The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Wrapping up the greenhouse for winter

our greenhouseThe first year that we had the greenhouse I haunted that section of the garden centre. At that time I was spending quite a bit of money on materials for jobs from Homebase and the Save and Spend card was sending me wads of vouchers very quarter. I had longed for a greenhouse for years. We bought the Baron Greenhouse 8ft x 6ft.
As it was a Meccano affair, arriving in a long thin box, it wasn’t very expensive. I quickly realised that the greenhouse companies make most of their turnover selling ‘essential’ greenhouse equipment to mugs like me.

I invested in everything that I thought would be useful and more. Danny didn’t comment as I tottered down the garden with carrier bags stuffed with tiny packs of greenhouse hooks and bunches of raffia ties. I bought sticky paper to catch aphids (and felt a beast) and clever additions such as capillary matting and natty automatic window opening devices. Danny regularly suggested that everything that he tripped over could live in the greenhouse. Unfortunately the greenhouse was already full.

Even though the vouchers are all gone, the greenhouse remains a sanctuary. It’s a quiet, warm retreat, right out of earshot at the end of the garden. A perfect place to potter and pretend to make tiny degradable pots out of old newspapers. I listen to the wind up solar radioand forget all about the weekly shop.

Danny never complains but the dogs don’t like it. I’m uncertain whether they are jealous of the greenhouse dogs that they see reflected in the glass, or are desperate to bully the young toad that lives beneath an old ridge tile under the staging table. Danny, too, instinctively knows that the greenhouse is out of bounds. He happily chats from the door. He never steps over the threshold and avoids pressing his nose to the glass.

The first year I lined it with bubble wrap for the winter and invested in a super deluxe paraffin heater. I’d seen a bubble wrap lined greenhouse in a client’s garden. They explained that it provided great insulation and that generally with the wrap, a heater was unnecessary.

I wanted a heater. There was something rather old fashioned and comforting about it. I’d seen a dusty pile of paraffin greenhouse heaters on the garden centre shelves in August and  had to have one. Even after dark, in the depths of winter, it was fun pouring in the paraffin, lighting and adjusting it. I only fired it up when temperatures were forecast to drop below zero.

The paraffin fuel is quite expensive but only the gentlest heat is needed to take the edge off the chill. I have never used both sides of my deluxe double chimney greenhouse heater. I probably spent about £15.00 for the entire winter. Quite often there are special offers on paraffin, so it’s worth keeping an eye open for these and stocking up.

Last winter, I didn’t bother with the bubble wrap and I used the heater only a handful of times. All my pelargoniums and fuchsias survived. I was very lucky. Admittedly the greenhouse stands facing south in a sheltered area of the garden. This year I decided not to take a chance again and got the sheets of bubble wrap (stored in dustbin liners) out of the barn. It’s reusable year after year.

Large sheets of bubble wrap are available from good garden centres and places like B&Q and Homebase. It comes on a giant roll, is sold by the metre and you cut off as much as you need. It’s worth ringing first, just in case they’ve run out. Homebase had some nifty little clips that attach to the grooves in the metal frame and these hold the bubble wrap securely. We use the same clips for the summer shading nets. It’s easy to put up; lining our 6’x8′ greenhouse took about an hour. You can buy good insulating bubble wrap and clips online at Harrod Horticulatural.

If you are bothering to buy a heater and insulating wrap, it’s worth investing in a good thermometer. Get one that shows the highest and lowest temperatures. Avoid the ones that come with a tiny magnet to reset them as the magnet always seems to get lost. With this handy bit of kit you can check whether your insulation is sufficient in the dead of night and bung on the heater if necessary. The temperature in the greenhouse should not go below 5 degrees.

Update: You can now get a wireless thermomter that monitors the temperature of your greenhouse from the comfort of your home! The perfect present for the fireside gardener.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dave

    The paraffin heater is good but quite expensive to run. I use our when there are (or are going to be) very sharp frosts. If you bubble wrap the greenhouse it is well insulated 24/7. If freezing conditions happen use the paraffin heater otherwise do nothing and feel very smug. Bubble wrap can be quite pricey too but it’d reusable year after frosty year.

  2. This info is very useful to me as i have just erected my first 6×8 greenhouse. I have been given a twin chimney parafin heater and was wondering about bubblewrap as i live in the north of england.


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