

It's one of the questions I'm asked most frequently - “What is the best sort of greenhouse to start with?” In many ways the answer is the same whether you're buying your first or tenth greenhouse.

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How Large a Greenhouse to Buy

Usually though, those buying their first greenhouse won't realise how immensely useful they are until they have gone through a season. My first greenhouse was a 6x8, six feet wide and eight long. That first summer I found myself trying to cram in 5 varieties of tomato, 3 types chilli peppers, 3 types of sweet pepper, cucumbers, aubergines and hanging baskets being brought on for the summer.

Now my greenhouse is 8x14, over twice that size and I could still do with twice the size when the season is going strong. I know a keen show grower whose greenhouse is 24x30 and he complains of lack of space!

So the first rule, even for a beginner, is to buy as large a greenhouse as you can afford to and have space for. Having said that, the minimum I'd recommend is a 8x6 greenhouse. This effectively gives you a two foot border to either side and possibly the rear for growing, whether staged or not, some 44 square feet of growing space. I'd recommend staging down one side and a growing border to the other.

Towards the end of his gardening life as age took its toll, my father in law managed with a 6x4 greenhouse. It's surprising how useful even such a small house can be for starting off plants and getting ahead of the season. In some ways it takes more skill to get the most from a small house though so I'll stick to my 6x8 recommendation for beginners.

Type of Glazing

The next thing to consider is the type of glazing. Your choices here are:

  • Standard Horticultural Glass
  • Toughened or Tempered Glass
  • Polycarbonate (single or twinwall)

Toughened glass is strong but if it does break, it breaks into small fragments which are unlikely to cause serious injury. In extreme windy conditions toughened glass is by far the best option. It's also a good option if you've children about.

Horticultural glass is fine in normal conditions and if a pane does get broken, cheap to replace but please think carefully if you've children around. Can you keep them from larking around near to the house? I prefer glass to polycarbonate because it lets more light through at the beginning and end of the season as the sun weakens and days shorten but it is child-safe, more so than even toughened glass. It also has the benefit of retaining warmth better than glass.

Greenhouse Accessories You Must Have

Don't forget to leave some money in the budget for accessories. Greenhouse staging is useful if not an absolute necessity; seed tray frames are very useful, especially the 5 tier ones. I'd also say automatic openers for the vents is a must. Unless you can guarantee to be up and about soon after sunrise in the summer, having the vents open on their own can save the house from serious overheating. A couple of hours of strong summer sun can raise the temperature to the point where it kills the plants without good ventilation.

Copyright © John Harrison 2014


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