Choosing a greenhouse FAQs

Will my local rates be increased if I buy a greenhouse?

The average small home greenhouse should not affect rates—especially if it is of the type that can be considered ‘portable’ by being easily erected and dismantled. Consult your local authority, however, if you wish to erect a greenhouse of more than about 28 m3 (1000 cu ft) capacity: permission may be needed and sometimes a rate may be charged. You should certainly tell your local council if you propose to build a structure of any size on to your house—a lean-to greenhouse or conservatory is an example. In this case a small rate may be charged and you will have to comply with certain building regulations.

Do you have any general advice about greenhouse size?

In general it is wise to buy the largest greenhouse that you can afford and that will fit into the space available. But if you propose to instal artificial heating, the cost of running this must be borne in mind when considering the size. For an unheated greenhouse, size does not matter and plenty of space will be an enormous advantage. In all cases, adequate width is helpful for working and makes it less likely that plants will get knocked over. A greenhouse with a high capacity (or air volume is easier to manage than a small one: in a small house the atmospheric conditions and temperature are liable to fluctuate more widely and suddenly—and most plants do not like this. Most beginners soon find the need for more space as they gain experience, so it may be worth getting a design that can be extended. A survey has revealed that the average home greenhousi size is about 3 x 2.4 m (10 x 8 ft

Will I need expert help to erect a greenhouse?

The typical home greenhouse of the prefabricated type can be put up in a matter of hours, single handed, and without any special tools. Full instructions are suppliec by the manufacturers, and the glass is usually already cut to size. Metal frames sometimes take mon time to put together, but anyone who likes playing with constructional toys would derive enjoyment from seeing the structure gradually taking shape. You may need professional help ii a greenhouse or lean-to requires much brickwork or concrete construction, and when it is to be built on to a dwelling. However, even in these cases, most handymen will be able to cope easily..

Which of the many greenhouse shapes are the best?

For most practical purposes the square or rectangular greenhouse allows the best exploitation of space. However, a round or -nany-sided structure, especially if Drnamental, can make an nteresting garden feature for the display of decorative plants.

A greenhouse with sloped sides, called the Dutch-light shape, lets in nore of the sun’s radiation than a w/ertical sided one. For commercial jrowers this is an advantage with sarly crops, but it matters little to :he home gardener. In any case, avoid greenhouses with very sloping sides: their shortage of leadroom restricts the convenient A/orking area.

Where and how should I site my greenhouse?

In a small garden there may not be much choice, but try to find an Dpen, bright position, and not too far from the house if you wish to :onnect to gas, water, and Electricity supplies. An open site ‘neans plenty of free heat from the ;un: shading is easy enough to Drovide when it is needed. A ‘ectangular greenhouse should preferably be positioned with its onger axis running east-west; this will allow it to get the greatest benefit from winter sunlight. If the ideal site cannot be found, it is always possible to find some types of plants that will be happy in the conditions the greenhouse provides—but the choice may be restricted by such conditions.

I have space for only a very small greenhouse. Is it worth buying?

To make the most of a very tiny greenhouse make sure it is glazed to ground level . If you fit it with shelves you will be surprised at how much it can accommodate. A tiny house will make a good home for quite a large collection of the smaller cacti and other succulents, or alpines (with good ventilation) if you wish to specialise. Not much room is needed for seed-germination and mist-propagation work, so even a small greenhouse can make a dramatic difference to the garden in growing plants for it. A small greenhouse will cost relatively little to heat if you wish to grow exotic plants, plenty of which are not space-demanding.

I’m a bit daunted by the prospect of laying a foundation and floor for a greenhouse. Is it difficult work?

There is no need for elaborate foundations for a small greenhouse. Follow the supplier’s recommendations, and if ready-made foundation curbing or the like is available (usually as an ‘extra’) it is well worth having it. Framework designs are now available with ‘ground-anchor’ fittings for alloy greenhouses. The foundations of these are especially easy to arrange, with the minimum of work and concrete mixing. You can easily make an excellent floor by levelling and firming the soil and strewing it with shingle. This will hold moisture to maintain humidity during summer.

How does a conservatory differ from a greenhouse?

A conservatory is a greenhouse used to display ornamentals and is also an extension to a sitting room. Obviously, direct communication with the home is desirable, so conservatories are almost invariably lean-to structures. A decorative floor, which can be quarry-tiled or laid with vinyl sheet or tiles on a flat surface, is an advantage. Plants should also be displayed artistically and in suitable planters. Hanging plants, the use of evergreens and foliage, and good planning for year-round colour, are important to effective conservatory management. What you can grow depends on how much light the conservatory receives. A northern aspect is not a disadvantage since a wide range of conservatory plants like cool, shady conditions.

What are the advantages of a lean-to greenhouse?

It is ideal as a conservatory or garden room when attached to a dwelling, especially if there is a communicating door or French window. It may also help to keep a home warm and eliminate draughts. Lean-to structures make excellent vineries and fruit houses if built along a sunny garden wall. A south-facing house also acts as an efficient solar greenhouse: a brick or masonry wall holds the sun’s warmth during the day and radiates it at night. Under these circumstances a lean-to greenhouse can be used for any warmth-loving plants, and is also, of course, more economical to hea artificially.

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