Hartley Magazine

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

Potting Benches and Greenhouses

In The Greenhouse with Lila Das Gupta

The big wave of spring sowing has started, but I’m still occupied with sorting out my small urban space since the arrival of the greenhouse. That’s the way it is in a city environment “every foot counts”.
I had originally intended to put my potting bench in the greenhouse, but it doesn’t make sense to lose a few feet of valuable space when you only have 6×10 feet to play with. Once seedlings start to be potted-on, the place starts to look like an airport departure lounge: lots of hanging around with no one going anywhere.
So, I spent the day doing battle in the shed, moving golf clubs that haven’t been used since Elvis was alive and giving away a snazzy lawnmower on Freecycle (you may remember I ripped up the lawn as part of the re-design). The net result was that I reclaimed one side of the shed to use as a potting bench. Since I’m tall and do sometimes get back ache, I also invested in a staging bench that is 38″ high, so I can actually do my potting standing up. That means much less strain on the upper arms and back (and I discovered along the way that sieving compost standing up is a surprisingly good workout if you hold your abs in!). Where space is at a premium it’s important to invest the time and energy to get comfortable: somewhere to store your pots, somewhere to keep the compost, a bench that’s comfortable for your back, tools, scissors and other sundries organised and accessible. It may take you a little time to organise yourself, but like all things in life: start as you mean to go on.

One of the exciting things about having a greenhouse is being able to grow exotics. Today I am soaking the seeds of Bird of Paradise Flower (Strelitzia Reginae) and Banana Plant Ensente Ventricosum.
Like mother, like daughter: the Bird of Paradise seed appears to be wearing a feather boa, expecting a night out on the town. The banana, which can grow up to 20ft (6M), has a bouncing bonnie baby seed that is half an inch wide. Both have fairly hard outer shells and need to be soaked for 24hrs. The seeds will both germinate without a heated propagator in warm weather, but since they both take weeks to germinate, any heat you can offer them from underneath will cut down on the risk of rotting. On the subject of propagators, I’ve been testing out the Vitopod
for Gardener’s World Magazine. It’s not the most economical model, but it’s certainly the best I have ever used of this type and is well worth the investment.

Potting Benches and Greenhouses

I have been reading Paolo Arrigo’s entertaining book ‘From Seed To Plate “Growing to Eat Italian Style”. Paolo and his wife Alex are the people responsible for bringing us Seeds of Italy. This mixes growing tips with culture and recipes.

I’ve just made a batch of Lina’s Mint Syrup from the book. Perfect if you have mint in the garden.
(This is a shortened version)
1 bottle of white wine (I used Organic Blanco)
375g (13oz) granulated sugar
2 large handfuls of fresh mint leaves

Heat wine and sugar together on medium heat till granules dissolved. If scum appears spoon it off.
Allow to cool thoroughly then add de-stalked mint leaves. Place in glass jar and turn every day for 5 days. Discard leaves. To drink, mix the syrup to taste with cold water and add a mint leaf.

Yum, makes you realise that summer is only round the corner.

  • RainGardener

    Yes it certainly does.

  • I havent ventured into growing exotics as I just dont have the room to overwinter them – my greenhouse is only 3′ x 4′ – compact and bijou. I have a large paving slab in the middle on which I stand and I can reach every part of the greenhouse. I tend to move plants/seed trays out of the greenhouse while I am using the bench to sow or pot up and then move them back when I have finished. Bit of a faff but its do-able