Allotment propagation and storage – potting shed, polytunnel or greenhouse?

We had a cold frosty day at the end of November – the coldest night in London for years – and every centimetre of my allotment was covered in dazzling bling. It was a reminder that our home garden really is small. We don’t have frost like this, nor the scale of a good solid garden the size of the allotment. It was a magical moment and a joy to see the beds and plants frozen like that.

Achillea in frost

Now though, with the allotment largely resting for winter, I’m starting to make plans for 2017. It’s always been my desire to swap the little Punch & Judy style shed for a greenhouse to propagate and grow alpines and cacti in. I was wondering if anyone can help me though in recommending what I should actually get?

Is it better on an allotment to have:

a) a greenhouse
b) a polytunnel 
c) a potting shed

The site is fairly safe and secure, I’m not overly worried about vandalism and I don’t need a lot of tools that could be stolen. Even so, I do worry about a greenhouse being smashed. A potting shed with large windows would also be warmer to shelter in, but much less light. Is a polytunnel the answer then? Or are they too flimsy?

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Allotment propagation and storage – potting shed, polytunnel or greenhouse?”

  1. Interesting problem to mull over the winter months, Jack. I have no experience of polytunnels and, bizarrely, greenhouses are not allowed on our allotments – I’m guessing that’s due to possible breakages. If you want to grow alpines and cacti, I’d keep a greenhouse in the garden at home and treasure your little shed on the plot. Allotment sheds are incredibly useful! Perhaps get a couple of those cheap plastic greenhouses for the plot?

    1. That’s a great idea about the plastic greenhouses Caro! I hadn’t even thought of that. I have one at home and it’s wonderful to put up in Winter to protect tender plants and to grow seedlings, then in summer I can tuck it away under the bed. On the allotment, I could get a potting shed and have two of those cheap plastic greenhouses for now. I’m tempted by a small polytunnel to try and grow perfect Dahlias, but that can come another year as all of these things are quite expensive. For the allotment, I am quite taken with a potting shed as well because I can paint it and give the allotment a structure to help make it look good. I know that’s not necessarily the right way to treat a productive plot, but I like things to look nice to enjoy being in too 🙂

      1. I love the idea of a potting shed, I think it’s important to have somewhere to shelter in sudden downpours and somewhere to keep the kettle and tea! All the most established plotholders on my site have an area where they can have a brew and chat. The plastic greenhouses are known for blowing away in windy weather – I weigh mine down with bags of compost! It’s good to know that there’s a middle area between windowsill and plot where plants will be safe.

        1. Yes, the potting shed is definitely my current preference… I do want to grow lots of exhibition quality dahlias in a polytunnel but perhaps that is for another year. I could do with somewhere to shelter and a brew! 🙂 Good tip with the little greenhouses, if I do get them I’ll be sure to anchor them (with compost!)

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