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How to buy a greenhouse

Image of a greenhouse by Hartley Botanic

How to buy a greenhouse

Lockdown threw the benefit of being more self-sufficient sharply into focus. For Lancashire-based Hartley Botanic, this resulted in a 35 per cent increase in people wanting to invest in a greenhouse. If that’s made you keen, read on for some expert tips from the Hartley Botanic team.

I want a greenhouse but where do I start?

As with all home projects, start by thinking how you’d use a greenhouse. This will help you decide a design and final size. There are a huge number of ways a greenhouse can bring your gardening potential alive and expand the way you use your garden.

Perhaps you want your greenhouse to fulfil a dual purpose – for example, to be a practical place for growing your own food but also an alfresco room where you can sit among your plants. For this, you need a structure that allows for generous seating space with a view of key staging areas. Or perhaps you want to grow fresh flowers and want to blur the divide between your living room and your garden. If so, think about an abutting greenhouse that’s accessible from within your home.

Image of a greenhouse by @kinship_creativedc
Image: A lick of black paint and Kay Prestney’s (@kinship_creativedc) second-hand greenhouse looks as good as new. To celebrate all her hard work, she couldn’t resist styling it up for one night only before filling it with tomato plants.

How important is the position of my greenhouse?

Your greenhouse needs access to as much sunlight as possible whatever the season, so positioning is an important consideration. For example, avoid locating your greenhouse in the shadow of tall trees, boundary fences or walls as these will obstruct light.

A south-facing position is ideal for lean-to greenhouses placed against a wall. While for standalone structures, the ridge along the top of the greenhouse should ideally run from east to west. This will allow the sun to run along its longest side during the day. Think about looking for a location to catch prevailing winds for ventilation purposes. Also choose a site that’s not shaded but equally not too exposed to the cold.

Site your greenhouse close to a water supply (and electricity if you’re using it) and on fertile soil if you want to install growing beds. It’s also important to think about how the structure will fit aesthetically into your landscaping as a whole. Your greenhouse needs to find a natural place within your existing garden rather than dominate it.

Do I need planning permission?

You don’t always need planning permission for a greenhouse that’s intended solely for domestic use. That said, there are many and varied circumstances where planning permission will be required. For example, you’ll need permission if you live in a grade I or II listed property or an area of outstanding natural beauty. You may also need permission if the greenhouse will be disproportionately large in relation to your existing property. Check this with your local planning authority. A good place to start is the government’s planning permission portal for England and Wales.

Image of the greenhouse of @viktoriaholmgren
Image: Lifestyle photographer and content creator @viktoriaholmgren treats her greenhouse like an extension of her home by softening the space and making it feel more welcoming with comfortable seating and loose-fitting curtains at the window.
What water access will I need?

Watering is arguably the most important daily task for greenhouse owners. So, easy access to a mains water supply is a must, especially during dry seasons. You can buy automatic watering systems for greenhouses, but they’re not always necessary for domestic structures. They also lack the intuition and personal touch of a gardener who’s able to tailor watering according to each plant’s needs.

We recommend greenhouse owners make use of sustainable water sources, using water butts to collect rainwater and grey water (water recycled from baths or sinks). This will save on the amount of water you need to use without negatively affecting your plants. Just make sure the water doesn’t contain include bleach or caustic materials and isn’t artificially softened (as is found in dishwashers and washing machines).

How much should I spend?

This depends on the type of greenhouse you’d like and its size and scope. When you’re considering the size of your greenhouse weighed against its potential cost, it’s important to think about how long you’re likely to be using it as a growing space and how your needs may change over time.

A quality structure could last 30 years so it’s best to take a long-term view. If it’s practical within your garden and budget, a larger structure provides more scope to meet your future growing ambitions. These are likely to increase, especially if you’re a first-time greenhouse owner. Design note: if you’re considering a larger structure, final budget considerations should include potential heating and lighting costs.

Image of a greenhouse by Hartley Botanic
Image: Bespoke three-quarter lean-to model with a flush porch by Hartley Botanic.
What are the benefits of a ‘lean-to’ and an abutting greenhouse?

Lean-to greenhouses (see featured image) are best placed along south-facing or well-lit walls. They also work well in walled gardens and against a property’s external wall. With their roof pitch highest next to the adjoining wall, lean-to designs provide ideal spaces to grow fruit trees and ornamentals that benefit from being trained, such as pelargonium and bougainvillea.

Abutting greenhouses (see above) are attached to a building by their side. Attaching a greenhouse to the side of your home can create architectural interest and a contemporary look. This is especially true if you choose stone for the greenhouse’s dwarf wall (low wall) that mirrors that of the property itself.

Featured image: Bespoke abutting structure by Hartley Botanic, manufacturers of handmade greenhouses.

Want more? If you’re interested in the other blogs in our series on outdoor space, click here.