We managed to make it through the whole of winter without as much as a snowflake falling in the garden, and then a few days before the start of May there’s been snow and hail. It’s not actually that unusual to have weather like this in spring, it’s simply the transition from one season to another, but perhaps we notice it more because we’re impatient for some warm sunshine. It does however make life tricky for gardeners. There’s the worry about blossom being damaged by frost and the resulting impact on the fruit harvest later in the year. And for those of us with a backlog of young plants waiting to be planted into the ground, there’s the inevitable juggling act of finding space for plants which need hardening off and tender seeds which need sowing.
My greenhouse is tiny, but it is surprising how even this small space has made such a difference to how I grow. Succulents which overwintered on my kitchen windowsill are moved into the greenhouse at the start of April freeing up inside space for seed trays. Hardy annuals sown indoors in March are pricked out, potted on and moved into the greenhouse. There’s dahlias too. To get a longer growing season I plant up tubers into pots in late March, and healthy shoots are now appearing. The plan is that they’ll be large enough and it’ll be sufficiently warm for them to be planted out by the end of May. Fingers crossed! And as I sow my seeds I can marvel at the last of my special fritillary bulbs with their pretty green bell-shaped flowers.
Managing heat in a greenhouse is essential. In summer temperatures can easily reach over 40⁰C, but spring can be the trickiest time of the year for managing a greenhouse as the weather can change so quickly – one minute warm sunshine, the next gusty winds and hail showers. Automatic ventilation has been a godsend in my own greenhouse. It’s surprising how much a greenhouse can heat up on a sunny day, even if it’s so cold outside it is snowing, and if you’re not around for a few days you can’t just leave your greenhouse door open in spring, like you would in summer. The biggest problems are small pots and seed trays drying out very quickly and the leaves of young seedlings, in particular, scorching in harsh sunlight, particularly if they’re placed on high shelving closer to the glass.
The automatic ventilation helps to reduce the temperature but I have also invested in some greenhouse shading which can prevent leaf scorch. The shading is a lightweight mesh material which screens out between 50 and 60% of the sunlight. Mine is simply draped over the greenhouse, but Gabriel Ash has a range of blinds fitted internally on rollers to make controlling the temperature easier.
Thanks to my greenhouse I’ve been able to weather the weather this spring. Not only are my plants cosily protected, but I’ve also had somewhere warm to shelter with a cup of tea.