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Where to position your greenhouse

greenhouse in a garden surrounded by an allotment
The position of your greenhouse can have a huge impact on its success
Image: PJ Photography

Unless you have a portable plastic greenhouse that’s easy to move, selecting the perfect place for your greenhouse is important as it's a permanent structure. Here are the things you’ll need to consider and some tips to ensure your greenhouse is located in the best possible position.

Assess your garden's conditions

greenhouse surrounded by hedging
A small hedge makes a great wind break
Image: Rawpixel.com

Each garden has its own micro-climate and set of unique conditions. To give your plants and seedlings the best chance, you should set your greenhouse up somewhere that gets lots of sunshine, plenty of natural daylight and that is protected from harsh winds and frost pockets.

When choosing a site, remember that hot air rises and cold air sinks, so the bottom of slopes can remain frosty longer than higher ground. Some gardens have areas that are damp or prone to surface water, due to poor drainage and lack of sunlight. Avoid locating your greenhouse in such positions.

The greenhouse should be built on level ground and with good soil, if you’re planning on planting in the ground inside the greenhouse. However, this is less important if you intend to use grow bags, pots or raised beds containing compost.

North, south, east or west?

home allotment with a greenhouse in the background
Align your greenhouse ridge to make the most of the available sunlight
Image: Phil Darby

If you want to grow plants in your greenhouse all year round, including during the winter, make sure the ridge of the roof runs east-west to maximise light during the darkest months.

However, if you’re just going to use your greenhouse in spring and summer, it’s better if the ridge runs north-south so both sides of the greenhouse get an equal amount of light.

For lean-to greenhouses the best location is south-facing, with the supporting wall on the north side.

Avoid tall trees

Tall trees casting shadows on greenhouse
Tall trees can give too much shade
Image: SariMe

It’s not a good idea to place a greenhouse underneath any tall trees as they greatly reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches your plants. This is made even worse when the glass gets dirty from bird droppings and sticky pollen. In bad weather or high winds, branches can break off, potentially smashing the glass panes.

However, it can be useful to use high walls, tall hedges and trees as a windbreak, provided they’re a suitable distance to provide shelter without blocking light. Wind chill factor can hugely reduce the interior temperature of your greenhouse so an effective barrier keeps plants warm and prevents wind damage during storms.

Give your greenhouse breathing space

handle cleaning greenhouse roof
Give yourself plenty of room to clean and maintain your greenhouse
Image: Eag1eEyes

Sheltering your greenhouse from cold winds will keep things warmer inside, but make sure there’s at least 1 metre of space around the entire outside perimeter. This gives you access to all sides in case a panel needs replacing, and makes it much easier to clean the glass. If you place the greenhouse just inches from a wall, months later you’ll regret the decision when the glass starts getting dirty, green algae starts to spread and you can't clean it.

Make it easily accessible

hands cupping cherry tomatoes on vine
Keep fresh produce close to your kitchen
Image: Sylv1rob1

Although you might have a perfect spot for the greenhouse at the bottom of a large garden, this might not be the most practical location if you need to be close to a water tap and have access to mains electricity for your heater. A position closer to the house will also make it more convenient to nip out for fresh fruit and vegetables whilst you’re cooking in the kitchen.

If you don’t have the perfect spot close to amenities, you can always collect rainwater from the greenhouse’s gutters to fill water butts. Paraffin heaters are a good alternative to electric ones and you can insulate your greenhouse with fleece if the temperature is set to drop significantly.

Child safety

child playing football in the garden with father and grandfather
Shatterproof styrene glazing is safer than glass
Image: Syda Productions

If you have young children or visiting grandchildren it’s best to place the greenhouse away from the main area, where they play, if possible. Balls and greenhouse panes don't mix very well! Also, if they’re running and chasing about there’s a risk they could trip and fall into the glass. Better yet, choose a sturdy wooden greenhouse fitted with shatterproof styrene that has been UV treated to protect plants from the sun’s harmful rays.

Walking into a greenhouse on a mild, but breezy day is a lovely experience. Still and warm, the air is filled with the gentle aroma of growing plants. As well as being a place to grow things, a greenhouse can also make a very pleasant setting for a drink or some lunch – set up a bistro set and some solar powered lights and it’s the ideal spot from which to enjoy your garden at the end of a busy day.

RedEye