If only my greenhouse was more like the Tardis – larger on the inside than it is on the outside. I’ll admit, it is something of a time machine, extending the gardening seasons at both ends to help me grow much more than I could ever do outside, but at some point during May I reach a point when my greenhouse is full to bursting point. It’s crunch time!
Every inch of space has been filled. Benches are packed with trays of seedlings and young plants, pots of bulbs nestle in the warmth under staging and the floor is covered with a patchwork of pots and trays.
Just a narrow access strip allows me to tiptoe my way through the greenhouse to get access for watering.
Despite investing in the biggest greenhouse I could afford when I bought mine some 25 years ago I fill it to the brim every year. At 12ft by 8ft I thought its generous size would be more than adequate for my growing plans, but if I had more space I’d fill it!
My greenhouse has also been a photo studio where photographers have joined me every month for over 20 years creating practical pictures to accompany my articles in Gardeners’ World Magazine.
What a great investment my greenhouses have been. I couldn’t put a value on just how much I’ve grown in it over the years, but it must have paid off the investment many, many times.
Greenhouse gardening takes a little planning, but just look at what I’m growing this year:
Who doesn’t love tomatoes, and I grow a selection of varieties from seed. I pot these up as required until they reach 4-6in (10-15cm) pots, and wait for these to form their first flowers before planting out. As most potting composts only contain enough food to provide sufficient nutrients for about a month, do start regular liquid feeding.
Cucumbers will accompany tomatoes, and yes I do mix them both together. Choose varieties carefully, and I’d recommend only growing cucumbers that are resistant to powdery mildew, like ‘Tiffany’ and ‘Carmen’. I’ve lost too many cucumbers to powdery mildew over the years to risk growing any that aren’t. Whatever you’re growing, by picking varieties with natural resistance to disease you avoid problems and the need to spray, so you’ll get good ‘organic’ produce to enjoy.
Later in May or early June these crops will be planted into a self-watering greenhouse growing system, like one from AutoPot.
SALADS BY THE POTFUL
By starting to sow salad leaf crops in pots from March you’ll be enjoying tasty leaves from May onwards, and save pounds on bags buying bags of salad leaves.
RAISING OUTDOOR CROPS
I don’t start too early, or crops will be ready to plant out before conditions have warmed-up outside, but by early May I’ve started sowing a range of squash, including courgettes, plus sweetcorn and beans. All these will be ready to go out once weather improves from the end of May.
HERBS FROM SEED
Two of my favourites are coriander and parsley, and I sow a succession of these in small pots or modular trays. Some can be brought straight into the kitchen to provide windowsill pickings while other are planted out.
Whether raised from seed or mail-order plug plants, I love my pots and baskets of summer bedding. They get off to a great start under glass, and I plant up baskets and keep them hanging in the greenhouse for a few weeks to establish before hanging out in June.
My greenhouse provides shelter for potted agapanthus and pineapple lilies (eucomis), and I try and keep these under cover for as long as possible to reach the largest size possible before moving them outside. With space at a premium, once conditions have warmed-up during May these potted specimens need to move out to their summer home on a warm patio.
For early crops of strawberries in June I grow mine in pots and bring them into the greenhouse from April onwards to flower and fruit. Potted strawberries raised up off the ground stay cleaner, and under glass they’ll avoid attention from greedy birds too!
And did I mention the aubergines, sweet peppers, chillies, begonias, achimenes, succulents and pelargoniums? With more space I’d grow even more, but I don’t think that’s bad for starters, do you?
Exclusively for Gabriel Ash by Adam Pasco, Gardening Journalist and Consultant at Adam Pasco Media, Founder and former Editor of BBC Gardener’s World Magazine.
Image credits: Adam Pasco