Gardening in the greenhouse

Today, I noticed that I have more plants which have germinated in my greenhouse. They are Sweet Peas varieties: Swan Lake; Miss Wilmott and Chatsworth, also Venidium Jafa Ice and Calandula  Candyman Orange. They need to grow somewhat larger before they are planted out but germination is a good beginning.

At this time of year, I am continually thankful that I have a greenhouse. It was quite expensive to buy and a pain to erect (and take down and re-erect when I moved) but it has been worth it.My greenhouse allows me to garden when the weather it not good enough to garden outside, either because it is too cold or too wet. I’m afraid I am a bit of a good weather gardener, I don’t like the cold and it is bad for your garden to walk on it too much when it is wet. Walking on wet soil compacts it and plants cannot then spread their roots and get the required oxygen and nutrients.

My greenhouse also allows me to raise half hardy plants in the spring, saving me quite a lot of money. You get a lot of seeds in a packet and if you raise more than you need, you can always sell them at your gate, swap them with friends or donate them for charity. Even if you give away your extras, you will still save money raising your own bedding plants.

During the summer, I grow tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, sweet peppers and chillies in it. I have also grown potatoes in a sack in it. If you plant first early potatoes now in the greenhouse, you will get a crop about a month earlier than you would if you grew them outdoors. This means you will have lovely tasting new potatoes which you know are chemical free (or organically) grown when they are very expensive in the shops and not yet available on gateways.

I think home grown tomatoes taste much better than any which you can buy in shops. You know they have not been subjected to loads of chemicals to make them ripen quicker and to repel pests and diseases and you can choose the variety which you like best. Although you can grow tomatoes outside, you cannot be sure that the weather will be hot enough to ripen them. You can, of course, pick them and ripen them indoors but they never taste as nice as those ripened on the vine.

Cucumbers also taste so much better when you grow your own. In the past, you used to have to check your cucumber plants regularly and pick off the male flowers before they pollinated the female flowers. If the female flowers are pollinated, then the cucumbers become bitter to taste. Nowadays, most cucumber seeds are for varieties which are all female so you no longer have that problem. Even though there are not many seeds in a packet for cucumbers, it is still a lot less expensive to grow your own than to buy them in the shop. What’s more, they are always available and do not go off. You will probably have surplus to your needs, and the same comments apply as to tomatoes.

Peppers and Chillies do not grow very well in England except in the very south, the weather is not warm enough. However, they do very well in the greenhouse, either in large pots or direct in the ground. Peppers and Chillies freeze very well, so any surplus to your immediate requirements can be frozen for future use. You cannot then use them raw but you can cook them in any way you like.

During autumn and winter, the cold greenhouse can be used to extend the season for all number of plants. I use mine to store my Fuschia plants over winter. Fuschias do not mind being frosted, but they resent being too wet and will die if they are wet and frozen over winter. I just leave them to dry and start watering them in the greenhouse in early spring, putting them out when frosts are finished. There are, of course a number of fuschias which will happily survive outdoors, but bringing them inside also ensures they flower much earlier.

There are a large number of greenhouses available


and although they are initially expensive to buy, once you have one you will find all sorts or uses for them. If you can afford to heat one the uses become endless.

If you cannot afford to buy a greenhouse at the moment, there are less expensive alternatives to buying one ready made. If you are handy, you could purchase plans and build your own greenhouse.

building a greenhouse plans

The plans include a great deal of advice and plans for efficient running of your greenhouse, such as ventilation systems and watering systems.

Even less expensive is a small patio greenhouse.

4 tier growhouse

This is, in effect a small cupboard made from plastic which fits on the wall of your house. If you site it in the right place, the wall give protrection and warmth. The shelves are usually just the right size to hold seed trays so it is very useful for raising small plants.

As I said, at the beginning, I would be lost without my greenhouse. It gives me a great deal of enjoyment and has paid for itself a number of times.

Preventing overwintering pests and diseases in the greenhouse.

Saturday turned out to be a nice day weatherwise here. The sun shone brightly and the greenhouse suddenly warmed up, so, looking forward to spring, I decided to get rid of any pests and diseases which  may have overwintered in the greenhouse, by burning a sulpher candle.

This is not very organic, but I don’t profess to garden totally chemical free. I just try to use as few chemicals as possible and look for alternatives if possible. I always look carefully before smoking the greenhouse to see if there are any beneficial insects which I do not want to kill. Plants which have been stored in the greenhouse do not seem to suffer from the treatment.

There are a number of pests and diseases which can populate your greenhouse without you being aware of them until they become a problem in spring and summer. Some overwinter in the greenhouse, so it is worth treating the greenhouse to rid yourself of the worst of them before you start a new year. Remember though, this treatment is indiscriminate and will kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones.

Pests and diseases in the greenhouse can build up rapidly because of the warmth and humidity. It is always best to keep a careful watch for them and try to prevent them building up. Always maintain scrupulous cleanliness and remove any damaged parts of the plant as soon as you spot a problem. Do not compost that plant material – burn it.

There are a number of fungal diseases which affect your greenhouse plants and one of the worse, in my opinion , is damping off. This shows as a blackened area at the base of the stem and in very short order the affected plant will topple over and die. There’s nothing worse than sowing and nurturing a plant only for it to suddenly die. There are a number of things you can do to prevent it (there is no cure). First, sow your seeds more thinly, water less and increase the temperature in the greenhouse. Sometimes, the disease is carried in the soil and if this is the case you will need to sterilize it by heating it to kill it. Watering other plants with copper fungicide will help prevent itspreading.

Red Spider mite are almost invisible to the naked eye and you don’t see them until there are loads of them. They are green as well as red and they cover the plants with webs and cause fine mottling on the leaves. They are only a problem in a dry atmosphere so increase the humidity to safeguard. There is a parasitic mite which will control it, but if you have a small infestation you can spray with derris

Whiteflies are another serious and persistent greenhouse pest. They are small white flies (as the name suggests) which weaken the plants by sucking sap. They are often found on the undersides of leaves. They can be controlled by a parasitic wasp. Alternately hang a grease coated yellow card in the greenhouse. For some reason, many insects are attracted to yellow and they stick to it. If all else fails, spray with derris three times at five day intervals. Do not spray if you have already introduced biological control.