Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Bring on the Spring

One of the great things about owning a greenhouse is extending the season at both ends. It’s a bit like playing God in the garden; you can actually move the seasons a bit and start to enjoy them for just a bit longer.
This is especially glorious early in the year; when impatient gardeners like me want spring to arrive. I don’t want to wish the year away, but I’m bored with winter and the trouble it brings and I want to get growing and sowing. The trouble is that once spring does arrive, all hell breaks loose, as there is just so much to be doing. I digress!
For me spring starts in February, that’s partly because I can’t bear to think it is still winter and that I do have to wait just a little bit longer for spring, but also because things have actually started growing. My bulbs are coming up all around the garden and in the greenhouse. I cheated a lot, by planting half my bulbs in the garden and the other half in pots that can be moved around, I can manipulate their flowering time and extend my enjoyment of spring. For me spring or at least early spring is all about bulbs, although there are plenty of trees and shrubs already in catkin and in flower. Already pots of snowdrops and crocus are flowering within the protected greenhouse environment, but also the pots of tulips in the cold frame are a week or so ahead of the garden grown bulbs too. Once they are looking just at their peak I’ll position them around the front door, beneath my birch trees and around the garden so I can enjoy them through the office window, but also visitors to the garden can see them as they approach the house. With a succession of bulbs in different stages I can replace those that have finished with pots of freshly flowering bulbs.
How to cheat
As spring approaches the greenhouse gardener can bring pots of bulbs into the greenhouse to bring them into earlier flower. It staggers the flowering period and you can bring the plants in and out until you have them at the perfect stage for display. It’s a bit like the incredibly intricate game played by exhibitors at Chelsea Flower Show, in a late spring the flowers have to pushed to perform in time for their big day, or held back in cold store so that their beauty is still perfect for the visitors. Fortunately the greenhouse gardener doesn’t have such huge pressures and can manipulate the plants to suit their own needs and desires without worrying about the masses.
It’s a great game to play early in the season while the weather still stops us sowing and growing other things in earnest.
But it’s not just bulbs that can be manipulated for earlier bounty. If you have some perennial herbs such as chives, marjoram or even parsley (biennial), then dig up a clump or two, pot them into fresh rich compost and bring them into the warmth of the glasshouse where they will quickly start to sprout into growth. The earliest sprigs of these richly flavoured herbs add tonnes of flavour in tiny amounts to sandwiches, quiches, garnishes and soups. For the gardener every homegrown morsel has a satisfying flavour, tasting healthier, fresher and definitely nicer than anything bought from the shops.
And of course you can actually start sowing a few things in the February greenhouse, little and often is the secret until the temperature is conducive to the mad seed sowing extravaganza still to come. Dabble a little, break a few rules and try a few seeds to see what will grow in your greenhouse now. Earlier crops are even more precious, but save some seed for a late sowing too so that your home-grown flowers, fruit and vegetables last into the autumn and the start of winter again. It’s a circle of life and of growth and one that a greenhouse enables the ends to meet and the gardener to feel complete the whole way through.