New products are the lifeblood of many industries and it’s no different in the gardening sector and most of us above a certain age will know the Rubbermaid brand well, particularly if you have ever been in the cleaning industry.
Robert Hall highlights the pros and cons to Juliana's new urban greenhouse range, reviewing the City, Balcony and Vertical greenhouse models after his first look at these fabulous new additions.
Juliana is associated in the UK with their range of up-market aluminium greenhouses including the magnificent 14 x 9ft Grand Oasis. So I was surprised and interested when they recently introduced their Urban Garden range of mini-greenhouses.
With the increasing rise in city centre living, and the heightened awareness of the food we are putting in our mouths every day, there has been more focus on this sector of the greenhouse market recently but the emphasis has mainly been on price rather than quality.
So I decided to order the City Greenhouse and the Balcony Greenhouse for our show site in Sutton Coldfield, thus being able to see it face to face and review all aspects of these new urban greenhouse models.
The toughened glass comes in a mini wooden crate which pretty much guarantees that the glass is intact unless the whole crate has been dropped, which is very reassuring.
I would certainly recommend a two-person carry as, even though it's not outrageously heavy, it is large and could be difficult to manoeuvre on your own. And you really would not want to trip carrying glass, however well packaged. The boxes are also robust and inspire confidence.
There are more pieces to put together than you might imagine and some of the fitting is quite fiddly as you are working in a relatively small space. Big hands with small screws in tight corners meant there was a little cussing but trying to install it quickly didn't help. You will probably progress quicker in the long run if you first lay the pieces out and check that they are all present (this should be the case as all boxes are weighed) and then familiarise yourself with the instructions and have the correct tools at hand. Allow yourself 2-3 hours depending on your DIY skills and whether you are fitting it alone, or not.
The thickness and weight of the materials quickly become apparent so you know what you have paid for. Even the strapping that hangs over a supporting bar to hold a shelf is leather finished with strong metal fastenings. The extruded aluminium is strong and the wood appears as if hardwood, but that's not stated in the specifications so that could be incorrect. Either way, it is attractive to the eye.
A Greenhouse on Wheels?
When you have built your City Greenhouse you have a very usable space that has the considerable advantage of being on wheels so it can be moved around either to maximise sunlight (or shade) or simply to make cleaning behind a lot easier. The wheels are one of the main features in my opinion and a good example of some intelligent thinking out of the box (literally) that distinguishes the Juliana City from many of its rivals. On a cool cloudy day position it for maximum sunlight so lots of internal heat is generated to aid growth. In mid-summer, if you know it's going to be a scorcher tuck it away in the shade, particularly if you are out for the day, this prevents leaf burn and stops your plants drying out as they well might. There is a lock on the wheels to stop any movement but the wheels are quite small so they will run perfectly on smooth surfaces but tend to dig in if you try to push the City over loose gravel, for example.
Air Circulation is Important
Sliding glass partitions on the front of the City Greenhouse make for easy access if you are watering or tending your plants. But be warned the glass panels slide over one another and are moved by inserting your fingers in the smoothly cut holes at either side, therefore you could push the glass from one side onto your fingers on the other side if you are not careful. The glass is smooth, and I don't think you are liable to chop anything off, but it's just worth bearing in mind when opening.
There is also an opening roof light which you can support easily with the integral stop that holds it in the open condition. As with the rest of the structure, this is basically aluminium and glass so the corners are naturally sharp just as you would expect on a full-size greenhouse. And it is a proper greenhouse and not a toy. Good ventilation and circulating air is very important to keep the inside the City free of any fungal spores, so on warm days, you will have the front doors ajar to let air in at the lower levels and the top light open to allow the warmer air to be pushed out.
What Can You Grow in the City Greenhouse?
The unit is quite tall and I would be tempted to try growing a tomato plant in the main growing area. You would need to choose a shorter variety, and you may need to keep pinching out the top but I would still give it a go.
But then I may not try in the second season. All salad crops can be considered providing they are not likely to outgrow their confines but herbs, some vegetables, summer bedding, alpines or even good cut flowers like freesias would all thrive in this protected environment.
The lower section is great for starting off seeds or plug plants or simply for storage.
I like the concept of the City Greenhouse and the research and planning that has gone into it also appeals to me. City living is a certain state of mind and this little greenhouse reflects those aspirations. As with most things in life, you will pay for these little luxuries and the City Greenhouse isn't cheap. It, therefore, offers an alternative and we all like a choice.
This really is a pocket-size greenhouse for those that don't have a garden but do have a balcony.
The Juliana Balcony can either be hooked directly over your balcony handrail or attached to a wall with the brackets supplied. Either way, it allows balcony gardening with some degree of protection from the frost, allowing you to grow more earlier than you could without this mini growing space.
The height that it is held at also makes it comfortable gardening with easy access through sliding glass doors. Ventilation is available through the opening top light and a hanging tray affords more internal storage of plants.
Great for herbs and spices or your favourite flowers. It's amazing how much joy just a little gardening can bring and if you are isolated from a garden this is just enough to keep your feet on the ground. We have this model on display at our show site for the 2019 season.
If you like getting your hands dirty but don't have easy access to a garden, the Juliana Vertical could be the ideal choice for you.
Like its bigger brother the Juliana City, it has wheels for easy manoeuvrability and a usable growing space enclosed with glass at the bottom of the unit.
There is an additional growing space when you utilise the internal hanging shelf. On top is the work station where you can tend your plants or seedlings at exactly the right height.
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