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Greenhouses for Beginners: What Are Greenhouses Used For and What Can You Grow in Them?

Published on February 12th 2021

by AlanGardenMaster. All rights reserved

A greenhouse in a garden
So you've finally got your first greenhouse and can't wait to get started! But where should you start, exactly? In this article, I'll list a few of the key things a greenhouse allows you to do in the garden. Get ready to level up your gardening skills!

Greenhouses, Glasshouses, Polytunnels & Cloches

Why you should get a greenhouse

Incidentally, you don't have to have deep pockets to own a greenhouse. Believe it or not, the greenhouse pictured below was built by a friend of mine using old window frames!

What are greenhouses used for in gardens?

  1. A greenhouse constructed with glass will trap in heat during the day and delay it escaping at night.
  2. Greenhouses will protect plants inside from exposure to winds.
  3. A heated greenhouse will enable you to grow plant varieties that would otherwise be unable to thrive in the UK climate.

So how do you make the most of your greenhouse, you ask?

A homemade greenhouse
A homemade greenhouse

Having a greenhouse for raising seedlings

  • Most greenhouses are used to raise plants from seed, and they allow us to get plants started earlier in the year. Greenhouses may even save us a bit of money in the long run.
  • Having a greenhouse enables you to raise plants for hanging baskets, planted pots, flower borders and of course, the veg patch too.
  • Seed can be sown much earlier inside than outside, and this enables us to have earlier crops of vegetables, flowers and even fruit!
  • The protection that a greenhouse gives will dramatically widen the range of plants that you can grow from seed.
Plant raising in a greenhouse
Plant raising in a greenhouse
  • Seedlings are normally raised in seed trays or pots, and when big enough, they can be transferred to modular cell trays or individual pots to grow on. Later these will be moved outside to grow to maturity.
  • Heated propagators enable you to grow tender plants or grow plants that need higher temperatures to germinate.
A greenhouse in a garden
A Hartley greenhouse at Le Manoir Quat Saisons

Using greenhouses for rooting cuttings and propagation

  • Hardwood, semi-ripe, evergreen, root, leaf and softwood cuttings; a whole world of propagation opens up when you have a greenhouse!
  • Most gardeners will take soft-stemmed or semi-ripe cuttings and find it much easier to propagate them in a greenhouse.
  • Further control of the environment in the greenhouse can be gained by using a propagator inside.
  • I would advise starting to propagate the easy stuff first and then working up to the more difficult plants.

Using a greenhouse to grow food

  • A greenhouse enables you to get earlier (and later) crops than you can grow outside. The protection that a greenhouse gives you simply extends the growing season!
  • Tomatoes are most gardeners first choice by chilli, peppers, aubergine, cucumbers and even melons are possible!
  • Get an early harvest of salads such as lettuce, courgette and rocket.
  • It's not just the veg that you can grow! Bring container-grown strawberries inside in January and you'll be picking fruit in early May!
  • Dessert grapes can be grown under the roof, and their leaves will shade plants from the too strong sun below.
Alan Down tending greenhouse tomatoes and grapes
@AlanGardenMaster with greenhouse tomatoes and grapes
  • My advice would be to cut your teeth growing easier crops like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, courgette and rocket before you try the others.
  • A lean-to greenhouse is traditionally used to grow peach, apricot and figs on the back wall.
A lean-to greenhouse
A lean-to greenhouse
Tomatoes and cucumber in a greenhouse
Tomatoes and cucumber growing in a shaded greenhouse

Growing flowers in greenhouses

  • Flowers for cutting or as pot plants to bring into the house can be grown easily in greenhouses.
  • If you're intent on growing pot plants, it's worth having shelving in your greenhouse.
  • If you want to grow cut flowers, you can grow these in pots but many will be easier to manage if you grow them in the soil.
  • Chrysanthemum and Alstroemeria are great cut flower plants to start with and are probably best grown in the soil.
An ultra-modern greenhouse
An ultra modern greenhouse
  • Cyclamen, succulents and cacti require little if any heat and so are good pot plants to start.
  • Don't forget that you can grow inexpensive pot plants for the house by growing bulbs. The protection of the greenhouse will mean that you'll have them in bloom long before those growing outside.

Greenhouses protect plants through harsh winter conditions

  • When summer is over, and you want to save some plants for the next year, your greenhouse will come in handy!
  • Pot up Pelargonium, Fuchsia and other half-hardy plants and put them in your greenhouse. Alternatively, take cuttings from them to increase your stock and more easily manage large numbers of plants overwinter.
  • Tender plants such as ginger, bananas, citrus and tree ferns can be more successfully overwintered in a greenhouse.
Pelargonium overwintered in a greenhouse
Pelargonium overwintered in a greenhouse

Where to buy greenhouses?

Greenhouses for small spaces:

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