There are a number of integral parts to a greenhouse that you need to be able to understand before purchase so that you can be sure you’re making the correct decision.
Structurally, a greenhouse is a fairly simple affair, certainly so those greenhouses built with an aluminium frame. Whatever the base material the greenhouse is made from, each of them are built in the same basic way with a similar array of components but it’s those components which can define how easy is it to work in your greenhouse and how easy it is to maintain.
The components of a greenhouse listed below are not native to every greenhouse you can buy and some of them are optional extras, however, if you ensure that most are included in your set up then you’ll be well on your way to a happy greenhouse gardening experience.
Frame. Greenhouses are built in such a way that the braces and cross bars work together to support both the frame and the all-important glass. Each individual part of the frame lacks strength in and of itself but when combined with the rest of the structural parts, is able to withstand the weight of the entire greenhouse. It is therefore very important that each part is fitted properly and that all nuts are checked and tightened on a regular basis.
Door. A sliding door is best, since you can leave it open for ventilation without fear of it slamming. It also likes up minimal space — a bonus in a small garden. Doorways need to be at least 90cm (3ft) wide, and even wider if you want to bring a wheelbarrow into the greenhouse.
Base. You can lay a foundation for your greenhouse so as to raise the glass panels off the ground. The foundation will give your greenhouse more stability and will offer a small amount of protection for the glass. This is particularly important if you’re planning on placing your greenhouse onto soil, while laying bricks as the base will give even more strength to the frame.
Glass panels. Most greenhouses are made up from a combination of standard size glass panes. However it must be noted the very large panes of glass are more expensive to purchase or replace and so if you’re on a budget you’ll be best going for the smaller panes. Some greenhouses use a transparent plastic and while this option is adequate (and cheaper!), it’s not always best for all plants.
Side vents. To help with the air circulation in your greenhouse you need at least a couple of side vents. Most often they are louvers which aren’t as protruding as a fully hinged glass pane and so are less likely to be knocked when working in other areas of your garden. However, it should be noted that louvers take a little extra effort when you need to shut them to protect against the cold.
Roof vents. Similarly, your greenhouse should have a couple of roof vents to aid in air circulation and to allow heat to escape. You will need one vent on either side of the roof, each equal in size to about a sixth of your greenhouses footprint.
Kicking panels. A kicking panel sits around the base of your greenhouse and carries out the task the name suggests : to be kicked. Not deliberately, of course, but the last part of your greenhouse that you want to take a heavy knock, or a kick, is the glass. Kicking panels protect against this and are an important safety addition.
Guttering and water butts. Instead of plumbing a hose to your greenhouse or carry water cans back and forth from your house, an environmentally conscious gardener will fit guttering to their greenhouse to catch rainfall and store it in a nearby water butt ready to use on his plants.