Greenhouses: Everything You Need to Know


Are you dreaming of starting your garden early or keeping it green longer into the cold months? If yes, you might be thinking about getting a greenhouse or a polytunnel. These structures are like cozy homes for your plants, shielding them from the harsh weather and letting you play in the dirt even when it’s chilly outside. Let’s dive into this world and make choosing the right one as easy as pie!

The World of Greenhouses

Welcome to the wonderful world of greenhouses! Think of them as cozy, sunlit rooms where your plants can grow happily, no matter the weather outside. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, understanding the difference between glass and polycarbonate greenhouses will help you pick the perfect one for your green paradise.


Glass greenhouses are like the traditional picture-perfect garden scenes you might see in magazines. The clear glass lets in lots of sunlight, making your plants feel like they’re basking in the warm glow of a sunny day. It’s great for letting you peek inside and see your plants thriving.

Transparent greenhouse in a garden with potted plants

But there’s a catch—glass isn’t great at keeping the heat in when winter comes knocking. It’s like having a big, beautiful window that lets some of the warm air escape. However, if you love the look of glass, there’s a solution: double-paned glass. It’s like wearing two cozy sweaters instead of one, giving your plants an extra layer of warmth, though it might cost a bit more.


Now, meet polycarbonate greenhouses—the superheroes of the greenhouse world. Imagine a material so strong that it laughs in the face of flying footballs or falling branches. That’s polycarbonate for you! It’s perfect for keeping your plants safe and sound.

Polycarbonate greenhouse in a garden with potted plants

The best part? Polycarbonate is fantastic at snuggling your plants warm during those chilly nights. Think of it as a thick blanket that keeps the cozy warmth inside with your plants. You can even find polycarbonate with multiple layers, kind of like a super blanket, offering even more warmth and saving you money on heating in the long run.

Polytunnels: The Flexible Friends

Imagine giving your plants a warm, snug hug—that’s what polytunnels are all about! These garden buddies are like soft, flexible tents made of polyethylene, a kind of plastic that’s both gentle and durable. They’re the go-to choice for gardeners who want a no-fuss, cost-effective way to protect their plants. Setting one up is a breeze, and though they might need a new cover every few years, they’re worth every penny for the comfort and protection they provide.

Polytunnels: Shapes with a Purpose

While greenhouses can take on any form you dream up, polytunnels usually come in two smart designs:

The Quonset Shape

Quonset-shaped greenhouse with plants growing in and around it

Picture a charming round arch, like a caterpillar cozying up in your garden. This design isn’t just cute; it’s practical, too! Its smooth curve makes it tough against the weather, letting snow and leaves glide off effortlessly.

The Gothic Arch

Transparent Gothic Arch greenhouse in a garden with potted plant

Now, imagine a polytunnel with a pointy top, standing proud and tall. This isn’t just for looks; the pointy roof means more room for your taller plants and an even better way for snow and leaves to slide off, keeping your polytunnel safe and sound.

Managing the Climate: Greenhouses vs. Polytunnels

Creating the perfect climate for your plants is a breeze, whether you’re team greenhouse or team polytunnel. Each has its own clever ways to keep your plants cozy in winter and cool in summer.

Climate Control: Greenhouses

Greenhouses are like sun-powered plant retreats. They trap the sun’s warmth, especially if you choose polycarbonate ones. These are like double-duty insulators, trapping heat inside to keep your plants toasty on cold days.

Transparent greenhouse in a garden with potted plants

But what about when it gets too hot? No worries! Greenhouses come equipped with vents that open to let hot air escape, ensuring your plants stay cool and comfortable even on those scorching summer days.

Climate Control: Polytunnels

Polytunnels have their own cool trick up their sleeve. Imagine dressing your polytunnel in a double layer of plastic, with a fan that blows air in between. This creates a cozy cushion of air that acts like a warm blanket, keeping your plants snug when the temperature drops.

Transparent Polytunnels greenhouse in a garden with potted plants

And for those hot days? Polytunnels are ready! They might not have vents like greenhouses, but they have something just as neat. You can roll up the sides, letting a refreshing breeze sweep through and keep your plants chill and happy.

Money Matters

When it comes to your wallet, greenhouses and polytunnels have different stories to tell. Greenhouses, with their sturdy structures, tend to cost a bit more. But think of it as an investment in a durable, long-lasting home for your plants.

