Monday, 24 February 2014

Intro for The Greenhouse Year: FEB 2014

My tiny 6ft x 4ft Greenhouse has seen many long spells of neglect over the last (estimate) 15 years. The poor thing has never really reached its full potential and most definitely cannot claim the title of The Hardest Working Greenhouse.

I should be hanging my head in shame as I know how lucky I am to have greenhouse in my garden. I can hold my hand up high to storage being the biggest use for my lonely greenhouse that stands unloved in the corner at times.

Does this sound familiar? Truthfully, I don’t feel too guilty there as having a ‘drying area’ has worked well for me over the years. So, when I went to my Greenhouse to take photos for this post last Friday, there were no surprises to what I found…




Being a rainy day gardener, I often have muddy bags and garden tub trugs. Before and after trips to our local amenity tip (when necessary) I prefer to store the wet containers and bags in the entrance space of my greenhouse keeping both my potting shed and car boot a bit drier. I re-use a large gravel delivery bag to contain the muddy contents in my car boot. The greenhouse is supposed to a temporary holding bay ;-)

My greenhouse was bought new and ordered with safety glass. It was put up when my daughters were young and cycling past it on bike routes etc. The door originally faced out to the garden but after needing a bit more space for my potting shed we turned it round and the door now faces my utility room and the outside garden tap which is handy. There is a water butt close by too. I like this new aspect.

The concrete floor from a previous garage made the greenhouse relatively easy to secure, move and re-secure. The practical contents of my greenhouse haven’t changed much over the years. I have 6x 2ft x 2ft decking squares for a more comfortable and tidy floor. I have a mat inside the door for my muddy feet.

The greenhouse staging is pretty basic, 2 units of 2 shelves with clay pebbles in the trays for drainage and a nice look. Keeping these pebbles for years probably isn’t a good idea hygienically as they could harbour greenhouse diseases – oops! I should add that these pebbles can be a pain when they get knocked on to the floor landing between the decking groves and along the edges.




A sunny, open location is usually recommended for sighting a greenhouse. As mine is in a corner situation I have chosen an ‘L’ shaped arrangement for my staging to get the best out of light levels there. I tend to overwinter plants in big tub containers in the shadiest corner. Summer cuttings go there too.

I like to keep a watering can full of water (usually from water butt) so the water is the same temperature as inside the greenhouse for watering. In the summer I have space to keep two there. I want to add, I didn't rearrange anything for my photo, you are seeing it as it was - algae on the glass and all! All I did was lift the bags so I could get in - they are now in the potting shed but more drying is required before they can be stored away :-)


Penstemon and Dianthus cuttings.


The rule I have adopted (when using my greenhouse) is to get the biggest number of pots I can get on my staging. The reason for this is, when I do use my greenhouse - I really use it! Although I have a selection of clay pots in my potting shed, I favour using square plastic pots in my greenhouse.

I did my sums a few years ago, working out that 9cm square pots would work well for my space. I ordered 100 from an online company and another 100 the next year (after I deemed it a great success) to make sure I had a good supply. I can get 36 x 9cm pots on the top shelf of each staging unit and a maximum of 32 x 9cm pots on the bottom shelf as there is a join up the middle.

My greenhouse rule for the square pots is to put 6 in a seed tray to make for an easy life when moving the pots about my greenhouse shelves for more or less light levels. The tray system works well when transporting the pots back and forth to my working bench in my potting shed (plug trays fit them too). Hardening off plants is easier with pots in trays too.




My next greenhouse rule is for labels – I find them a pest to do when there are lots of pots of the same plant. Oh dear, sounds like I'm a lazy greenhouse gardener here. When I ordered my square black plastic pots, I also ordered coloured plant labels – orange, green, yellow and blue. I already had a number of white labels.

