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Greenhouse Buying Guide

Which greenhouse is right for me?

Positioning
Palram 8 x 8 ft Glory Anthracite Aluminium Apex Greenhouse with Polycarbonate Panels
Positioning

The first thing to decide upon is where you are going to position your greenhouse, as this will often determine what size you can accommodate. Don’t forget to allow enough room to access the sides of the structure for cleaning and maintenance.

The ideal position would have no shade, so be aware of any shadows cast by trees or buildings.

A greenhouse running north to south offers maximum summer light, whereas, east to west offers marginally more winter light.

If you intend to use electric heaters or lighting, then bear in mind the access to power.

Ideally, a greenhouse should be situated in a sheltered spot, which offers protection from the prevailing wind. Choosing a flat area will make laying a base simpler.

Having identified the most appropriate location in your garden, you can now measure up and decide what size greenhouse you want.

Shapes
Apex greenhouses

The traditional apex shape greenhouse is a staple in the Great British garden. Giving plenty of room inside, apex greenhouses fit nicely in all gardens.

Curved apex greenhouses

Reminiscent of the large scale professional greenhouses, curved apex designs give a more contemporary feel to a garden.

Lean-to greenhouses

Ideal for those with little space, a lean-to greenhouse, sometimes called pent, can back onto a wall or fence.

Hexagonal design

If you want to make a statement with your greenhouse, a hexagonal option is a great choice. Make a garden feature out of your greenhouse.

Size
Palram 8 x 16 ft Bella Silver Long Aluminium Bell Shaped Greenhouse with Polycarbonate Panels
Size
  • The taller the eaves, the better the light distribution is, so aim for a height of at least 1.5m.
  • Be sure to allow enough headroom so you can stand and move around comfortably.
  • A width of 6 feet or greater will allow for staging or beds on both sides of the greenhouse.
  • It’s best to go for the biggest size you can accommodate and afford.
  • Double sliding doors are both space saving and very practical for moving large plants in and out of the greenhouse.

Different frame options

Aluminium
Aluminium

Advantages

  • Lower cost
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy self-assembly

Disadvantages

  • Limited colour choices
  • Not as strong or robust as timber in high winds or heavy snow
Timber
Timber

Advantages

  • Strong and sturdy
  • Tends to be better at maintaining a steady temperature

Disadvantages

  • Higher cost
  • Will require maintenance from time to time
  • Softwoods will need treating, but may still rot over time

Glazing options

Horticultural glass
Horticultural glass
Horticultural glass

Advantages

  • Better for light than plastic alternatives
  • Easily replaced if damaged

Disadvantages

  • Most easily damaged type of glazing
  • Shatters into large, sharp pieces so dangerous if broken
Toughened glass
Toughened glass
Toughened glass

Advantages

  • Better for light than plastic alternatives
  • Stronger than horticultural glass
  • Toughened glass is more robust and shatters into smaller pieces when damaged, therefore making it safer around children and pets

Disadvantages

  • Higher cost
Polycarbonate panels
Polycarbonate panels
Polycarbonate panels

Advantages

  • Virtually indestructible
  • Better insulation than glass so can save on heating costs
  • Lower cost than glass

Disadvantages

  • Double wall panels can reduce light transmission
  • Can suffer from condensation
  • Can become cloudy over time

Learn more about

Heat and light
Heat and Light
Heat and light

Good ventilation is essential for regulating temperatures, encouraging healthy plant growth and helping to combat pests and disease. The most effective form of ventilation is roof vents, ideally on both sides of the roof. Louvred side vents can be useful too. A great way to keep your greenhouse at the correct temperature is through automatic vent openers; these are especially useful if you are unable to get out to your greenhouse on a daily basis.

Plants can easily be scorched by direct sunlight, so to reduce the intensity of the sun you can introduce shading. There are a number of options available, including external or internal blinds, shading netting, which is a convenient and low-cost choice, or you can paint your greenhouse with shade paint, which is usually applied from late spring and washed off in the autumn.

Tender plants will require a heat source as they need to be kept at a minimum temperature of 7°C all year round. Whilst gas and oil heaters are very portable and cost-effective, they do require regular ventilation, so electric heaters are the best and safest solution. You can minimise your heating costs by insulating your greenhouse with bubble polythene in the winter, sealing any drafts and by replacing cracked or damaged glass.

Assembly
Assembly
Assembly

Most greenhouses are supplied for self-build, although the price of some timber models does include professional assembly.

Ensure that the greenhouse is securely anchored to whatever foundation or surface it's positioned on. Palram offer an anchoring kit for its range of greenhouses that can withstand winds of up to 100mph.

Aluminium greenhouses are generally supplied with a base, usually around 5”/12.5cm high, but not all timber frame models are, so check before you buy.

Foundation
Foundation
Foundation

Most greenhouses sit on concrete, paving slabs or gravel over a base of hardcore and sand, which provides good drainage and is particularly suitable if you intend to grow plants in containers or gro-bags. However, if you intend to grow crops in your greenhouse, it can sit directly onto soil.

Planning permission
Planning permission
Planning permission

Unless you live in a listed property or a designated area of outstanding beauty, it’s unlikely you’ll need to seek planning permission as long as the following apply:

  • The greenhouse is for your domestic use only
  • Along with any other outbuildings, the greenhouse covers less than 50% of your property’s land
  • It is less than 4m in height
  • If within 2m of the property’s boundary, the height of the eaves can’t exceed 2.5m
  • The greenhouse is not nearer to a public highway than the original house

These are not definitive guidelines, so it’s best to check with your local planning authority if you have any concerns.

Maintenance
Maintenance

Aluminium frames will need little ongoing maintenance, other than cleaning with detergent or a damp cloth from time to time.

Timber frames will need regular application of stain or oil as required.

Guttering should be cleaned, checked and any debris should be removed when necessary.

Glazing should regularly be cleaned, both inside and out.

Internal surfaces should be cleaned annually with a disinfectant to help protect plants from disease and pests.

Greenhouse accessories

Forest Garden Small Smooth Planed Potting Bench

A wide variety of shelving, known as staging, is available to maximise the growing space for any greenhouse.

A potting bench is a useful addition, especially if you intend to grow plants from seed.

A greenhouse can require a lot of water during the warmer months, so it's a good idea to install a rain collection kit and a water butt.