Polytunnel vs Greenhouse: 5 things to consider

Large Polytunnel

Growing crops in the UK can be a challenging task, particularly as we continue to see the rise of extreme weather events and changing climates all around the world. Periods of hot and dry weather, followed by heavy spells of rainfall and bitter cold in the winter create havoc for ecosystems around the UK. Therefore, regulating environments for plants to grow and thrive is more than ever a key aspect of gardening.

There are a number of ways to regulate growing environments, but the most common is shelter. Two of the most popular forms of shelter are polytunnels and greenhouses – both of which play similar roles. Since the popularity of gardening appears to be on the rise since the pandemic, let’s take a look at some of the key similarities and differences between polytunnels and greenhouses for those who may want to boost their yield.


The first thing most people consider when choosing between two items is cost. Polytunnels are generally cheaper than greenhouses due to their more lightweight build and cost-effective materials. Greenhouses are usually more costly because of their glass and metal construction.

Polytunnel for bedding production


With a more sturdy build comes extended lifespan. Thus, greenhouses are designed to last a lifetime – presuming glass panels and frames aren’t damaged or broken. Polytunnels will require more regular maintenance to survive, however, they can still represent better value because the cost of replacing covers is relatively low.


Polytunnels are significantly easier to assemble and set up because they are less delicate to install and can be placed on rough ground. Greenhouses are more rigid options, so they require prepared foundations which means they often take longer to install.


Again, greenhouses are more rigid structures meaning that they are relatively inflexible when it comes to moving them around the garden. Polytunnels are much easier to reposition and therefore offer greater flexibility to suit the unique challenges of your garden or allotment.

Heat Retention and Light transmission

The fundamental purpose of a greenhouse or polytunnel is to retain heat to regulate growing environments in the winter and summer. Greenhouses retain more heat in the summer and can be susceptible to drafts and cold in the winter, so it is difficult to regulate temperatures accurately. Furthermore, greenhouses can leave plants vulnerable to sun damage. Polytunnels offer a more balanced environment throughout the year, with specialised polythene covers protecting crops from sun damage in the summer and excessive cold in the winter months.

Polytunnels and greenhouses both offer different benefits, which will ultimately suit some individuals better than others. For a more permanent and rigid structure, a greenhouse will likely be a more expensive but solid solution. For flexibility and value for money, a polytunnel may be the best option.