When it comes to choosing between a greenhouse or a polytunnel, the main factor I suspect foremost in your decision making will be the visual implications of having either option in your own garden.

The aesthetic qualities of a polytunnel are few and I feel slightly guilty every time I walk up through my favourite piece of woodland here in Witherslack. Having reached the highest point, and eager to take in the view towards the bay it is rudely tainted by our largest polytunnel, sitting like a giant white slug on the woodland floor.

But, where the aesthetics of a situation are either not deemed relevant or are overruled by pragmatism then a tunnel is a wonderful tool. Cost wise they offer great value compared to that of conventional greenhouse. Hobby polytunnels are available now from several companies and it’s worth some homework to explore those that you feel are most appropriate for your needs.

We use our tunnels not so much for the additional heat that they generate but more for the dry cover they provide for all our overwintering stock. With a domestic model this additional warmth can be capitalised on for the growing of food crops, creating a mini ‘micro-climate’ that when tamed when capitalised on can make the most enormous difference to the rate of growth but also in extending the length of a growing season.

Domestic greenhouses are in my mind to be treated like giant cold frames. You have the luxury of being able to walk into them and grow infinitely more crops and ornamental plants. They do have their advantages over tunnels, the first is timescale. The lifespan of a tunnel’s plastic skin is typically 8-10 years before it will need replacing, whilst a well-maintained greenhouse can last for generations. As a general rule a well sited greenhouse will always look better than a polytunnel in the same location.

How much you spend on a polytunnel isn’t that variable (depending on the extras you choose to have in terms of venting, style of door(s) internal frames etc) but for greenhouses it is like any other lifestyle ‘object’ - you can spend £200 or £30,000+ My advice would be to have a good think about size., a larger space will be more stable temperature wise and easier to control (the same is true for tunnels) than a smaller model. Whether you choose metal or timber is often dictated by budget and that is your call. Try to see a physical example of what you’re intending to purchase as often that will sway any decision you make.

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