Hartley Magazine

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Greenhouse on Holiday

In The Greenhouse with Lila Das Gupta

Today’s lesson is a very simple one.When you go on holiday, or slip away for a few days: get someone to look after the greenhouse.

I’ve just come back from the most magical few days in Santiago de Compostela, in north west Spain, for a surprise 50th birthday party in honour of an old sweetheart.
All was well in my world when I left. The artichokes (Imperial Star, an improved form of Green Globe) were about to throw out their second pair of leaves. My Lemon Drop peppers were looking perky.The parsnips had pre-germinated.I came back with a spring in my step, after a few days of warm weather, to find a desiccated battlefield strewn with fallen stalks.
My fault entirely. Never presume that because you live with a man who remembers the date of the Battle of Manzikert or how many elephants went over the Alps, he will remember that seedlings may need watering when it’s hot.

Was I supposed to go in the greenhouse?

Greenhouse On Holiday

We usually have a house sitter during our summer holiday because of our two cats: now I know that this year I’m looking for a feline-lover who is also horticulturally minded.Once the seedlings are out of the way there will be tomatoes, melons and cucumbers to look after. All my efforts will come to nothing if the greenhouse isn’t properly attended.
Years ago I worked at the British Embassy garden in Washington, D.C.It was a very jolly group of gardeners and we often used to go out together, but no matter how tight we got, the head gardener Kerry Blockley always came back every night to attend to the glass houses.

So here endeth the lesson: greenhouses are like dogs, only get one if you are prepared to give it the attention it needs.

I am listening to ‘Dola, Dola‘ from the uplifting soundtrack of Bride and Prejudice, (gorgeous Indian woman meets arrogant, available, American Mr Darcy). I needed to listen to the songs as an antidote to last night: a troupe of us watched ‘The Way We Were’. At least in Bride and Prejudice she gets her man.We are also bracing ourselves for a screening of ‘The Sterile Cuckoo‘, a Liza Minelli classic that breaks your heart. The clocks go forward on March 29th. Slushy movies will then be locked in the cupboard until the autumn.

  • What do you mean by ‘pre-germinated’. I dont grow parsnips so maybe this is peculiar to them!

  • Lila Das Gupta

    I first got the idea from my vegetable growing guru and friend Terry Walton. Since parsnips are notoriously slow to germinate, you put the seed on a piece of wet kithen towel between two plastic plates. After 10-14 days they germinate, then you plant them in specially prepared holes.
    All the books say plant parsnips in February, but it’s too cold for them even in the mild south east of England. Better to go for March.
    To prepare hole: dig out an ice cream cone shaped hole, about a foot deep (Terry uses a crow-bar). Fill this hole with sieved compost – or at least crumbly, then plant the pre-germinated seed. If you have never grown parsnips before you have a treat in store – they are much more aromatic and stronger tasting than shop bought ones, they always remind me of Gewurtztraminer wine.

  • Thanks for that – I wasnt planning on growing Parsnips this year although I love them. I figured they were tricky but I might give it a go now.

  • You must watch the Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version of A Star is Born. That should make your potatoes chit.