Transparent greenhouse in a garden with potted plants

Polytunnels, on the other hand, are the budget-friendly heroes of the gardening world. They’re not just kind to your wallet; they’re also super quick to set up. If you want to give your plants a cozy home without spending a fortune, polytunnels are the way to go.

What’s Right for You?

Deciding between a greenhouse and a polytunnel is like choosing a new home—not for you, but for your cherished plants! Before making this exciting decision, take a moment to envision your dream garden. What does it look like? How much space do your green friends need to thrive? Are you envisioning a sprawling garden kingdom or a cozy green nook?

  • If you’re dreaming big and have visions of rows upon rows of lush plants, a spacious greenhouse might be your match. It’s not just a structure; it’s a year-round haven for a wide variety of plants.
  • On the other hand, if you’re starting small or have limited space, consider a polytunnel. It’s flexible, extendable, and perfect for getting your green journey started without overwhelming you.
  • And don’t forget about the humble hoop tunnel! It’s perfect for those who want to dip their toes into the gardening world. It offers protection for your plants without the commitment of a larger structure.

Choosing the right home for your plants isn’t just about size or type; it’s about matching your unique gardening style and needs.

  • Are you a fan of sleek, sturdy structures? A greenhouse might be calling your name.
  • Or do you prefer something a bit more laid-back and budget-friendly? Then a polytunnel could be your garden’s best friend.
  • Maybe you value simplicity and ease? In that case, a hoop tunnel could be the perfect starting point.

Remember, whether it’s a greenhouse, a polytunnel, or a simple hoop tunnel, you’re not just choosing a structure; you’re setting the stage for countless hours of joy, growth, and greenery. So take your time, consider your needs, and get ready to embark on a wonderful gardening adventure that’s uniquely yours.


  1. Can a greenhouse or polytunnel double as a winter sanctuary for my non-garden hobbies?
    Absolutely! Many gardening enthusiasts also use their greenhouses or polytunnels as cozy retreats for activities like reading, painting, or even yoga during the colder months. The warmth and natural light make them perfect winter sanctuaries for both plants and people.
  2. How do plants in a greenhouse or polytunnel respond to music or sound?
    Believe it or not, some gardeners find that playing music or sounds can positively affect plant growth. While the science is still out on why this happens, it’s thought that vibrations may stimulate growth or that caretakers simply spend more time tending to their plants when they’re enjoying music in their green space.
  3. Can I integrate smart home technology into my greenhouse or polytunnel?
    Yes, you can! Smart home devices can monitor temperature, humidity, and even soil moisture, sending alerts to your phone and automating tasks like watering or adjusting temperature. It’s a high-tech way to ensure your plants are thriving.
  4. Is there a creative way to capture and use rainwater for my greenhouse or polytunnel?
    Absolutely! Setting up a rainwater harvesting system can be both eco-friendly and cost-effective. You can collect rainwater from the roof of your structure and store it in barrels. With a simple filtration system, this water can be used for irrigation, reducing your water bill and conserving resources.
  5. How can I make my greenhouse or polytunnel a hub for local wildlife?
    By planting native flowers and installing bird feeders or baths around your structure, you can attract a variety of local wildlife. Not only does this support biodiversity, but beneficial insects and birds can also help with pest control and pollination.
  6. What are some unusual or exotic plants that thrive in a greenhouse or polytunnel environment?
    Greenhouses and polytunnels are perfect for growing exotic plants that aren’t native to your area. Consider cultivating a tropical paradise with plants like orchids, bromeliads, or even a small citrus tree. The controlled environment can make it possible to grow plants you’d never see in your local climate!
  7. Can a greenhouse or polytunnel be energy self-sufficient?
    With the right setup, yes! Solar panels can power heating and cooling systems, and LED grow lights can supplement sunlight on shorter winter days. Some gardeners even experiment with wind or water power to create a completely self-sufficient greenhouse.

Jump into our greenhouse chat! Your gardening stories, tips, and questions are super important, whether you’re a pro or just starting. Each bit of advice you share helps our greenhouse community grow stronger and wiser. Let’s learn from each other and make our gardening journey even better!

David Murray
David Murray
Forestry Author

I'm David Murry, a forestry equipment specialist with a focus on chainsaw operation. With over 13 years of experience, I've honed my skills in operating and maintaining a wide range of machinery, from chainsaws to log splitters. My passion for the outdoors and commitment to sustainable forestry drive my work, which emphasizes safety, efficiency, and staying updated with industry advancements. Additionally, I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise and promoting environmental awareness within the forestry community.


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