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Thursday
Apr192012

The Hardest Working Greenhouse

The Hardest Working Greenhouse has been written by Helen Johnstone on behalf on Notcutts. Helen runs a blog called The Patient Gardner where she records and shares her endeavours and inspirations that have shaped her life in and outside the house.

I sometimes think that my greenhouse must be the hardest working greenhouse in the country.  It is only small (4ft x 6ft) but it is full to the gunnels all year round.

In the spring, at the start of the growing season, there are pots and trays of seeds and seedlings on the staging which runs on both sides of the greenhouse.  Under the staging lurk pelargoniums, dahlias and watsonias waiting for the weather to be warm enough for them to go outside.  As the season progresses and the weather warms up the seed trays make way for tomatoes and cucumbers.  I remove one set of staging and generally squeeze in 3 or 4 tomato plants in the gap.  I also had two cucumber plants in there last year as well as pots of cuttings and late sown seeds.  Come Autumn and the tender perennials are itching to get back in to the greenhouse before the coldness of winter sets in.  The tomatoes and cucumbers are evicted to the compost heap, the greenhouse given a wash and clean up and preparations made for winter.  By Christmas the greenhouse is full again with tender perennials, succulents, pots of cuttings and there is only just room to squeeze in my potted Bottlebrush bush.

I keep the greenhouse frost free with a simple thermostatically controlled electric heater.  As my greenhouse is sited close to the house I am lucky to have electricity running to it.  I have never bothered to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap. Partly because I think this will cause too much condensation especially given the smallness of my greenhouse and this leads to grey mould but probably the real reason is that I just can’t be doing with all that fiddling around securing bubble wrap.  Even in the recent two very cold winters I didn’t lose anything and my electricity bill didn’t rocket. 

I don’t use greenhouse shading any more either as whenever I have painted it on a drastic change of weather follows and we have a cold and damp summer!  These days I tend to provide shading on hot days by throwing over some of those bamboo beach mats that we all buy on holiday.   It seems to work quite well.

Being a small greenhouse I also don’t have any vents so any ventilation is dependent on the door.  Working full time I have to make a decision at the start of the day whether to leave it open or shut.  Again, I haven’t experienced any real problems with this.  I usually leave a couple of watering cans full of water in the greenhouse to help with humidity and also pour water on gravel floor which also helps.

When I got my greenhouse I was initially obsessed with how I was meant to do things reading lots of books but I have realised that it isn’t that complicated and, as with all gardening, if you trust your instincts you will probably be alright.

Having a greenhouse has widened my horticultural experience.  I can now grow lots of plants I couldn’t or struggled to before and each year I find myself experimenting with growing something that little bit different – this year I’m trying Bird of Paradise seeds.

By Helen Johnstone of The Patient Gardener

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