Hartley Magazine

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

Greenhouse Overhaul

That’s it now, it’s been pending for a while, but the greenhouse is in for a shock, hopefully a pleasant shock, but nevertheless a surprise. It’s time, I think for a tidy up.

After a summer like no other, I’m ashamed to say that it’s actually a struggle to get through the greenhouse door at the moment. The warm, humid and cooler climes of summer 2012 have been very conducive to plant growth and the greenhouse glass accentuates the growth, after all that’s why we have a greenhouse, but my greenhouse is green in every cubic inch of the sense.

In fact, I think that if there was a greenhouse phone line for abuse to greenhouses, I think mine would be on the phone citing neglect this year. It’s been such a crazy year with the weather, with the flower shows and generally being out and about more and more in search for gardens, greenhouses and gardeners to feature in the magazine and newspapers that I write for, that I have left my garden and greenhouse to its own devices a little more often than I should have done. And although my greenhouse is fairly self-sufficient it does still need regular care and attention. It’s fine early in the season at sowing time, but once the seeds are big enough for planting out, pricking out and potting on, well I’m out and about all over the place. Add to that a couple of greenhouse disasters and you start to get the picture.

It’s been flooded twice, once when I didn’t switch the hose off properly and left it dangling in a self watering planter which overflowed for hours, if not days inside the greenhouse and again when my micro-irrigation system burst off the hosepipe while I was away and left the tap running inside. It was a good 3 -4 inches deep in water when I found it, which was extremely disappointing, and a total waste of precious water too. However it soon drained out and dried out in the short spell of hot weather that blessed the greenhouse and garden for a few days in early September.

The tomatoes have absolutely filled every corner and crevice, reaching far up into the eaves and almost beyond and at times wavy their leaves through the automatic vents, if ever it was warm enough for them to open. The vines have been dripping with sweet, plump fruits since midsummer. They’ve been delicious and extremely varied in size shape and colour thanks to the Heritage toms from Delfland Plants, plus the grafted toms from Suttons Seeds. I have to confess that my order was soon bigger than my greenhouse and the plants completely took over the growing space entwining themselves into a forest so deep and dense it was almost impossible to tend to those at the back. I suspect that if I had grown fewer plants I would have had a greater harvest. That’s no reflection on the plants, simply down to being an absent greenhouse gardener for many days and many weeks throughout the year and for growing them two, three and even four deep on the greenhouse benches and floor. That said, the crop has been so huge that I am roasting them slowly in the oven whenever I am cooking something else, and freezing flavourful packs of reduced, organic, home grown tomatoes for winter use. Forget about tinned tomatoes and passata, this is the real deal and a divine ingredient for so many fantastic dishes. Since the price of tinned toms has rocketed and the flavour often lost in the processing, my supply of rich, tomatoes has even greater added value.

How to Cheat

If you want your own tomato forest then plan ahead now for next season, order your seed quickly from specialist suppliers for the best choice. I’d really recommend the grafted plants from Suttons Seeds. The plants grow faster, stronger and have a bigger and earlier crop than ungrafted plants. But if you want to grow something different try a few heritage varieties, share plants and seeds with gardening friends and experiment.

Don’t forget it’s easy to save seed from tomatoes too. Check back to a previous Bean Feast : Saving Seed Part 10 for more details.