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Greenhouses Vs. Polytunnels

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Nov 2016 | comments*Discuss
Greenhouse Polytunnel Grow Space

Not sure whether you’d rather opt for a greenhouse or polytunnel? Then take a look at our greenhouse vs. polytunnel to find out which option might be best to suit your needs.

Set Up Cost

The cost of a greenhouse and polytunnel will vary greatly, depending on the type, design and size of model that is required. Generally, based on like-for-like square footage, the set-up costs for a polytunnel will always prove the cheaper option. Entry-level basic greenhouses are becoming increasingly low in price, and many can now be purchased secondhand on online auction sites for very little, or even picked up free on recycling groups such as Freegle/Freecycle.

Growing Space

Although there are large greenhouses readily available on the mass market, for those looking increase their undercover growing space, polytunnels appear to be a more advantageous option. There are, however, pros and cons to having a large polytunnel in your garden, smallholding or land.

Although a polytunnel generally has more floor space than a standard greenhouse, because a traditional polytunnel wall has curved sides, much growing space is lost. With greenhouses, the straight sides allow for shelving and staging, helping to maximise the space for growing. But it’s worth noting that in recent years, polytunnels with straight sides have begun to become more widespread, making this issue somewhat null and void.

polytunnels may also offer more space in terms of growing crops straight into the ground – these include potatoes, salads, root vegetables and fruit bushes.

Maintenance & Replacements

There are distinct advantages to owning both a greenhouse and polytunnel, in terms of maintenance and replacement costs. With a greenhouse, high spring and autumn winds may mean that greenhouse panes are regularly broken, and so need replacing. Although horticultural glass is relatively cheap, a greenhouse that has more expensive, thicker UV-resistant acrylic panes may actually require less maintenance and replacements throughout its ‘life’.

In contrast, a polytunnel will rarely need any repairs or replacements, but when it does, it can prove costly. Although patch repairs can be undertaken, it is thought that the sheeting used to make the polytunnel cover may need replacing every 5-10 years, depending on its quality.

Temperature and Ventilation

It is generally thought that polytunnels retain more heat than greenhouses, and so extend the growing season much longer than unheated greenhouses. A greenhouse can be heated, but this can prove costly, and the larger the greenhouse, the more expensive this option will become.

In contrast, greenhouses tend to be more easily ventilated than polytunnels. This is because ventilation systems such as auto vents and louvre vents can be easily installed into greenhouses, helping to maintain the humidity and temperature at desirable levels. polytunnels can also be prone to draughts, but as with greenhouses, putting up an extra layer of bubble insulation can help to keep the polytunnel warm and insulated in cooler weather.


Your choice between a greenhouse and a polytunnel may well come down to looks – there’s nothing wrong with this, as once erected, you’ll have to live with your greenhouse or polytunnel for many years to come!

As you may expect, some people will opt for a greenhouse rather than a polytunnel, as they are generally thought to be more aesthetically pleasing, and are more commonplace in gardens around Britain. But that’s not to say that you may find that a polytunnel suits your needs more so than a greenhouse. If you’re still unsure, why not take time out to speak to both polytunnel and greenhouse owners to find out if they have any interesting experiences that might sway your opinion.

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We're wanting to enclose a 8.5 x 8.5 ft hot tub on a concrete patio.Any kits or designs that work well for this?My hubby is very tall (6' 4") and doesn't like bumping his head. Thank you for any help.
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