Once considered a trademark of only serious gardeners, greenhouses are now springing up in backyards all over Australia
If you’ve never considered a greenhouse, there are some very good reasons why you should. Modern greenhouses are not only useful, but they look fabulous.
Greenhouses are designed to provide a controlled horticultural environment, where you can adjust the temperature and humidity. This allows you to grow plants, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs with ease. The beauty of greenhouses is that whatever you grow is protected from harsh summer sun, drenching rains, cool frosts and high winds. Within the structured environment, seedlings grow faster and you can grow a more diverse range of plants than you might otherwise be able to in your climate zone.
According to Rae Grant from Grow Fresh Greenhouses, the benefits of greenhouses don’t stop there. “Many people think they’re for only growing a few plants,” she says. “But you can put in complete gardens, and sitting areas as well.”
Greenhouses can serve as garden rooms, extending your outdoor living space. If the chill of winter or searing summer heat has you scurrying indoors, with a greenhouse you can adjust the temperature to your own comfort level. After potting up at your bench or watering your orchids, sit back and relax in a cosy corner at a table and chairs. Or put your feet up and recline in a day bed. You can also pop a spa into your greenhouse so you can splash about all year round.
There is a diverse range of greenhouses available. You can choose a DIY option or perhaps a custom design and get a builder on board to create your own unique greenhouse.
The secret to greenhouses is maintaining a desirable level of warmth and humidity to maximise plant growth. If you live in cooler areas, you may need a greenhouse with more heating options or if you are in a hot, humid climate, you may need additional ventilation, cooling or shade features.
Greenhouses are usually constructed from aluminium frames and glass or polycarbonate. Rae suggests always choosing durable, quality framework that will weather well. Look at the way the polycarbonate or glass is fixed to the frame – it needs to be tough enough to withstand strong winds and anything else our Australian climate can throw at it, she says.
Glass vs polycarbonate
Both materials have their pros and cons. “Glass is aesthetically beautiful, and you can see and appreciate the beauty of your flowers and plants grown inside, however, it doesn’t have the thermal properties that polycarbonate does, so you will lose heat faster with glass,” says Rae. In summer you may also experience some plant burn.
“Polycarbonate blocks 99 per cent of UV rays so you don’t get plant burn and twin wall polycarbonate (two layers of polycarbonate with an air gap in between) gives a double glazing effect, so maintains temperatures more readily than glass,” she says. It is good to remember that not all polycarbonates are created equal. Make sure the one you buy comes with a written warranty.
Bigger is better
Before you part with your cash to purchase a greenhouse, always go one size bigger than you think you’ll need. “Almost always we find people wish they’d bought a bigger size, once they realise the scope of what you can plant,” says Rae.
You may also need to look at purchasing misting and watering systems to help control your greenhouse environment. Alan Titchmarsh, author of How to Garden: Greenhouse Gardening, says before you buy, find out what comes with the greenhouse and what additional items you’ll need that will increase the cost. “Some companies throw in shelving, extra vents, guttering, staging, and so on. Have a look at what they offer, it might be a bargain or it might be poor quality, in which case you’ll want to buy your own accessories elsewhere.”
Pottering around in a greenhouse is a relaxing way to while away the hours if you love gardening and you can do it rain, hail or shine if you have a greenhouse. Modern greenhouses offer a multitude of possibilities. There is no right and wrong way to set them up — it’s a blank canvas, so you can create any look you’d like depending on what you’d like to grow.
- Purpose – What do you plan to plant or use your greenhouse for?
- Orientation – Where will you put it to receive maximum sunlight?
- Durability – Is the greenhouse you’ve chosen tough enough to withstand weather extremes?
- Style – Does the style of the greenhouse complement your other outdoor areas?
Choosing your green space
- The closer it is to the house, the more often you’ll use it.
- North to south orientation to maximise sunlight during the day.
- Avoid shady areas or under trees as branches and sap can drop.
By Carrol Baker
From Outdoor Rooms magazine Issue. 21