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Do Conservatories Make Good Greenhouses?

One may think the answer simple enough, but is it? Some say that a conservatory is nothing more than a glorified greenhouse. There are, however, differences that distinguish each from the other. So do conservatories make good greenhouses?

A conservatory can make a suitable greenhouse. Both structures are typically made of glass and provide an ideal location for plants to grow. Both can be attached to your house, though greenhouses seldom are, and both can grow out-of-season fruits and vegetables in cold weather.

Getting the best out of your conservatory and have it function as a greenhouse, you’ll need to ask a few questions. The most crucial being, what are the differences between the two, and if there aren’t any, will my conservatory make for a suitable greenhouse?

What is a conservatory, and what is a greenhouse?

By simple definition, a conservatory is an ornate, glass-enclosed structure — a living space for people in which plants, herbs, and trees are displayed.

A greenhouse is a more practical but rugged structure used mainly to propagate seeds and cultivate plants.

The features of a conservatory

  • Most conservatories are designed using eco-friendly materials, such as mahogany or aluminum.
  • And without detracting from the visual appearance, many incorporate both mechanical and automatic components.
  • Conservatories are used mainly as living spaces but integrate plants, trees and herbs into their design.
  • Furniture and accessories can also be part of the interior décor of a conservatory.
  • Conservatories all have foundations. Most are made from brick, while some are built using concrete, paving slabs, and marble tiles.

The features of a greenhouse

  • Most greenhouses are built economically and may, on the outside, appear to be practical.
  • Greenhouses are also designed to meet any climatic and environmental needs.
  • Greenhouses are an ideal place to grow out-of-season vegetables and fruits, especially in cold weather.
  • Not all greenhouses have solid foundations. A lot depends on the orientation and composition of the site.
  • Greenhouses can use compacted soil, concrete, and wood for flooring. Although, flooring is unnecessary for a greenhouse.   

That said, let’s look at what needs to be done for a conservatory to function as a greenhouse, especially if you want to start growing plants, fruit, or vegetables. 

Here’s a slide show of conservatory greenhouse combos to get some inspiration:

Conservatory as a greenhouse, temperature regulation

The humidity and temperature of your conservatory will affect the type of plants you can grow. By keeping the conservatory at room temperature, the atmosphere will be dry. And maintaining plants at their prime will be challenging.

Should you decide on room temperature, palms, aloes, and olives would be your best growers?

Unheated conservatories are extremely useful for overwintering hardier fruits such as lemons and grapefruits. In addition, you can raise vegetable plants, half-hardy annuals, and the likes of basil.

More exotic plants, including aspidistras, pomegranates, avocados, will survive, too, especially if you keep them dry when it’s colder. And choosing not to heat your conservatory will act as a greenhouse in the cooler months of the year.

In the summer months, keep in mind that excessive heat can put tremendous stress on plants. Installing blinds will help keep out the sun’s rays, which means there will be less demand to water your plants constantly. 

Heated and temperature controlled conservatories

The great thing about a temperature-controlled conservatory is that you get the best of both worlds.

  • By regulating the temperature in a conservatory, you can grow both summer and winter produce all year round, unlike in a garden.
  • Growing your produce will not only save you financially but also provide a bounty of fresh organic food for your table.
  • When choosing what to grow, remember that all plants and vegetables have their ideal growing temperature.
  • By choosing suitable vegetables and plants, you can turn your conservatory into a beautiful walk-in indoor garden.
  • Conservatories become very hot in the summer months, making the atmosphere dry, and without protection, plants are unlikely to survive.
  • Adding blinds to create shading is essential. It’s also vital that there is sufficient air circulation during dry, hot weather. Leave vents open at night if the temperature is high, and keep your windows clean.
  • Dusty, dirty windows can block essential light from getting to your plants.
  • Another great boon in using a conservatory as a greenhouse is that you’ll still be able to garden if there’s inclement weather.

What you grow will depend on your conservatory temperature.

Because all vegetables and plants have their own best minimum temperature, you need to research what you want to grow. From there you can decide the best temperature for your conservatory greenhouse.

Here’s a great video of Martha Stewarts conservatory greenhouse to give you an idea of what to grow in them:

Tips for using your conservatory as a greenhouse

Shading and ventilation

  • During summer, conservatories become hot, and plants are unlikely to survive high warmth and a dry atmosphere.
  • By adding window and roof blinds, you create shading during sunnier days.
  • Conservatories need sufficient air circulation to overcome high temperatures.
  • Open all vents and doors when the weather is warmer.
  • However, if the temperature remains high, the vents can be left open overnight.

Check humidity levels

  • A critical factor in protecting your plants against heat damage within a conservatory is maintaining a good humidity level during sunny weather.
  • Use a handheld spray gun filled with lukewarm tap water daily to mist your plants.

Clean your windows regularly

  • It is essential to clean your conservatory windows regularly with soapy water.
  • Small insects living on the glass will feed on your plants, fruit, or vegetables.
  • Also, dusty windows affect the quality of light needed to provide your plants with energy.

Final thoughts

An often forgotten discipline needed in converting a conservatory to a greenhouse is the cleaning of the conservatory.

Why it’s essential to clean your conservatory?

The humid conditions created in the conservatory will provide an excellent breeding ground for several pests, organisms, and bacteria, algae being the most common.

The algae will grow and attach itself to the glass, reducing the light entering the conservatory.

When to clean your conservatory

Clean your conservatory is when it’s at its emptiest. Early spring, just before seed sowing, or autumn, before you fill the greenhouse with tender plants, overwinter are the optimum times. However, whatever season you choose, be sure the day is dry and mild. 

How to clean a greenhouse conservatory

Step 1. Clear the conservatory.

  • First, start by clearing and emptying your conservatory and the area around it. Then cover the plants and move them to a sheltered place while you clean.
  • Sweep and brush all the walls, getting rid of dust and debris.
  • Clean the window ledges and in-between the glass panes as bacteria and other pathogens lodge themselves in these areas.
  • If your conservatory is heated, cover electrical sockets before you move to the next step.

Step 2: Wash and rinse all surfaces.

  • Clean both the interior and exterior of the conservatory by thoroughly scrubbing down every surface with a solution of warm soapy water.
  • Make sure you remove all traces of mildew and grime, as well as any moss or algae.
  • Pay attention to any small gaps and crevices as this is where those organisms can collect.
  • Once you’ve washed down everything, attach a jet wash attachment to the end of a garden hose and rinse.
  • When you’ve finished with the hosing, sanitize all the pots, tables, and trays before returning them to their original place.

Step 3: Remove debris from gutters.

  • If your conservatory has gutters, it’s a good idea to check them for any blockages.
  • If debris is blocking the gutters, scoop it out with your hand, then flush away any of the remaining dirt with a hose or watering can.

Step 4: Apply a disinfectant treatment.

  • Apply an antifungal treatment to all your surfaces, including the windows, to keep mold and algae at bay.
  • Specialized greenhouse disinfectants will destroy any mold and algae within a few days and keep growths from recurring.

Step 5: Allow the conservatory to air dry.

  • Once you’ve washed and disinfected your conservatory, allow it to air dry.
  • Only then return your plants to their clean home.

Enjoy your conservatory greenhouse and happy gardening.

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