In the past I worked in the Palm, Temperate and Alpine House‘s at Kew and although they are among the globe‘s greatest greenhouses, there‘s nothing like one of your own. Now, at last I‘ve got it! As a student at Kew, I often stared over a yard with a Hartley House when lectures became a bit boring! It was used to quarantine Banana‘s and chocolate, on their way to tropical plantations; now they‘ve provided a more glamorous house that sits opposite the angular frame of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, among the great glasshouses of the world and are in the unique position of being endorsed by Kew.
When buying gardening equipment, always buy the best you can afford; saving up for a quality greenhouse was well worth the wait. After hours of research and considerable deference to the past, I settled on a ‘Hartley‘ greenhouse‘. The doors, staging and hinges are robust, the design is distinctive yet practical and unlike the shape of a traditional greenhouse ensures efficient use of light all year round. Direct sunlight should strike the glass at an angle of 90 degrees for the maximum amount to enter and the changes in angle of the glass roof allow for this. It was built in three days with the help of Joel, a Kiwi friend of mine; we‘d never built a greenhouse before but the instructions were clear and with a little help from the technical team, the process was straightforward. What did we learn? An absolutely level, rectangular brick base is a ‘must‘, take the time to label all the parts before starting, read the instructions several times before starting, then work slowly, methodically and carefully; it definitely paid off too! We also photocopied of the instructions, so there was one ‘working set‘ and another ‘master‘ copy for future reference.
The garden is an open south facing plot but choosing the location created a few headaches. Putting the greenhouse near the perimeter would have used space efficiently but excessive shade would limit its use, so it‘s on the edge of the vegetable garden, the apex running east to west. It is shaded from about 1.00pm until mid afternoon by a massive walnut tree in the neighbour‘s garden, though it‘s not so close that leaves will block the gutters. It doesn‘t come into leaf until mid – May, so it will catch the spring sunshine but provide shade from scorching summer sun. The benching is erected along the north side of the greenhouse, a shadow is not cast over the opposite side that will be dug as a bed. Plants growing in the ground make better root systems and watering is not so critical but the clay soil needs improving with plenty of pea shingle and well rotted home compost. I also bought myself a propagator and an electric heater. Over the coming months I‘ll be telling you what I‘m up to and how my recently sown aubergines, peppers and ornamental plants are coming along.
Until then, take care and good gardening.