The idea behind the coloured plant labels is a simple one. If I have a maximum of 4 plant species in my greenhouse (with multiple pots) I choose a colour of label for each species. I usually write one white label and add an unwritten coloured label with it (or make a note on the noticeboard in my potting shed). I then add that colour of label for every plant of that species. I have deemed that a great success too :-)

Living in my greenhouse in February 2014, with green labels, are Hellebore Orientalis. These plants weren’t grown from seed but lifted as tiny self-sown seedlings that I lifted from below the parent plant in my garden borders. They began growing in plug trays before they were potted up to one plant per pot.




Lifting tiny seedlings from borders, gravel paths and between paving is by far my most favourite way of using my greenhouse. I love scouting in Spring for new ‘baby’ plants. The reality is, I probably don’t actually have space to grow some of these plants but I love the whole process and will probably give some plants away to friends and family.

I’m really quite excited about the young plants with orange labels in my greenhouse at the moment. These are Astrantia seedlings that germinated beneath the parent plants again (Ruby Wedding & Gill Richardson) which both have deep red flowers. I don't know what I can expect from them yet.




Fingers are tightly crossed that I’ll get lots and lots of deep red flowers! I can see that I should probably do some clearing of debris in my pots and perhaps remove moss growth. These plants won’t be leaving my garden! My plan is to have a huge river of this Astrantia through one of my borders where bees will visit and I can admire their long flowering period.

I will need to be patient for my Astrantia flowers (not a gardening trait I am associated with) as they will probably take another year to flower. I’m clapping my hands with delight here, looking forward to the day I take my trays of pots to the border edge to plant it up - perhaps I'll have spare for other areas too :-D

In the shadier bottom shelves of my greenhouse, more self-sown seedlings lifted from the garden last year live. I don’t seem to have any coloured labels in these pots which was a big mistake. These beautiful dark green glossy leaves of this shade loving plant, Asarum, should have died down (like the ones in the border) and I wouldn’t have remembered what they were. Phew... that was lucky!




When I think a small ground carpet plant, like this Asarum, won't like being moved (it has sulked when I've moved it in the past) I put two or more plants per pot so the roots have a chance to grow together before I plant it.

The original plan was to add the new Asarum plants to the parent planting to increase it. As I have quite a few pots of Asarum, I might begin a new planting that I can see from my window and grow crocus through them. I’ll replace the Tellima plants with Asarum in my basket border as they have cut out the light for the crocus. I should have realised the Tellima would grow bigger there.

What fun it really is to look through the (green tinted) greenhouse windows knowing the jewels it holds for the garden. When there are new jewels already planted in the garden, that have been a great success and I fear possible winter losses, I lift them and overwinter them in good sized tubs in my greenhouse.

This year I overwintered the multi-stemmed foxglove that was Chelsea Flower Show plant of the show back in 2012 - Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’. It has flower buds now but I probably should trim the plants back to encourage new growth – I’m still learning with this one. I bought 6 plug plants of this plant and started them of in my greenhouse.




Seen in my first photo of this post, I also have a small aluminium planter with herbs in my greenhouse at the moment. It holds Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme (which I use in cooking). This container will stay there all year if there is room and during warm sunny spells it sits outside in a sunny spot. Last year we enjoyed some lettuce growing here too.

There are a few seed trays of wild flower sowings in my greenhouse at the moment but I’m not sure they will come to anything as I believe I sowed them too late. I felt it worth trying as the seed would be past its best this year. Phew! I never imagined I would chat so much about this small space in my garden that I don’t use to its potential.

Following the Greenhouse throughout the year (not intended as a monthly meme) was an idea Helen at The Patient Gardener's Weblog considered back in January. I had forgotten she mentioned it until I saw her Greenhouse post in my reader feed.

Helen's idea has caught the attention of a few bloggers and as I have exactly the same tiny 6ft x 4ft Greenhouse I thought I’d post the odd (much smaller) report on mine throughout the year too. Gosh… I might have to break out a new notebook and get my planning hat on now ;-)

If you make good use your greenhouse, have you any top tips you’d like to share? What is growing under glass in your garden right now? Do you have a Greenhouse Plan for 2014 or do you just make it up as you go along like me?



