It is Mid February and the milder weather encouraged me to focus on my greenhouse in preparation for the new year. For once I made a list of more than a dozen greenhouse related actions and as I progressed down the list more items were added. Without the list I would drift off to do other jobs with lower priority but higher instant gratification.
I started by read a couple of books on ‘cold greenhouse & conservatory’ and ‘greenhouse gardening’ and picked up some obvious and less obvious tips.
Plants need air, water, a medium to root into and sustenance. For the air part I turned the soil in the bed where I may grow direct into the soil but resolved, henceforth to provide more ventilation. A disaster struck when I left the door open and a pheasant walked in and was too thick to find its way out without my firm handed help. Jumping and flapping its wings it managed to break a pane of glass and I spent ages doing unplanned reglazing and there was no pheasant for supper.
As you may see in the before photo above I had suffered an excess of algae and moss. This was caused by lack on regular ventilation, an excess of nutrients and low levels of winter gardening. Using water from an old water barrel may not have helped. I now plan to feed little and often and to keep the soil aerated.
Planned Uses for my cold Greenhouse
Overwintering and care for delicate plants needing shielding. I had few losses except a couple of chrysanth stools and with care could have contained more items and grown early Daffodils, Vallota, & Fucshias
Just visible is some of the paving I have placed under the staging. I will use this for keeping dry goods, tools and fertilizers together and accessible.
The 4 station tomato growing box with a fertiliser sump is in place for later . I may add some ring cultured plants or, like previous years have tumbler tomatoes in pots on the bench. I had potted up some strawberry plants to try on the staging but am still thinking about that.
I have left a strip between the path and staging where I will grow lettuce and may be the odd sweetpea like the weedy example
Gizzmos for my Greenhouse
On the diagonal struts I have a collection of household pegs that I use for lots of holding purposes during the year. Currently open, half used packets are pegged closed.
As an aluminium greenhouse the frame has grooves to accept support devices to string moveable plant ties. I also wire across the length of the greenhouse at varying heights for more support or for short strings
I may move the bench below to go across the end of the greenhouse to support seed trays when the need for temporary benching arises. So the next job is to sort the items currently overwintering by the fence.
When theft and wanton damage happens you and your garden suffer so safeguard your property. You do not need to be paranoid but take appropriate care by just walking around your garden and see what you can improve in the way of prevention
Power tools and lawn mowers have a high theft value as they are easy to steal and turn into cash.
To stop opportunist thefts do not leave tools in the garden unattended or visible in open sheds or garages.
Mark your tools with your postcode and name. Keep a record on serial numbers and identifying marks.
When not in use chain them down so they are harder to take.
Secure Sheds and Outbuildings
Fit good quality, strong locks and use them not just last thing at night.
Use secure hinges on doors
Fit locks or grills on windows
Only store valuable items in the shed if it is fully secure.
A cloche is used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables from the undesirable effects of cold, wind, and predator damage.
Cloches may be just smaller poly-tunnels used to protect a small number or individual plants.
Cloches made from plastic are much lighter than glass making them easier to move around. The advantages of glass is that the temperature within a glass cloche will be slightly warmer, they are less likely to be blown around and look better.
A home made cloche can be made from a cut down plastic pop bottle.
There are attractive bell shaped cloches available and various shapes like the one above.
How to Use a Cloche
Put the cloches in place a month before sowing to help warm the soil.
Sow seeds or plant out under the cloche for protection.
Cloches can be used in September to protect late crops of Lettuce.
Consider ventilation and watering when buying a cloche. The roof of this cloche can be lifted off.
I use a cloche to keep mice away from germinating peas and beans.
A Floating Cloche can be made from sheets of polypropylene fleece which are placed over the seed bed – when the seedlings emerge, the polypropylene is light enough to float up as the plants grow. I like this method for Broad beans peas and early potatoes.
A floating cloche is cheap, easy to put in place and protects the seedlings from three or four degrees of frost. Water permeates the fleece.
Poly Tunnels are another alternative.
Poly tunnel’s supporting hoops should be no more than 2½ feet apart. If spaced further apart the plastic sheeting will droop over the crops and may damage them in rainy or snow conditions.
Make sure the height is adequate for the crops you want to protect.
Kenneth Cox at Glendoick Offers some of the best advice on rhododendron identification and recording. …..Using GPS handheld devices would allow reasonably accurate mapping to made by taking positional readings in each area of the garden and recording what is planted there. If you want you can then allow garden visitors to access these records on their own devices. There is no limit to the interactive potential if you are prepared to invest time and money…..
