In my quest to decide upon whether to have a polytunnel or a greenhouse – an important aspect is, although it will purely on price come in second, is to look at the alternative to see if I am being small minded by not investing in a proper greenhouse to begin with.
Greenhouses can be beautiful structures, and offer a huge amount for any grower. They can maintain certain temperatures and keep a variety of plants, and in some cases wildlife, in specific conditions. In relation to those particular greenhouses, they can be kept warm, hot or cool. It also depends upon the style, which can range all the way from “dome” to “gothic” and “lean-to” and can provide a fantastic structure for growing and planting your life’s work.
Frames of course can be anything from aluminium through to wood (and even then, this can range from cedar through to oak) depending on your budget. Glass, again, offers a huge variety where you can stick with traditional horticultural glass or go for a toughened glass. However, when it comes to looking at a greenhouse and a polytunnel, glass is and can be an issue – certainly if you have a young family.
Anyway, in looking at the greenhouse – let us look at some of the pros that you can have in owning one of these bad boys!
1. Huge range of construction materials that you can basically use to design your own greenhouse, colour, fittings, fixtures etc.
2. It offers a permanent structure, with most being anchored to the floor and some form of either a concrete base, or at least a concrete and brick foundation.
3. As a semi-solid construction, the end product can look quite spectacular and form a wonderful addition to any home.
4. Depending on what you wish to grow in the greenhouse, you can design the internal aspects to accommodate. This can include staging through to irrigation systems, and depending upon the location of the greenhouse, the types of structure that you would want.
5. Being a semi-solid structure it does provide tremendous location to while away the hours in the winter months, particularly when it is cold and grey outside. Depending on whether you want to, a paraffin heated environment can be both enjoyable and beneficial with the fruit and vegetables and plants that you can grow in there.
6. As the structure is firm, any cleaning can take place with relatively hassle-free process and washed down and scrubbed, probably on an annual basis to get rid of the nasty creepies and crawlies.
7. Depending upon the type of greenhouse, and depending upon how much you wish to spend, it can provide an excellent investment in terms of how much produce you can make, but also for your own enjoyment in your own garden space.
1. The main, and probably the largest problem with any greenhouse is the expense. You can of course go for cheaper options in relation to greenhouses, but anything over a relatively small size house (of say 8 to 10 feet) then you should really avoid the flimsier products, with the lightweight polythene sides. These structures can be quite brittle and flimsy and do not offer the same aesthetic benefits of the larger meatier greenhouses. Of course that means you will be spending far more money on the good quality products, which can run into (particularly in the case of larger houses) tens of thousands of pounds, depending upon the type of glass and wood that you want.
2. Keeping on with the considerable expense, in addition to buying the greenhouse, you also need to have it sited. In order to site a greenhouse, most of the time there is some form of foundation that is required. If this is the case, then foundations will need to be dug (bricks and blocks bought and laid) and this in turn can add in some cases, thousands of pounds to the cost of a greenhouse.
3. The mad glamour of the Victorian era – it would be fantastic if we could all afford one of the wonderful greenhouses that frequent the National Trust homes that we visit to get ideas on how to look after our garden – but the reality is that these were built at a time when the rich had plenty of money and the poor did all the building. They are beautiful constructions, but sadly their cost has got to outweigh any benefit as they are not primarily there to look as an enhancement to a show home, but as a practical use and you have to outweigh both aesthetics as well as costs, aesthetics and productivity.
4. Greenhouses can also require some degree of monitoring and maintenance and, as can happen if you locate the greenhouse in certain places (such as near trees) if a branch does fall down in strong winds, it can cause considerable damage including replacement of glass if required.
5. Glass can also be a big problem in a house, particularly if you have young children or animals. Therefore, anything which does involve glass would need to be looked at thoroughly, and if necessary, further expense in going for the best product available.
6. Greenhouses are there to stay. Bearing in mind the amount of work involved in building the actual greenhouse from the foundations upwards, if you have chosen one that you do not like the look of – it is an extremely expensive mistake to make!
7. Probably, the best and most aesthetically attractive of the greenhouses are those with wood. Despite the wood all being treated, at some point in the future (and it will be a fair old way down the line) the greenhouse itself will need to be looked at with regard to rot. However, this is normally taken care of through regular annual clean-ups and tidies of the greenhouse, but of course, if that is the case this increases the workload which basically takes away time from you looking after and growing what you love and leaves you looking after another building in your garden.
Looking at all the above pros and cons of owning a greenhouse, there does seem to be one main pro and one main con. The main pro is the fact that the actual product is beautiful. You can buy a greenhouse that is like an extension to your property and use it throughout its lifetime to gain pleasure and productivity in your own garden.
Unfortunately there is also one big con. In order to get the flexibility and delight from a wonderful structure such as a greenhouse – you need to dip your hand in your pocket! For anything over 20 feet x 14 feet, you are likely to pay at least £6,000, just for the structure. With all the internal workings and foundations, this is likely to increase up to nearly £10,000. In turn, if you were to own a polytunnel, a like-for-like product will be in the region of £600 to £700 all-in. Therefore, you have got to look at the fact that even if the polytunnel was £1,000 – is the greenhouse ten times better than the polytunnel? The simple answer is probably no, it is not.
So therefore, if you want a greenhouse and you have a large area where you want to construct your greenhouse, then the most important thing is to go down to the local newsagents, put down your six numbers and hope that you are going to win the National Lottery – because then of course, if you do, you might be able to buy yourself a stately home and have a Victorian greenhouse which is already built in there that you can use.