How to choose a greenhouse?

Buy the biggest greenhouse you can afford for the space available. You will find you never have quite enough room for your plants. Alternatively choose an add-on model so that you can increase your growing space when you are able to afford it.

To make the most of available sunshine, site your greenhouse with the long sides running east to west.

Aluminium alloy framed greenhouse without any built in heating can still be used to bring on tender plants if you use soil warming cables inside it, or plug-in propagators.

Gas-town or bottled, gives the cheapest greenhouse heat. Electricity is easier to use and control but costs more.

Never sit your greenhouse straight onto the soil- have at the very least a frame of bricks. Even the smallest greenhouse is surprisingly heavy and if the soil “settles” underneath it, it will become distorted.

Do not plant things directly into soil in a greenhouse. It will quickly lose its nutrients and become sick and diseased. Use grow-bags or containers for greenhouse items so that the compost can be changed every year.

A cold-frame- a simple box shape topped with glass is easily made-especially if you have a discarded window around. It can be used for raising seedlings, hardening off young plants and for growing melons and cucumbers in summer.

Heat your cold frame the natural way by burying a good supply of grass clippings inside. As they ferment they will raise the soil temperature but should not come into direct contact with the roots of plants.

Alternatively use under-soil cables which are cheap to run and will help you to root cuttings quickly.

To harden off plants in a cold frame, raise the lid a little more each day in spring, then remove it completely.

Cloches-low “tents” of glass or plastic can be used all year round. Lettuces will mature 3-4 weeks earlier than cloches, strawberries too. Use them to warm up the soil before you start planting in spring and to prolong the growing life of herbs and salad vegetables in the autumn.

Don’t forget that cloches keep the rain off your plants so lift them from time to time in a mild spell so that the plants get some water, or run a trickle hose underneath.

A long line of cloches can turn into a wind-tunnel, so lean a piece of glass against each end to stop that happening.

Pairs of discarded windows make useful cloches, hinge them together into an A-shape.

Glass A-frame cloches can be stood up on end on pairs around tomato plants to ripen the fruit.

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