The cooler months are a great time to sit back with the gardening and remodeling magazines on your lap and dream of all the things you could do with your home. But have you ever been to one of those Home and/or Garden shows and seen window greenhouses on display. If you have contemplated purchasing or building one, there are a number of things you should consider before you go ahead:
You can get ones made of timber or metal (mainly aluminium). Remember though that timber ones require more maintenance, due to increased moisture levels around the timber work, and general painting.
Glass: It's the heaviest type, but often best, (use double strength glass or better).
Acrylic: Light and nearly unbreakable, but it often yellows with age.
Fibreglass: Has a lower light transmission level than glass and not so easy to keep clean.
Plastic Sheeting: Fairly short lived and soon needs replacing.
Positioning in relation to the house
North side of the home: Used for some flowering plants, bulbs, cacti, annuals, vegetables, herbs and other plants that require high light levels. But they become very hot in summer if they are not shaded.
South side of the home: Can be ideal for ferns and other foliage plants that tend to grow without direct sunlight.
East side of the home: Good for some flowering plants, orchids and bromeiliads and other plants that like part sunlight conditions.
West side of the home: Good for cacti and succulents and other hot climate plants. These often get very hot in summer.
Will it suit your style of house?
This is more of a personal choice because it often comes down to whether you and your family would be able to live with it for years to come.
Does it suit your climate?
In extremes of weather they can be a major source of heat gain or loss, to the detriment of the room to which they are attached.
What sort of microclimate will it create for the plants and the room to which it is attached?
Would it increase the humidity of the room to which it is attached (usually not a problem except for very small rooms).
Can you put it in an area where it will not get in the way of either indoor or outdoor activities?
For example, would the space it takes up detract from space used to entertain outdoors, or gain access to an outside door. Would it make a good target for backyard cricket/baseball games? Would it get in the way of young bicycle riders on the verandah/patio? You should think especially of the danger levels of placing it immediately near a corner of the house that the kids of all sizes, could run/ride around and hit into.
How easy would it be to access it from indoors for maintenance of your plants?
What is the ease or difficulty of being able to clean it from inside and out?
How easy or not is it to open and close the window?
What insect control measures are in place, both for the health and comfort of plants and people?
What are the light levels available to the plants, both from inside and out?
Would it make a good entry point for "uninvited" members of the public to enter your home?
Does it add to or detract from your privacy screening of that area of your home?
These displays boxes do not look any good unless they have a number of plants in them; are you prepared to put the effort into maintaining the plants over a long time?
Where would water run to if you accidently overwater your plants?
If it is a precoated metal type, is the colour going to suit your possible changing of home colours at a later date?
What are your local government authorities' rules and regulations dealing with the subject of home additions?
Are you in a housing estate, apartment block etc., where you have to get approval from the owners/managers/tenants association or whatever for approval?
Just remember that everyone's situation is different, so the answers you give to the above questions will be different. But I hope that the above questions will help in some way in your decision making as to whether or not a window greenhouse would be a suitable addition to your home.
About the Author Ron Williams is a Horticulturalist and Rehabilitation Therapy Aid at a Psychiatric Hospital In Brisbane, Queensland.
He owns a Discussion Group about Australian Gardening at Yahoo.com. This group has over 52 mainly Australian gardeners. It recieves between 17 and 134 postings a month depending on discussions.