Hartley Magazine

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How to Cheat

As the clocks change to give us lighter evenings and the season bursts into full swing, you’d be forgiven for thinking everything in the greenhouse and garden is rosy.

But something happens that night the clocks spring forward and it is related to time, but I swear we don’t just lose an hour. It’s like a time thief has reached down and made the days go faster and faster; it’s a solar powered timescale that speeds as the sun shines into our lives and steals more of those precious minutes away from us.
Already I’m striving to keep up but also trying to steal a few precious moments back. A session in the greenhouse each day, ten minutes watching the birds on the feeders, morning coffee in the garden to appreciate every aspect of my plot and a smuggled hour out of the office spent in the garden. It’s vital to our wellbeing to have this connection with nature, but somehow I never seem to have enough time.

We kid ourselves we will have more time after Easter; that it will be better when the kids are back at school, that we will have the whole weekend to garden, next weekend, and yet, there is always something new to attend to that is more urgent and more pressing.
A garden and a greenhouse is truly a burden to those who want it to fulfill its potential, well at least for those of us that have to work for a living too. It’s not an unwelcome burden, but it can be a weight on the conscience when you can’t keep up.
A large garden is a blessing but ‘they’ never tell you that by the time you have enough time to tend it to your heart’s desire you will be too old, too creaky, or just less able to do so.

Greenhouse Cheats

So, I’ve come up with a different approach. Added to my desire to try and enjoy and preserve precious garden moments, I’m learning ways to cheat. Now don’t get me wrong, I hate deceit, lies and manipulation, but here I’m talking about short cuts to save a bit of time and beat all sorts of rules and regulations.

  • First of all if you haven’t sown something that you wanted to grow this season, get over it, buy plug plants online or mail order or ready grown plants from the garden centre. It doesn’t just let you catch up, it allows you to grow plants that might need heat to get them started, so you don’t need to power a propagator or heaven forbid heat the greenhouse.
  • You can also sow late. There’s always this huge rush to get seeds in early for the earliest possible harvest (when similar produce costs a fortune in the shops), but I find things catch up when sown later and they also crop and flower later, which is not a bad thing. And there’s always an alternative to fill the salad bowl in the garden and greenhouse.
  • Watering is the bane of my life in the greenhouse. The biggest time saver is to direct a mains supply to the greenhouse with an indoor and outdoor tap. It’s magic to have tap water on hand to water delicate seedlings. The trouble is the water pressure where I live is so variable that it has a habit of blasting the pipefittings off and creating a flooded greenhouse at least twice a year and usually when I am away. Grrrrrr. So I have resorted to self-watering trays, planters and gadgets. There’s a good choice these days and they work well, though I have to admit they encourage fungus flies early in the season, which is a real pain. I found a great link of hints, tips and ideas to deter fungus flies online here, so I thoroughly recommend you have a read; sensible, practical advice and plenty of scope for a many-pronged attack. My Garden School
  • Using great compost could be a surprising cheat for some. If you can’t grow in the greenhouse soil, (and that needs improving and nurturing for good results), then choose and use top quality compost, it’s been formulated to support healthy plant growth. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pests and disease and will perform better in terms of productivity, so it’s a sound investment. Choose organic and peat free compost for the healthiest and most valuable crops. The equivalent organic produce would cost a fortune but more importantly you are reducing food miles and making a choice for the environment too.