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in February 2014.

9 comments:

Sue Garrett said...

Our greenhouse is due for a bit of renovation this year so I'll probably be posting about that

Angie said...

You might consider your greenhouse small Shirley, but you do pack a heck of a lot in there.
You are well disciplined with your greenhouse - something I fear I would not be, if I had one that is. I am enjoying reading all the greenhouse posts - I gives me plenty food for thought, should I ever buy one.

L said...

You seem very organised and efficient. Square pots are such a good idea for maximising space.

SeagullSuzie said...

My greenhouse was a present from my brother and it has moved house with me too...I can't leave it behind...my husband thought I was quite mad. It needs a good clean out after winter-spiders and snails will have taken up residence-they will be put outside! Old webs will be cleaned away as they end up trapping butterflies, moths and bees too. And then I make it up as I go along as to what I grow.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have always wanted a greenhouse. Unfortunately I have never had the wherewithal to purchase one. Sigh..I simply drool as I see what others do with theirs. :)

Midmarsh John said...

I'm afraid my greenhouse has ended up mainly as another storage area and doesn't get enough use. You may have inspired me to have a bit of a Spring clean in the near future. Another job for the Round Tuit pile!

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments. I appreciate this was a bit of a long read. I was surprised I enjoyed chatting about this so much :-)

Sue, ah… I strongly suspect your greenhouse comes into the category of one of hardest working greenhouses as you support a very productive allotment alone! Looking forward to hearing the details of how you do things in your greenhouse in the future:-D

Angie, yes, it’s all or nothing with my Greenhouse. Some summers it is completely empty. I tried growing lettuce last year but it need constant attention in watering – I encouraged other family members to water ;-) I feel there has to be a certain amount of discipline when the space is small but it’s only a practical discipline and I’m sure you could master it easily. Yes, these posts are kicking up food for thought. I added my spin as I am a neglectful greenhouse owner ;-)

L, thanks, only during some months of the year. These square pots were a brilliant buy :-D

Suzie, that’s great that you moved yours and took it with you. Mine too was a present (a milestone birthday) and I wondered if I’d take it with us if we moved. After removing the glass and turning ours around I can see it is possible (although I dropped the very last piece of glass when washing all the pieces to put them back – tired slippery fingers! Being safety glass it just crumbled down – a strange moment at the time. Ah, mine needs a good clean out too – OH came up with the idea of removing glass pieces to clean but this was slow and I was a tad nervous and we only did a few. Great to hear of someone else just making it up as we go along –in reality, a greenhouse notebook isn’t likely to happen. Or is it?

Lisa, that’s exactly why I feel guilty about not having used mine to its potential over the last 15 yrs+ ! That’s also why I chose such a small greenhouse too – originally it was an alpine house (a pretty wooden one) that I fancied but cost ruled that out. I knew there was a chance that it might not live up to the dream so a small greenhouse seemed a safer bet. Do I still have the dream? Yes, sometimes and I have thoughts of a compromise many times ;-)

John, that’s exactly what has happened to mine for long periods over the years. Come winter, I tidy a bit to store plants. Since last Spring I have been storing the present plants on the bottom shady shelves. I bought large deep trays to grow salad veggies last summer but I neglected watering of them and the hanging basket of tumbling tomatoes. I’ll give the lettuce another go because it was nice going out to pick it. More herbs for cooking might be a good plan though :-)

Shady Gardener said...

this is a wonderfully inspiring post! I will most likely never hae a greenhouse, but I'm experiencing vicariously through you!! :-)

Anna said...

I'm most relieved that I'm not alone in having 'green tinted' greenhouse windows Shirl :) Fascinating to read about your labelling system which sounds as if it must save a tedious chore. Creative thinking not lazy greenhouse gardener! I'm always potting up self -sown seedlings too but have been tougher on my baby astrantias and hellebores as they have overwintered outdoors.