Hartley Magazine

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

Peak Greenhouse

Hartley Bean Feast May 2014

When you begin the greenhouse journey, even before you have even parted with any hard-earned cash there’s so much to consider and decide. Greenhouse gurus are generous with their advice regarding siting, ventilation and features, but the most vital consideration of all is its size.

MAY IMAGEMost potential greenhouse gardeners are either restricted in scale either by their budget or the space available and yet the usual guidance is to buy the biggest and best you can afford. It’s sage advice and something that every greenhouse grower who bought in haste lives to regret. To be honest, however much you plan, until you are the proud owner of a glasshouse, however humble or grand, you have little idea of how it will not only transform your life but that it will change the way you garden for the better too. Even those who plan meticulously get caught out and to be honest, once you’ve got the greenhouse bug there is no cure. Look around at how many gardens have more than one greenhouse, or a whole shantytown of glasshouse, coldframe and Heath Robinson style contraptions and still the owners hanker for more.

It’s no wonder when you get to peak greenhouse. That point in the calendar when the greenhouse is full to bursting and you can’t plant anything out, not just yet.

By May the greenhouse grower has a problem. The glasshouse staging and benches are stacked out with seedlings ready to pot on, potted-on delights ready to plant out and all manner of cuttings, experiments and more. You’ve reached Peak Greenhouse. What’s needed is a Tardis and a degree in time and space management. Scheduling everything according to the space available doesn’t take into consideration the temptations that face us weak, tragic plant lovers. Just one more packet of seed, it won’t hurt and I just have to have them.

Then there are the cuttings from a beautiful fuchsia with the tiniest nectar rich flowers, that I begged from an NGS garden on the IOW. So precious as it’s a bee magnet and just perfect for growing in pots in the greenhouse until it’s mature (note to self – place them outside in the daytime for the bees to sup the nectar). Plus the plant swaps and the little gems from friends and gardeners – all precious and needing space and nurture.

MAY IMAGESFinally the greenhouse doubles up as a trials ground, growing and appraising all sorts of fascinating preproduction products, new seeds and plants from within the garden industry. These have to take priority as I need to feedback to the supplier, so they get extra special time and space allowance which can push the greenhouse to its limits so it reached Peak Greenhouse in record breaking time.

But isn’t that the goal?

There’s no point having a greenhouse that’s empty; making the most of every growing inch all year round uses it to its full potential and makes it earn its space in the garden. Push it to its limits is what I say. Reach Peak Greenhouse and keep on growing. It’s all about pushing the boundaries and widening your gardening experience.

I love the greenhouse trial. This year I’ve got some new compost under scrutiny, can’t say too much as it’s confidential. There are several new seed varieties under review, as well as the radical half spud, half tomato plants launched this season by Thompson & Morgan. But sometimes it’s the things I’ve never grown before that add the most delight to the garden and greenhouse. Some seed collected from other gardens (with permission) as well as a few new weird and wonderful crops from the Suttons HomeGrown Revolution range.

My Cucamelons got munched by a fat snail that I found lurking between the pots, but one plant survived.

The Inca berries have germinated as have the wild white strawberries in their hundreds. Growing from seed hasn’t lost its magic for me. I still get a buzz from every seedling that germinates and can marvel at the transformation from wrinkly brown speck to green plant. It’s botany’s version of the caterpillar to butterfly or the ugly duckling to swan and I never, ever tire of it. There’s so much hope and promise in just one packet of seed and if you’ve got a greenhouse you’ve no excuse not to fill every spare inch with seedlings galore. Give the surplus away and spread the joy of plants and gardening as far as you can. It’s ripples in a pond. Go on, sow a few more seeds, you know you want to and push your greenhouse to its limits this season. Reaching Peak Greenhouse means you’ve made the most of your glasshouse, now it’s time to make it work some more.