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Potting Shed or Greenhouse?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Greenhouse Potting Shed Garden Plastic

What if you're into gardening but there's only room for one building in your garden; do you make it a potting shed or a greenhouse? What is the difference between the two and what are the pros and cons of owning one or the other?

What's the Difference?

For the uninitiated a greenhouse will be made from transparent material, either glass or plastic, attached to a metal or wood frame. The glass or plastic is thinner than that used in housing applications and allows heat to travel through it. It is then reflected back to some extent so the temperature inside will be higher than the ambient temperature.

The higher temperatures inside a greenhouse allow plants to be grown that otherwise might not survive out in the garden. It can also prolong the growing season as plants are protected from cold, frost and wind that would otherwise damage them. The yield from fruit and vegetables will be better for the same reason and because pest control can be better implemented in a confined area.

Potting Shed – Half a Greenhouse?

A potting shed is similar to an ordinary garden shed, usually made of wood, with a large expanse of transparent material, again either glass or plastic. This usually covers the majority of one side of the shed and part or all of it will be slanted at an angle of around thirty degrees to make the best of the sun's rays during the autumn and spring.

From those descriptions it's plain to see that choosing between a greenhouse or a potting shed is easy if you're only interested in growing vegetables or fruit for as much of the year as possible. Or, at the other end of the scale, you like to grow seedlings to plant out every year and aren't interested in produce. For those almost polar opposites the vegetable gardener will go for the greenhouse and the seedling grower for the potting shed. But what if you want a bit of both?

Versatile Greenhouse

Greenhouses are more versatile and popular so there is a larger range to choose from. The cheapest greenhouse will cost a lot less than the cheapest potting shed but there are more expensive greenhouses than the best potting sheds. So if cost is the only consideration a greenhouse is probably the best bet, although you will be looking at an aluminium frame and plastic 'glass' at the bottom end of the market.

There is more flexibility with positioning a greenhouse than a potting shed. As it is transparent all round, a greenhouse can be placed in any direction with respect to the sun. Having said that it's best to place it on an east-west axis so that one whole side faces the sun to the south during the spring and autumn, but it's not the end of the world if it doesn't.

Positioning a Potting Shed

A potting shed, on the other hand, needs to have that large expanse of glass or plastic facing south or it’s largely a pointless exercise. If you are restricted in the way you can place your garden building, it might be better to opt for a greenhouse.

A greenhouse can be used for bringing seedlings on just as well as a potting shed although it will probably need a heater to protect the plants you bring on very early in the growing season. And herein lies the main reason for going choosing a potting shed rather than a greenhouse.

Advantages of a Potting Shed

A greenhouse relies on the thinness of the plastic or glass to allow the heat in, but this means that it is very poorly insulated and in the winter it can get very cold. The three wood sides of a potting shed and the solid roof will keep temperatures slightly higher so it is better for young, vulnerable plants.

The second advantage is that shelves for pots and other paraphernalia can be put on the walls of a potting shed, as can hooks to hang tools from. There's not much to hang a hook on in any greenhouse. You can have shelves in a greenhouse but they have to be freestanding (shelf units like these are also known as 'staging') and they can't be very high. A potting shed is also less vulnerable to damage from flying objects that might enter a garden.

Choose the Right Option for You

Those are the pros and cons and it does come down very favourably on the side of the greenhouse. But if it is possible to fit a potting shed in your garden, storage is that little bit more important, and you're not aiming to grow produce throughout the year, then a potting shed might be the better option.

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