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  3. A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Type of Greenhouse

A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Type of Greenhouse

Welcome to the world of gardening! If you’re looking to take your gardening game to the next level, investing in a greenhouse can be a game-changer. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the perfect greenhouse type for your needs. Whether you’re a plant enthusiast or a budding horticulturist, this article will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

How to find the right greenhouse type for you

Size of Your Greenhouse

Determining the size of your greenhouse is crucial. Consider the following factors:

  • Assess your available space: Measure the area where you plan to install your greenhouse. Take into account any potential obstructions, such as trees or fences.
  • Evaluate your gardening needs and goals: Determine the number and types of plants you intend to grow. Are you aiming for a small herb garden or dreaming of cultivating exotic flowers? Plan accordingly.
  • Consider future expansion: It’s always a good idea to think ahead. If you anticipate your gardening hobby growing, choose a greenhouse that allows for future expansion.

Expert Tip: Make a checklist of the plants you want to grow and estimate the space each plant requires. This will help you determine the appropriate size for your greenhouse.

The Shape of Your Greenhouse

When selecting a greenhouse type, the shape plays a significant role in its functionality, aesthetics, and suitability for specific gardening needs. Let’s explore some common greenhouse shapes, along with their pros, cons, and ideal applications:

Lean-to Greenhouse:

Pros: Utilises an existing structure like a wall or garage, saving space and construction costs. Provides convenient access from one side, making it easy to tend to plants. Offers efficient use of space for smaller gardens.

Cons: Relies on the attached structure for support, limiting flexibility in terms of location. May receive less direct sunlight due to its orientation against a wall or structure. Limited headroom may restrict the growth of taller plants.

Ideal for: Urban gardens or limited spaces with a wall or structure available for attachment. Gardeners seeking a compact and convenient greenhouse solution. Individuals looking to expand their growing space without extensive construction.

Lean to greenhouse type

Even Span Greenhouse

Pros: Features a rectangular shape with equal roof slopes on both sides, maximising natural light exposure. Provides excellent airflow and temperature control. Offers versatility for various plant types and gardening techniques.

Cons: Requires proper insulation in colder climates to maintain consistent temperatures. May be more expensive to construct due to the larger roof area. Cleaning and maintenance of the roof can be more challenging due to its height.

Ideal for: All-purpose gardening needs, accommodating a wide range of plants and gardening methods. Gardeners seeking an aesthetically pleasing greenhouse design with ample light and airflow. Enthusiasts who prioritise a balanced environment for their plants.

Gothic Arch Greenhouse

Pros: Features an elegant arch design that enhances snow and wind resistance. Provides excellent headroom for taller plants and gardeners. Offers even light distribution throughout the greenhouse.

Cons: Construction may require specialised materials or professional assistance. The unique shape may limit available space compared to rectangular designs. Requires careful consideration of structural integrity, especially in areas prone to heavy snow or high winds.

Ideal for: Gardeners residing in regions with snowy or windy climates. Individuals with a preference for visually appealing greenhouse designs. Enthusiasts seeking adequate headroom and uniform light distribution. 

Uneven Span Greenhouse

Pros: Suitable for gardens with sloping terrain or uneven ground. Allows for flexibility in adapting the greenhouse to different levels. Provides efficient water drainage, preventing waterlogging and root rot.

Cons: Requires careful planning and construction to ensure stability on uneven surfaces. This may involve additional costs for levelling the ground or building retaining walls. Design complexity can increase construction time and expenses.

Ideal for: Gardeners with sloping or uneven land who want to utilise the space effectively. Individuals looking for customised greenhouse solutions based on terrain characteristics. Enthusiasts focused on maintaining proper water drainage and preventing soil erosion.

Greenhouse Material

The material of your greenhouse type will impact its durability, insulation, and maintenance requirements. Here are some common options:

  • Pipe Metal Frame: Sturdy and affordable, often made from galvanised steel. Easy to assemble and lightweight.
  • Wooden Frame: Offers a natural and aesthetically pleasing look. Provides good insulation, but may require more maintenance over time.
  • Plastic Frame: Lightweight, cost-effective, and easy to assemble. Suitable for temporary or small-scale greenhouse setups.
Metal greenhouse frame

Expert Tip: Consider your local weather conditions. Metal frames are more resistant to extreme weather, while wooden frames may require additional treatment to withstand moisture.

Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing material used for your greenhouse affects the light transmission, insulation, and durability. Here are common options:

  • Glass Material: Provides excellent light and durability. Offers better insulation, but can be more expensive and heavy.
  • PVC or Polyester Material: Lightweight and cost-effective. Provides good light transmission but may deteriorate over time due to UV exposure.
  • Plastic Material: Affordable and easy to install. Offers varying degrees of light and insulation, depending on the quality.

Expert Tip: If you live in an area with intense sunlight, consider using shade cloth or applying shading paint to reduce heat buildup during the hot summer months.

Greenhouse Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial to maintaining a healthy greenhouse environment. Consider the following options:

  • Roof Vents: Allows hot air to escape from the top of the greenhouse. Can be manually operated or automated.
  • Side Vents: Promotes air circulation, preventing excessive heat and humidity buildup. Can be adjusted to control airflow.
  • Louvres: Installed on the sides of the greenhouse, these adjustable slats regulate air intake and release.
  • Fans: Enhances air circulation, reducing temperature and humidity variations.
Greenhouse in garden with open windows for ventilation

Expert Tip: Install a combination of vents and fans to achieve optimal airflow. Automatic ventilation systems can be convenient and save you time.

