Credit: @vorn101

What is a greenhouse?

A greenhouse is a garden structure made with transparent walls, windows, and ceilings. It acts as a growing house for plants, flowers, and vegetables. It works by converting sunlight into heat to create optimum growing conditions.

Greenhouses are also where your parents always were when you were younger! But, there are a lot of different types of greenhouses, and one might suit you better than another.

Different Types of Greenhouse 

We’ve seen every type of large and small greenhouse in our time. We’ve seen tunnels and hoop houses. We’ve seen simple cold frames and greenhouses made from CD cases. And, of course, we’ve seen Lean-to greenhouse – Also known as a ‘wall’ greenhouse that utilises an existing structure to stand

  • Detached greenhouse – A standalone building, popular for larger gardens
  • Ridge and furrow greenhouses – Also known as gutter-connected. These are the rows of greenhouses most often used in commercial growing  
  • By sharing a gutter system and creating one giant greenhouse, ridge and furrow buildings can increase efficiency. But we’ll discount it for now (unless you’re planning on starting your own farm?).

    Then, of course, we have differences in what those greenhouses are made from. For example, there are a lot of reasons to buy a metal greenhouse. But most people tend to opt for wood or polycarbonate greenhouses.

    Polycarbonate is a plastic polymer. It’s thin and lightweight and can be stretched over the frame of a greenhouse. Often, it’s used to replace glass that’s used in traditional greenhouses. Still, there’s always the option of:

    Are usually made with an aluminium frame. They’re lightweight and strong and let in a lot of light. Although, metal will conduct heat away from your plants.

    Strong and rustic-looking. They’re durable and robust. But remember, wood will need regular treatment.

    Usually made from shatterproof safety glass. Good for gardens with children and won’t degrade in UV light.

    Strong and lighter than glass. Polycarbonate is also better at insulating your greenhouse. It is expensive, though. Check out this post for more on polycarbonate greenhouses.

    Then there are options depending on what materials you’ve chosen for your greenhouse. For example, if you went for glass – do you want floor-to-ceiling panels and do want them double-glazed or not?

    And do you want to maximise on trapped heat in your greenhouse and protect it from things like footballs? If so, you might want to think about building a dwarf wall around the base.

    On top of that, you might see greenhouses with either gabled designs or curved arches. Polycarbonate suits curved arches as it’s lightweight. Gabled designs offer a more classic look to glass greenhouses. 

    So if you think you’ve just about got your head around all that, you might be ready to call it a day. At this point, you might already be off to buy a polycarbonate greenhouse.

    But if you’re still curious about building one, then we’ve got a solution for you. Read on.

    Why build a greenhouse?

    Whether you’re already an avid gardener or not, having a greenhouse can:

    • Extend your growing season
    • Allow you to harvest some crops earlier than usual
    • Help you tend to delicate plants that would be hard to grow otherwise

    A greenhouse is also great for people who might be put off by things like being out in the cold. Or by having to kneel and bend down for long periods of time. 

    So are you a gardener who wants to have control over the growing climate and environment? If so, a greenhouse is the answer to all your prayers.

    So why bother building one? Well, to be honest, we probably wouldn’t. Unless you’ve got tools, time, and energy, nowadays, it’s cheaper to buy one. Especially if you opt for a greenhouse with easy-to-assemble tongue-and-groove panels

    But if you do want to have your cake and eat it; we’ve got the solution. You can still own or buy a greenhouse and build one.

    And by that we mean – learn how to build a mini greenhouse.

    polcarbonate or glass greenhouse at the end of an allotment or garden
    Credit: @growingalotti/Instagram

    Building a Cold Frame

    To build a cold frame, you need to :

    • Cut an old pallet or window frame to size
    • Cut out the angles of your top and bottom board on your lid
    • Stretch plastic or plexiglass over your lid (if you’re not using one with a glass window)
    • Attach hinges to your lid and top plate
    • Install a handle and cut props (or use sticks)
    • Prepare your vegetable patch
    • Place the cold frame on raised, level pavers at your proposed site

    And if you want more detailed instructions on how to build a cold frame,

    Cold Frames and Mini-Greenhouses

    So now you know that a cold frame isn’t going to replace a gutter-connected greenhouse. And you actually know what both of those things mean!

    Now, cold frames and mini-greenhouses do have their drawbacks. But they’re serious workhorses considering their size! So if you want a little extra space to grow salads and bulbs even in poor growing conditions, we’d recommend them.

    But, as we said, you can’t do much in the way of a nice cup of tea on a potting bench with either option. You won’t be able to do a walkthrough of all your staging with wonderful winter bulbs.

    This is why we always think of cold frames and mini-greenhouses as cherries on the cake. The real main event is a full-sized greenhouse where you can grow year-round. So why not take a look at our range of customisable tongue-and-groove wooden and polycarbonate greenhouses?

    And whilst you make up your mind which one to get, you can get ahead of the game with our greenhouse gardening tips for beginners. 

    Shop Greenhouses


    In spring, in a small greenhouse, you can grow plug plants and plant cucumber seeds. In summer, grow Mediterranean crops like aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers. In autumn and winter, use your small greenhouse to overwinter delicate plants. You can continue growing leafy salads.

    Where energy from the sun is re-absorbed and trapped after reflecting off the Earth’s surface. This, in turn, increases the temperature of Earth, much like the inside of a greenhouse.

    We tend to think a wood-polycarbonate hybrid gives you the best structure, insulation, and sunlight. If you want, check out our list of the best greenhouses. 

    As we’ve shown in this guide, you can build a cold frame or mini-greenhouse out of things lying around the garden. But if you want something you can move around and grow in year-round, you’ll need a full-sized greenhouse.


    For example, our BillyOh Lincoln Wonder wood and polycarbonate greenhouse starts at £425.

    A gable greenhouse has an apex roof that connects to the upright walls. This is in contrast to a curved greenhouse design.

    It depends on what you intend to use it for. If it’s for a hobby, then one of the biggest disadvantages - that it needs a lot of care, might turn out to be an advantage!


    Further costs may be incurred depending on whether you want to heat your greenhouse or not. But this is all personal preference. The benefits of gardening and harvesting crops, we believe, far outweigh any negatives.

    We suggest starting with low maintenance plants like salads, lettuces, and leafy greens. Or, you could look at easy-to-grow and hardy plants. Think courgettes, sugar snap peas, and even squashes.