Growing under Glass: Five things worth knowing before you get started May 22, 2018 20:04
Greenhouse / Glasshouse
I think there comes a point in the life of every forty something woman when you start coveting a greenhouse of your own. Maybe it isn't a female thing. Maybe it has more to do with a stage in your life. You move from Wendy House to Tree House; House Party (or, in my musical case Acid House) to First House; then the house and finally glasshouse. Next up is assisted-living house. But let's not go there just yet.
Instead, let's keep with the glasshouse and have a dream for a while.
It is the combination of light, warmth, earthy smells and gorgeous greenery that does it for me. I just love them. I fell in love the one at Down House. Parham House in Sussex has a glasshouse brimming with tropical plants and flowers that is just a treat. And if you haven't already been, the thirteen recently restored glasshouses at The Walled Nursery will literally send you over the edge. In a good way. Absolutely beautiful.
However, as I've recently discovered, the art of growing and cultivating under glass is a whole new level of horticulture that I have little experience of.
Building a glasshouse
While I've loved the idea of having my own greenhouse / glasshouse for years, it's been strictly off the cards with his nibs. "No way" I think was the phrase when I last suggested we purchase a little, bijou glasshouse.
"Not a priority. Too costly. You know who will end up having to clean it..." were just three of the so called 'reasons' behind the objection. Planning permission denied.
And then, a little twist of fate occurred. My lovely friend Emma happened to mention she was pulling down her old shed. Now, that lovely old shed was made from panes of glass from the old school boy's loo block. Emma happens to live in the same house that was previously occupied by a thrifty caretaker of said school.
And I spotted an opportunity.
Cue a quick phone call to Dad who can literally make something out of nothing.
With little more than a pallet, a lot of old wooden boards and panes, a good deal of swearing at my 'plans' and a big dose of poetic licence, my 'glasshouse' was born.
Granted, it is more of a glass cupboard than a glasshouse, but none the less, to me it is beautiful. And made by my Dad, which makes it all the more special.
Around 80cm square (I use the term 'square' loosely, as not one of the panes is the same size as another. Hence the swearing...) My gorgeous new mini glasshouse is the perfect hotspot for sun loving crops. Growing away are chillies and peppers, which have been under sown with coriander and basil.
I decided not to create shelves, but instead fill the whole of the bottom part with a heady mix of well rotted horsey poo and compost. First I lined the bottom of the glasshouse, repeating the same trick I used when making my 'mini meadows' last Spring. I added drainage holes and lots of old pots and crocks at the bottom. Then, quite a few wheelbarrows full of farmyard manure and compost.
While the glasshouse is currently home to my tender crops, I'm intending on using it as a winter home for patio plants that won't want to stay outside during the colder months.
The glasshouse has been up and running for around six weeks now. And in that time, I've learned a lot...
Five things to know about growing under glass - the story so far...
1. Things happen fast. I mean, seriously fast. Compared to normal outdoor gardening, this is extreme 'mood swing' gardening. One minute it's 40 degrees in there, next it is down to 20. In the first week or so I was up and down that garden path like a rat up a pump. Opening doors one minute. Closing windows the next.
But on the flip side, it has made me pay attention to the weather; the times of day that the glasshouse is in full sun versus full shade and what is actually happening in the real world outside my window, instead of finding out what the weather is likely to do from an app. In many ways, I feel more in touch with the garden. Hooray!
2. Glass gets grubby. Even in this short time, glass gets grubby. I'm going to investigate this further, so I can perhaps grow crops that 'clean up' after a different variety has been and gone. Just a personal view, but I'm not keen on using any substance to clean the windows that close to my crops. Good old fashioned hot water to wash down the windows is my route forward.
3. If you broadcast seeds you need a mixer. Not so much to do with the glasshouse, but more to do with my carelessness. I thought I had spread the seeds quite evenly when I sowed the basil and coriander under the pepper and chillies. What was I thinking?! It would have been much better to have mixed the seed first with sand or something to get a more even spread instead of the clumps of seedlings I have now. Because of my clumsiness, I'll end up having to thin out and lose a lot of the seed, whereas I could have sown regularly throughout the season to create a constant supply of delicious crops. Shucks.
4. Hunt down that rose for the watering can: Watering is essential if you are growing under glass. It is much better if you can use rain water and a rose for the watering can. To me, everything in the glasshouse seems so tender, more delicate compared to their hardier compadres outside of the glass walls. They don't want some big old deluge of water, but rather, a more gentle approach to 'bathing'.
5. Position carefully: You'll notice from the pictures that my glasshouse is against a fence which if you read lots of guides, is a bit of a no no when it comes to siting a greenhouse. But I'm happy with it. It is in the sunniest part of the garden. It faces West and has window panes throughout to enjoy maximum sunlight. Plus, it helps to draw the eye away from a pretty ugly fence. That'll do for me. However, we've had some really cold nights recently and the temperature in the greenhouse has plummeted, so it is wrong to assume greenhouses are hot. Once the sun goes down, the temperature drop dramatically. If you are keen on growing tropical plants, you might want to think about having a greenhouse near your house or not too far from civilisation. That way, you can hook up to the electric supply to keep everything warm and toasty.