Most people are familiar with the expression: Buy Cheap – Buy Twice! and it certainly should be borne in mind when you are considering making a purchase of a major item. If something seems to be too good to be true … it invariably is!
Greenhouses are traditionally seen as gardening tools, and as a result, buyers tend to look for the cheapest option which will essential be able to earn its keep. Normally savvy buyers suddenly become obsessed with securing the greatest value for money having regard for nothing other than the price per square metre of ground cover. All other buying criteria go straight out the window (or should that be roof vent!).
Do Greenhouses Pay For Themselves?
The plain truth is that greenhouses rarely, if ever, provide a positive return on their initial purchase price. Buyers may attempt to work out a return on investment for their greenhouse – a popular way of doing this is to consider a crop of tomatoes. No matter what else is grown, almost all greenhouses seem to house at least some tomato plants despite the fact that they are not particularly easy to grow and are far from valuable. By considering the value of the crop at the time of year when it is ready and comparing it to the costs incurred, including the initial purchase of the greenhouse, it can clearly be seen that even the most humble greenhouse would take many years to recoup the outlay. By far the cheapest way to obtain tomatoes would be to go along to the nearest budget supermarket and buy them! The disadvantages of such a course of action are obvious. The shop-bought tomatoes are neither freshly picked nor particularly flavoursome. The variety is likely to be one chosen more for its heavy cropping properties rather than for taste. There is really no better way to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables than eating freshly picked home-grown produce. So the true advantages of greenhouse gardening go far beyond financial gain.
Benefits of Greenhouses
Indeed their benefits are much more wide-ranging than mere savings in veg and plant costs. They have immense value as a place to relax and enjoy a healthy hobby, get the whole family involved in a shared activity as well as to educate generations about where food comes from and how to eat healthily. If you buy the right greenhouse they can also make beautiful additions to the garden that can act as focal points as well as sun or wind breaks.
Some buyers however still cannot see past the cost aspect and may then try to work out which types of greenhouses are the most cost effective. A potential confusion for homeowners it that there are many highly profitable large commercial greenhouses, if they can do it why can’t you? Farm finance is a complex subject and some of the largest commercial units employ things such as waste heat from power stations and computerised systems controlling everything from temperature and humidity to airflow and carbon dioxide levels. Economies of scale are also essential to profitability.
The so-called “poly-tunnel” is one of the best-known types of budget greenhouse and it simply consists of a sheet of polythene stretched over a series of hoops, usually with a doorway being formed in each end panel. This is widely used in agriculture mainly for extending the growing season of certain crops. The poly-tunnel has been instrumental in completely changing strawberry production leading to today’s extended season.
The poly-tunnel is however a strictly temporary structure rather than a building and the polyethene covers require frequent renewals, it is not environmentally friendly and it is unsightly. For these reasons, most homeowners don’t want then in their gardens.
Buying Greenhouses Online
It is possible to buy your greenhouse online. Budget models can be searched for by name making it easy to compare prices and find the best deal. For higher end greenhouses you can spend as much time as you like reading about the features of the product and reviewing images without a salesman pressurising you. You can also read the reviews of people who have bought greenhouses online to make sure that, whatever product or company you choose, there will be no nasty surprises. It’s a good idea to watch a video so you can get a better feel for the look and functionality of your greenhouse. If you are looking at top end models it’s worth travelling to a gardening show or exhibition so you can compare manufacturers and form a clear idea of the features that are important to you.
Basic Aluminium-framed Greenhouses
The budget aluminium-framed greenhouse is one of the most common types of greenhouse, especially for domestic use. This type of greenhouse uses a framework of lightweight aluminium sections each of which has little strength but relies on suitable diagonal cross-bracing to provide a rigid structure. Most greenhouses of this type are glazed with horticultural grade glass usually based on standard pane sizes. The glazing is usually fitted using spring clips.
The main advantages of these greenhouses are their low price and easy maintenance. Broken panes can quickly and easily be replaced. A major disadvantage is the lack of strength of such structures and they are generally incapable of supporting a covering of frozen snow. The sliding doors are also prone to problems and have ineffective seals. The glazing methods give poor sealing and can house mould and algal growth which requires frequent in-depth cleaning which is not easy to do in the middle of the growing season.
Basic Aluminium-framed Greenhouses
At the luxury end of the market, much stronger structures make greenhouses truly permanent buildings. The use of higher grade materials throughout and precision machining of the components and fixings should ensure that they are very long-lasting. Better systems of glazing, windows and doors will enable better control over the internal environment and make it feasible to heat the greenhouse when required. The quality finish and extra design features make these structures positive additions to your garden design, and in some cases, they can form the centre piece of your garden design.
These really are the greenhouses to aspire to. Those not yet ready to invest in one of the top luxury models can always start off with a budget model and upgrade later … but that does mean buying twice!