Greenhouse Flooring

While greenhouse flooring may seem trivial, it plays a vital role in maintaining cleanliness and proper drainage. Consider these options:

  • Concrete: Durable and easy to clean. Provides a stable and level surface but may require professional installation.
  • Gravel: Allows for excellent drainage. Adds stability but can be challenging to walk on.
  • Soil: Natural and suitable for certain types of greenhouse setups, such as raised beds or earth floors. Requires regular maintenance.
  • Pavers: Offers a stable surface and aesthetic appeal. Easy to install and maintain.

Expert Tip: If using soil flooring, consider installing weed barriers or landscape fabric to minimise weed growth.

Additional Greenhouse Types

Here are a few more types of greenhouses you may consider:

  • Polytunnel Greenhouse: A tunnel-shaped structure made of polyethene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Provides an affordable and flexible growing environment.
  • Combi Shed Greenhouse: Combines a storage shed and greenhouse in one structure. Ideal for those with limited space or who desire a multi-purpose setup.
  • Mini Greenhouse: Compact and portable. Great for seed starting or small plant collections.

Gardeners’ Considerations

When choosing the shape of your greenhouse, several factors warrant careful consideration. By taking the following aspects into account, you can ensure the optimal fit for your gardening needs:

Local Climate

Evaluate the climate in your area to determine the greenhouse shape that can withstand prevailing weather conditions. For example, a gothic arch design with its sturdy structure and curved shape offers increased snow load capacity, making it ideal for regions with heavy snowfall. Similarly, a lean-to greenhouse type can benefit from a south-facing wall to maximise sunlight exposure in cooler climates. 

Sunlight Exposure

Analyse the available sunlight on your property and the orientation of your greenhouse. Ensure that the selected shape allows for maximum exposure to sunlight throughout the day. This consideration is particularly important for photosynthetic plants that require ample light for healthy growth. Additionally, certain shapes, like a ridge and furrow greenhouse, may enable better light distribution for rows of plants.

Wind Direction

Observe the prevailing wind direction in your area. Opt for a greenhouse shape that can resist strong winds and provide effective windbreaks. Structures like ridge and furrow greenhouses offer good wind resistance due to their connected arches, while lean-to greenhouses benefit from being sheltered against an existing wall.

Gardening Goals

Define your gardening goals to determine the shape that aligns with your aspirations. Are you looking to grow a wide variety of plants? Do you plan to pursue commercial ventures or focus on specific gardening techniques? Consider how each greenhouse shape can support your goals. For example, a sawtooth greenhouse’s excellent ventilation and light exposure make it suitable for hydroponic systems, while an even-span greenhouse type can accommodate vertical gardening structures.

Even span greenhouse type

Ideal Applications

Each greenhouse type has its unique advantages and is well-suited for specific applications. Here are some scenarios where different shapes excel:

Lean-to Greenhouse

A lean-to greenhouse is an excellent choice for urban gardeners or those with limited space. Utilising an existing wall or structure maximises space efficiency while providing convenient access from one side. This shape is ideal for small-scale gardens, herb cultivation, or for extending the growing season of potted plants. 

Ridge and Furrow Greenhouse

The ridge and furrow design is widely used in commercial operations due to its ability to maximise growing space. It is particularly suitable for large-scale vegetable cultivation, flower production, or nurseries. The continuous ridge allows for efficient use of land, streamlined workflow, and increased productivity.

Even Span Greenhouse

An even-span greenhouse offers versatility and is well-suited for a wide range of gardening needs. It provides excellent airflow, temperature control, and uniform light distribution. This shape is ideal for gardeners who want to grow a diverse range of plants, from leafy greens to flowering plants, or for those practising advanced gardening techniques like grafting or experimenting with different microclimates.

Gothic Arch Greenhouse

The elegant arch design of a gothic greenhouse not only adds visual appeal but also enhances its structural stability. It offers increased headroom, allowing for the cultivation of taller plants or trellising systems. This shape is suitable for gardeners who prioritise aesthetics, require ample vertical growing space, or reside in regions with heavy snow or wind.

Uneven Span Greenhouse

If your gardening site has sloping or uneven terrain, an uneven-span greenhouse can adapt to different levels effectively. This shape ensures proper water drainage, preventing waterlogging and maintaining plant health. It offers flexibility in design and is suitable for gardens with natural slopes, hillsides, or undulating landscapes. 

Expert Tips

To further guide you in selecting the right greenhouse type, consider these expert tips:

Customisation: Greenhouse shapes can often be customised to suit your specific needs. Discuss your requirements with greenhouse manufacturers or contractors who can offer insights and suggestions tailored to your gardening goals and site conditions. Customisations may include adjusting the dimensions, adding extensions, or combining multiple shapes to create a hybrid design.

Professional Assistance: Depending on the complexity of the greenhouse shape and your level of expertise, it may be beneficial to seek professional assistance during the design and construction process. Experienced greenhouse builders can provide valuable advice, ensure structural integrity, and help you navigate any challenges that may arise.

Prioritise Structural Integrity: Regardless of the shape you choose, prioritise the structural integrity of your greenhouse. This includes using high-quality materials, such as sturdy frames and reliable glazing options, and ensuring proper anchoring and foundation support. Structural stability is essential for withstanding weather conditions and ensuring the longevity of your greenhouse.

Seek Local Expertise: Consult with local horticultural organisations, agricultural extension offices, or experienced gardeners in your area. They can offer valuable insights into the specific challenges and considerations related to greenhouse gardening in your region. Local expertise can help you make informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls.

Conclusion

Choosing the right greenhouse type for your gardening endeavours is an exciting step. By considering factors such as size, shape, materials, glazing, ventilation, and flooring, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision. Remember, regular care and maintenance are essential to ensure your greenhouse thrives and provides a nurturing environment for your plants. Check out our full range of Greenhouse Gardening articles here.

Updated on April 10, 2024

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