Polytunnels Vs Greenhouses - How to Decide

 Sustainable living has been a growing trend in the past few years and as individuals focus on what they can do to go greener, we are all turning a speculative eye on our back gardens, imagining rows of neat rows of produce. If we want to do more than just dabble, or give up tomatoes for good, an outdoor growing structure becomes an inevitable purchase. Extending the growing season is key to success and a greenhouse or polytunnel offers shelter, warmth and a bit of cover through the cooler months or for plants from warmer climes. 

Once you begin investigating your growing structure, you can quickly get bogged down in nuances and details that feel too expert, we are here to simplify the choice. 

Price

Cost will always factor into any decision, whether you are just beginning to take your garden seriously or are adding additional growing structure to your outdoor space. Greenhouses come in a range of styles, from simple structures to ornate statements and their price reflects this. Polytunnels offer function over finesse and you will get far more growing space for your money with a polytunnel than you would with a greenhouse. On average an 8’ x 12’ polytunnel is two and a half times cheaper than a greenhouse of the same size.

Durability

While the UK may not be subjected to the extreme weather seen by other parts of the world, we still have our fair share of wind, rain and storms. That is why it is important that you feel confident that your outdoor growing structure is going to stand up to the elements. It is no surprise that the greenhouse is the clear winner here, due to the longevity of the structure. That is not to say that greenhouses don’t have to be prepared to endure high winds to keep the glass intact. 

However, polytunnels are not to be sniffed at for durability as innovative materials and manufacturing has done a lot to bring them up to the mark. Northern Polytunnels manufactures their steel hoops in two pieces as opposed to three or four pieces to ensure the strength of the structure. The lack of timber also increases the lifespan of a polytunnel and Northern Polytunnels use aluminium for base rails, doors and door frames. This not only increases the lifespan but the lack of knots and splits that you find in timber ensures the quality of the product. 

Portability

Very little in life is certain, so why would the site of your outdoor growing structure be set in stone. People move, they expand their plots, repurpose aspects of their garden or even add more growing structures, this means there may come a time when your outdoors structure needs to either shuffle over a few feet or relocate completely. 

Some polytunnels (such as our Easy-Build) require no digging, making them easy to settle into their new home without leaving a mess in their wake. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for greenhouses which are much more difficult to resite. If you know the plans for your garden are subject to change, or if you are just beginning your gardening journey and don’t want to commit to an outdoor structure to a certain plot forever, then a polytunnel is the clear choice. 

Aesthetics

There is something dramatically nostalgic about greenhouses, harkening back to the Victorian Orangery or glass house, offering faded grandeur. Meanwhile the humble polytunnel has an industrial feel to it, home to crops instead of delicate foreign beauties. If you are planning to site your structure directly outside your kitchen window, then aesthetics makes a difference, however if you have an allotment or a larger garden plot in mind, then it makes less of an impact. 

The other element to consider is cleaning it. A greenhouse covered in algae is not only ineffective, but also an eyesore. Cleaning a polytunnel - dependent on size - is relatively straightforward because of its shape.The same cannot be said of a greenhouse. 

Adaptability

Your outdoor growing structure needs to work for you, internally and externally. That might mean raised beds and hanging support or ventilation and irrigation systems. How you use the structure may also change as you get further along your gardening journey so how easy is it to adapt the two different structures to your needs. 

Unfortunately the rigidity of the greenhouse is its downfall here. While a polytunnel can be added to and adapted with small additional cost, the greenhouse is a little more unyielding to change. 

The best structure for you is very dependent on how you intend to use it. If you have a clear idea of exactly how you want to lay it out and where it will live, with no doubts or deviation, then a greenhouse may be a better route, but for flexibility, adaptability and function, we feel the polytunnel is a winner.