Garden Tools & Equipment
Shed or summerhouse, playhouse or gazebo, greenhouse or simple glass lean-to: garden buildings come in all shapes and sizes, and have more potential than you might at first think. What’s to stop you adding a power supply and heating to a shed and turning it into a workshop or even a home office? Do the same in a summerhouse and you can relax or entertain in it day or night, winter or summer. These structures are very affordable, demand minimum planning, and are quick and easy to put together.
Sheds, summerhouses and playhouses
Classed as temporary structures, sheds and wooden outbuildings rarely require planning permission, unless you live in a conservation area. They can be built almost anywhere, so long as they are positioned on a level, firm surface. Thinking through the following issues before you buy should help you make the right choice:
- What size of outbuilding do you want? How big can it be without it overwhelming your garden?
- How will you gain access to the building? Would a path protect the lawn and make it more accessible in the wet?
- Where will you put it? Don’t place a building where it will create dead space, where light is blocked and access limited. It is often sensible to back a shed onto an outside wall or fence.
- Will there be enough natural light in winter? Is there a danger of overheating in summer?
- Do you want an electricity supply? How far away is the power source?
- Do you want a water supply? Is there an outside water tap from which a pipe can be run?
- Will your choice of building be useful if your needs change in the future? For example, an outbuilding designed as a playhouse could become a summerhouse or workshop when small children grow up.
- What can you do to make it look good and complement your garden? You could paint it with coloured wood stain, for example, and surround it with imaginative planting.
You’ll find lots more advice and ideas on garden buildings in the book Outdoor Living: the Inspirational New Step-by-Step Guide to Today’s Outdoor Living Space from B&Q.
Greenhouses come in many shapes and sizes, with frames in timber or, more often, aluminium, which has the advantage of being maintenance-free. Choose the biggest greenhouse you can afford or have room for, as you will find that plants fill the space very quickly.
There are three main choices: horticultural glass is most common and is inexpensive; toughened glass is a stronger alternative and safer if there will be children in the garden; even tougher still are polycarbonate panels, which diffuse sunlight and so reduce scorching.
The correct amount of ventilation is very important for temperature control and air circulation. Poor ventilation will increase humidity and encourage plant disease. Most greenhouse frames include adjustable air vents. Thermostatically controlled automatic vents can be installed inexpensively, and they don’t need a power supply. Louvre windows are another option, allowing adjustable, draught-free ventilation.
Greenhouse shading is necessary in the summer months to avoid overheating and scorching plants. There are three main options:
- Special greenhouse shading paint can be applied to the exterior surface of the glass. It is weatherproof but can be removed with a duster in late autumn.
- Shading panels or woven plastic netting can be clipped to the inside of the frame.
- Internal shelving can provide shade for the most delicate plants.
For cold seasons and for growing certain plants, you may need to heat your greenhouse. Again, there are several options available:
- Paraffin heaters are cheap to buy but they consume a lot of fuel, are difficult to regulate and they encourage condensation, which can increase humidity and lead to plant diseases.
- Bottled gas heaters are thermostatically controlled but again encourage condensation.
- Electric heating is the best option, but you will need connection to a power supply. Choose between heating pipes, a fan heater or even a warming cable laid under the soil in a bed of coarse grit.
Capillary matting, which retains water and releases it according to a plant’s requirements, is enough for most greenhouses. Alternatively you could run a pipe along the soil from an outside water tap. You could even add a timer switch for automatic watering – particularly useful if you go away regularly.