Greenhouse Confessional

greenhouse.1Helen at Patient Gardener recently began posting about her greenhouse which seems to have triggered a bit of a pseudo-meme: perhaps we all now feel a little more confident baring all, knowing we are amongst blogging friends.

Above is the view from the doorway into the existing 6 x 8 aluminium framed greenhouse, the purpose built (by the Golfer) staging on the left housing gravel trays with this year’s seedlings, moved here from the house as soon as they germinated. There is a narrower lower shelf which in practice has just been used for storage but currently also has packs of little pots and trays purchased for the newer half-greenhouse chucked against them. On the floor is the 1.5m tubular heater which gave me a (financial) shock at the end of January when I twigged that despite its 190w rating and thermostatic control if it was on all the time it could still use over 130Kw in a month. Checking the minimum overnight temperature every morning, which I did anyway, I was able to lower the thermostat so that the heater should only come on when temperatures were dipping below 0°C. Hopefully there will be a noticeable improvement when I check our overall energy consumption at the end of this month.

IMG_1410On the right, where tomatoes were grown last year in pots sunk into the soil (why did I not plant them directly into the soil? No idea), there are short rows of winter sown salad leaves and rocket – the first time I have done this. You can also clearly see the mixed success of the bubblewrap insulation – having the heater stopped the severe condensation issue, but clipping into corners was not particularly effective and the ordinary clips pop out with regularity. I will do it again next year, but will use a better quality bubble wrap and in a width wide enough to hang the lengths vertically. Just inside the door is the unit where I pot things up – and accumulate last year’s seed packets and a host of other things. Hmm…

IMG_1414This shows how much (ie how little) space there is between the existing greenhouse on the left and the newer cut-down greenhouse on the right – just enough for a slimline water butt (meaning if I ever develop more than a slimline butt I won’t be able to access the smaller greenhouse, of course….. ). We now need to IMG_1415decide whether to collect the water off the roof of this other greenhouse, as the previous larger butt was quickly emptied when there were tomatoes to be watered.

Inside the new structure, literally half the size of the 6 x 8 greenhouse we bought from eBay, we have temporarily laid some of our spare bricks to give a hard surface underfoot – these will be properly bedded on sand in due course. The trays of autumn sown aquilegia have been moved onto temporary shelving until a staging plan has been decided on – probably a horseshoe of standard height shelves but I am still cogitating about lower and higher shelves. On the floor are autumn sown sweet peas and overwintered fuchsia and pelargonium, the first year I have made a conscious effort with these – and all are looking good.

greenhouse.2You would be forgiven for thinking there was no glass in the right hand side – but it’s just new and clean! Polycarbonate from the older greenhouse has been used for the back and left sides here as they are against fences, but all other panels of both are now glass – and I am dumfounded about the difference it makes to the light, even with the bubblewrap insulation in the older greenhouse. We had to buy some extra panes to make up the shortfall from glazing both, but it is definitely worth it and I am convinced the aquilegia have put on a spurt since they had a brighter environment!

So, those are our greenhouses – right at the bottom of the garden away from the trees and where they will get the most sun. It has been interesting reading other posts about bloggers’ greenhouses and the comments they have generated, as this shared process has brought new ideas and suggestions, a kind of thinking aloud – so let’s hope for a successful greenhouse season for all of us.

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18 Responses to Greenhouse Confessional

  1. Hi Cathy, I am really loving being able to “peer” into other people’s greenhouses. Yours looks very familiar in terms of what you use it for, including the “bunging” of stuff, which is a great comfort 😉 You have some wonderfully healthy looking seedlings in both, I really must get my wooden one cleared out so that I can shift all my seedlings in to it as they germinate, the conservatory shelving is beginning to fill up already and I always think things grow better ultimately for a bit of tough love early on. The difference in light levels is extraordinary, isn’t it, and yet so many people claim that the diffuse light from polycarbonate is actually better for plants. Personally I am going to stick to glass. Incidentally, on the tomatoes front, I use pots with the bottoms cut out on top of raised beds on the basis that it lets me do a version of ring culture, where I pile up more soil around the base of the plants. It seems to work really well.

    • Cathy says:

      That’s a good idea for the tomatoes, Janet – although even easier (I have just thought) would be using the growpots designed for growbags and which I picked up at a car boot sale and which I haven’t used for some time…. thanks for triggering the thought! I am really learning about the benefits of ‘tough love’ on seedlings this year – the cerinthe I have growing are a far cry from the lanky specimens I have grown in the past and which I assumed was normal. All very exciting!

  2. Pauline says:

    It is so good to have a peek into other people’s greenhouses, so mine isn’t the only one where pots and trays accumulate, along with other gardening “stuff”! My greenhouse is 8ft x6ft made from cedar and is a lean to on the back of the garage, mostly it is used for seeds and cuttings and then for potting plants on until they are ready to be let loose into the garden. It is lined with bubble wrap in the winter and we even left it in place last summer when it seemed to keep it cooler!
    Your seedlings look really good and healthy, I’m holding back a bit at the moment so that the garden can dry out a lot more before my hardy plug plants get planted out.

    • Cathy says:

      Do you use small or large bubble wrap, Pauline? And do you use the Alliplugs? The potting on and hardening off is something I have not done a lot of before, but I am determined to make a real effort this year to ensure success. I realise how lucky we are with our soil as it has not been waterlogged at all – hope yours dries out a bit soon.

  3. Christina says:

    Light does make a huge difference, something I don’t lack here, in fact I would prefer that mine was in light shade as the temperature reguarly reaches the mid 30s°C.

    • Cathy says:

      After a mild night here it was about 20 degrees in the greenhouse when I went in this morning at about 9.30, but it soon dropped once the clouds rolled in and the sun disappeared! In the summer it would get to over 30 on hot days, but we don’t get as many of those as you do!

  4. rusty duck says:

    May your butt be forever slimline Cathy… 🙂

  5. Annette says:

    Seeing all your greenhouses just shows me how little I’ve going on in mine, but I can’t plant anything before I’ve brought out the manure and that wasn’t possible with all the rain. That said I will start sowing in trays/pots this week. As there’s more rain to come tomorrow it’ll be a good place to spend a couple of hours 😉

    • Cathy says:

      Hope you soon see the last of the rain – and do enjoy the start of your seed sowing. Again we have had some warmth today, but also a shower – more like April weather.

  6. croftgarden says:

    I do admire your enterprise and feel a little ashamed about the untidy areas of my polytunnel when I have so much room.
    I agree with Janet about tomatoes, grow bags, with or without ring pots, have many advantages over growing directly into the greenhouse beds, especially if you want to use the same beds for growing winter salads. Not only will it prevent the build up of disease it will also stop the accumulation of mineral salts from the application of liquid feed.

    • Cathy says:

      Ah, now that is a useful observation. Last year was the first time I grew any winter salads in the greenhouse so it wouldn’t have arisen before, even if it had occurred to me. The other alternative is to grow the salad in trays – but would growing tomatoes every year directly in the beds be a problem for a similar reason?

      • croftgarden says:

        The build up of salts in greenhouse soil is probably a bigger problem than disease, and will happen if you grow a crop that requires a lot of feed like tomatoes. You can solve it by flushing the soil with copious amounts of water or by replacing to soil. It seems easier to use grow bags and recycle the compost on the garden. You won’t get this problem if you grow salad crops in the soil.

  7. bittster says:

    I love seeing other gardeners projects, it’s always so interesting! Excellent job on the new structure, it looks like it fits perfectly now. It will be such a useful space.

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