The three best examples of private (as opposed to botanic garden) record keeping I have seen outside the major botanic gardens are Philip de Spoelberch’s collections at Herkenrod in Belgium, Lord Howick’s collection in Northumberland and the late James Russell’s plantings at Ray Wood, Castle Howard, Yorkshire. All of these gardeners believe passionately in the value of accurate and detailed records……
Rhododendron Golden Eagle Label at YSP
To a gardener a label should be easily seen unobtrusive, legible, long lasting and easilt fixed so that it is not broken off by wind or clumsy gardener. To a plant seller the label is designed for one purpose, to relieve you of your cash.
I am still seeking the ideal label and hate those little white plastic sticks that become too brittle.
The longest lasting labels are embossed metal labels I have some thin copper labels to scratch the details into but they are hard to see. Glendoick recommend aluminium labels written on with a soft pencil tend to last well
Beware of label death, where a branch or stem is girdled metal, by the failure to loosen a label as the plant grows.
Dymo labels are surprisingly long lasting
Most botanic gardens use expensive engraved labelled on UV stabilised plastic or modified acrylic laminate.
Last autumn I realised I needed a new wheel barrow but thought I would defer the purchase until spring 2020. In February I found a galvanised builders barrow that I coveted and resolved to purchase one. At the first attempt I discovered my wives car wasn’t big enough to take it home. A bit later, low and behold, I’d missed the boat or more accurately caught the over 70’s travel restrictions and subsequent social distancing rules.
So along came the mother of all inventions (or nearly) in the form of a simple mat to cover the rusty hole. It wont last long and can’t hold heavy loads but I am making do by mending.
In addition I made a contraption that isn’t a riddle or sieve but my own sifter shown below. It is made from plastic coated chicken wire and to prevent large particles escaping I doubled it over. It is surprisingly easy to lift the detritus and put it into another compost bin.
I thought I would just list some special tactics to try increase successful sowing activities. After all ‘Tis the season for sowing summer annuals and so on’.
Pulsatilla or Pasque Flower
Special Seed Sowing
To chit, nick or sandpaper your sweet pea seeds, that is the question? I often settle for a pre-soak to get through the hard coating and swell the hard seeds. The RHS video recommends nicking with a pen knive but each to their own. I did well last back end just planting ‘cupid’ in compost without any preparation.
Seeds with a long awn such as Pasque flowers germinate better if they are individually speared into compost not sown flat. With warmth and wet the awns twist the seed deeper into the soil.
Flat seeds like lilies have a papery wing covering the fertile grain. The germination will improve if the seed is inserted edge ways and not flat.
Many seeds like to be sown as soon as they are ripe, after all that is natures way. Primula, Lewisia, Ranunculus and gentians are best sown from ‘pod to pan’.
Cyclamen seeds are covered in a sticky substance to reward ants that move them from the host plant. Germination may be better if this glue is washed off before sowing.
Pollinated Orchids can take up to a year for the ovary to swell and ripen. Then the fun starts as your harvested seed is best sent to a seed laboratory for germination and return as pricked out seedlings. It can also take a further 5 years to reach the flowering stage dependent on the variety.
Many seeds that can’t be sown immediately can be stored in a dry container in the fridge. Some benefit from a good chill as this replicates winter conditions.
I have made a list in my garden note book of what has performed successfully this summer. The multi-headed sunflowers have done exceptionally well and take up little space in proportion to the amount of flowers I obtained. I will definitely be growing them again despite trying to cut down on annuals from seed. The note book also records the failures of crops and in greater number my horticultural inadequacies. First and most distressing has been my tomato failures. Gardeners Delight and small cherry toms have produce in number but other varieties have let me down (or vice versus).
October Plans for a better 2020
Spread the rotted compost heaps to improve the soil texture and moisture retention around young shrubs, rhubarb and fruit trees.
Prune out and destroy fungally infected stems, twigs and wood as soon as leaves drop. Collect these leaves for destruction.
Label and store delicate tubers of begonia, dahlia etc.
Keep clean and tidy all around the garden, greenhouse and shed.
Keep to the plan of low, low maintenance gardening (as if).
We tend to see gardens in the round and I seldom inspect individual plants. I often think I am missing something by not paying close attention. This obviously casual approach doesn’t work for those who specialise in a species or collect special examples of plants.
Patterns and repetitions can be fascinating. Not all are immediately obvious. There is a repetition of colour in the flowers, stems and hairs on the stems of this Geranium maderensis.
Seed heads and capsules have their own shape and attraction. They also give good clues as to the species or family of the plant. You could guess this was a part of the geranium family.
Plant explorers often took magnifying glasses to get to the crux of a plant.
Insect life is not always visible to a casual observer and on the dahlia below the second fly could be missed. No big deal may be but for come the extra attention would be worthwhile.