8 Beginner’s Tips for Greenhouse Growing
Like everything in growing your own, there is a learning curve. 2013 is my first proper season of using the greenhouse, and I’ve been experimenting under cover since the beginning of February. There has been plenty of trial and error involved, and I’ve been making notes about the things I’ve learnt as I go along.
So, three months in, these are my Beginner’s Tips to Greenhouse Growing:
1. Get a Thermometer
This is probably the most important tip I could give. I’d be lost without mine. Whether I’ve been working out if my peas would germinate over the next week or so, or checking how cold the temperate is before I go to bed, my thermometer has been invaluable. I rarely do anything without consulting the thermometer first. He’s like the boss of the greenhouse.
2. Open the door during the day.
Keep an eye on the temperature. Temperatures in my greenhouse easily reached 30 degrees for consecutive days during April, and this has faded tender lettuce seedlings and brought on other veg that prefer milder conditions far too fast. Opening the door and hatch helps regulate the heat.
3. Put the mild loving plants outside during the day.
Whilst contemplating the sauna like day time temperatures, I had a Eureka! moment. Why don’t I move those veg that enjoy cooler climates outside during the day? How brilliant, why didn’t I think of that earlier?
My sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli seedlings had been getting very leggy in the heat, and were on the verge of collapse. I now pop them outside every morning and I think the little guys are saved. I’ve been doing the same with leeks and kale since, and they’re looking healthier too.
To keep the temperature down you can also brush on greenhouse shading products, like Coolglass, but I want to grow chillis and other heat loving plants in the greenhouse too, so don’t want it too cool. For now, I’ll continue to move the plants outside and reassess later.
4. Keep the greenhouse neat and tidy
I’m passing on this tip because I’m rubbish at doing it. I wish I was tidier, I really do. Trouble is, I put things down and think ‘I’ll move that later’. I do this in the house too. Typical man.
Take it from me, keeping the greenhouse tidy is important as you’ll want as much room as possible when seed sowing really kicks off. You’ll want space on the potting bench to manoeuvre compost and pots, and you’ll need somewhere to put the pots when you’ve sown seeds in them.
Keeping the pots close together builds a small micro-climate too, helping raise the temperature a notch during cold nights.
And piles of unused paraphernalia provides the perfect home for slugs and snails.
5. Slugwatch before bed time.
Oh yes, slugs and snails. Make sure you do a late night check for these horrible slimy critters. I didn’t one evening and lost a number of precious seedlings.
6. Water in the evening.
Just like an outdoor bed, watering in the evening is much better than during the day as the water doesn’t evaporate away. This is especially so in a greenhouse, where the heat is much more intense.
7. Cover plants with fleece during cold nights
This will keep the temperature 2 or so degrees higher than it would otherwise be, protecting seedlings and sowings from the perils of frost. Bubble wrap makes a cheap or free alternative.
8. Grow something that you could only try with a greenhouse
The most exciting thing about greenhouse growing is the unlimited options that come with it. You can try all manner of tropical plants and odd, heat loving veg.
Trying to grow something that you wouldn’t normally be able to is exhilarating and adds lots more interest to your crop. I’m trying melons, aubergines and a few fancy chillis, none of which I’ve been in a position to grow before. A homegrown melon, imagine that!
Like I say, these tips are a result of trial and error, so by no means from an expert. They’re working for me though, and I hope they’re useful for you too.