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Last year I very successfully grew some tomatoes and chillies in a cheap, plastic framed tomato house. Unfortunately gales blew it over halfway through the summer, and it just about survived patched together with tape. I loved the fresh organic tomatoes and chillies though, and this year decided to get something more sturdy. I don't have much room on the garden for a proper greenhouse, as it would really dominate the space, so decided to get a small lean-to greenhouse.
The Palram greenhouse seemed to be ideal. It's 71cm deep by 129cm wide by 165cm high. That's a good size to easily fit in a couple of growbags or one growbag and two or three pots. It has 1mm clear polycarbonate glazing which is 200 times stronger than horticultural glass and and an aluminium frame which won't rust. It has a sliding door at the front and vent at the top. It also comes with a base which can be bolted down onto concrete flooring.
This doesn't include a floor by the way, so you really need to think about what kind of flooring you'll have. We had to put ours in a sloping grassy area so created a wooden frame to level it out, and filled it with decorative gravel. The greenhouse base is attached to the wooden frame and the gravel creates an attractive flooring which will drain away water and won't grow weeds. We have positioned the greenhouse in a sunny spot against a brick wall, which is ideal for attaching it to. It will also absorb heat from the sun during the day and radiate it back into the greenhouse at night.
The greenhouse comes flatpacked and ideally needs assembly by two people. Gloves are recommended as there are some very sharp edges. The suggested time allowed is at least three hours, but it easily took me and my husband four aggravating and knucklebreaking hours. It's not as easy as it first seems!
The instructions are really good and show in close detail how to put it together. You'll need a crosshead screwdriver, a good drill and a wrench. A spirit level and a stepladder would be useful as well. The first step is to check all the pieces are present and sort the screws, bolts etc into groups. I found a few too many of some types of screws and not enough of others, which was very worrying, but in the end they all fitted in somewhere.
The next step is to put together the base, then build the frame onto it and click the windows into place. Finally, it needs screwing to the wall. It all sounds very simple, and we were feeling highly pleased with ourselves and getting on at a cracking pace, until it came to clicking the windows into place. That's when the trouble started!
The windows are first slotted into the frame, and then plastic strips have to be clicked into place all the way down the sides to hold them in place. There's a knack to this, which involves pressing down hard all the way along the strip with your thumb or knuckles. The first one we tried just would not cooperate, so I tried a different one which clicked into place incredibly easily. I don't know why, but some strips were just harder than others. You really have to make sure the window is exactly in place, or it won't work. Also it helps if you get your whole hand around the edge of the frame, so you can press with your fingers around the back and your thumb in front. This isn't always possible though, especially where the frame is against the wall, so then it comes to just pressing on really hard.
At one point my husband resorted to knocking it into place with the aid of a hammer and a piece of plastic tubing. I hardly dared look in case he broke something or cracked the polycarbonate, but luckily he didn't. So I would say the most tricky bit is getting the windows fastened in, but the rest of it is fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions carefully and you can handle a drill okay. Don't try this on a windy day though, as it's going to be really hard to control the polycarbonate window panels!
Bear in mind that the shelving you see in the picture does not come as standard in the greenhouse, but costs extra. Instead of the shelving we bought greenhouse staging which was only £10 in Wilkinsons. The idea is to use the staging in spring for young bedding plants, small tomato plants and chillies. Then once we have planted out the bedding plants, we will take out the staging and leave plenty of space for the tomato and chilli plants to grow.
There are a couple of little drawbacks I should mention. One is that there is only one sliding door, on the left, so this will involve reaching over in to the right side to get at the tomatoes, which might be a bit tricky, though not impossible. Another thing we've noticed is that on a really breezy day, the wind bends the panels as it blows against them and makes a kind of booming noise. It's best to have it in a position sheltered from wind, but we can't entirely avoid that on our garden.
We're very happy with the final result though, and the plants are thriving in there. I can't wait to see our lovely organic tomatoes growing!
This greenhouse can be bought from suppliers such as Amazon, Taylors Garden Buildings and Greenhouse Warehouse. The basic price is around £130, but it's worth shopping around for offers such as discounts and free delivery.
The glazing on this greenhouse is clear 1mm thick polycarbonate, which is 200 times stronger than Horticultural Glass because it is not rigid and therefore is not brittle. It lets in more light than glass and cuts out more than 99% of harmful solar UV rays. This is probably the safest glazing available for a greenhouse. This greenhouse is simple to construct using the comprehensive instructions, and will give you many years fruitful use. The framework is guaranteed against corrosion for 10 years.