As you get more into gardening you may start daydreaming about a greenhouse to maximise your horticultural potential, but will this be a sound investment or a white elephant?
Perhaps a greenhouse isn’t what you need, and a sunny porch, cold frame or a full blown orangerie is the structure that will make your garden dreams come true.
I think you need to be quite clear from the outset about what you want to achieve. Do you want to grow early veg, over-winter tender perennials, bring on half-hardy annuals or simply have a sunny bolthole to escape to with a cuppa when the bitter east wind blows.
I would like to start by flying the flag for polytunnels. Now my two sisters like to look down their noses at the utilarian appearance of our choice of growing environment but handsome is as handsome does and I don’t see them turning those same noses up when we serve them fresh radish in April and new potatoes in May.
The joy of a polytunnel is that you have proper earth to play with and can effectively fit a whole veg patch in there, but be harvesting the produce a good month earlier.
True, you cannot control the environment in a particularly sophisticated way; the area involved is too big to heat, and ventilation generally consists of propping the door open, but as the plants have their feet properly in the ground they have more tolerance of cold and drought and can put up with bit more neglect than their cosseted greenhouse cousins.
The amount of plastic involved in their covers is, however, a problem nowadays, to which I don’t yet have an answer that satisfies my conscience, or I suspect Greta Thunberg’s.
Have you also noticed that Laura doesn’t provide you with a proper picture of her unlovely polytunnel? I’ll grant that the produce it yields is spectacular, but blimey, it definitely fell off the top of the ugly tree and hit all the branches coming down. Let us not forget that she has a gorgeous conservatory for all her ‘entertaining amongst plants’ (I refer you to our feature picture this week) and can keep her big ol’ plastic tube out of the public eye.
Wouldn’t you much rather have a covered area to grow plants in that actually looks good in the garden? My birthday present last year was a glamorous large greenhouse, in the shape of a little orangerie, and this is the first year that I’m trying to grow things in it.
I did have a small greenhouse a long time ago. Last seen cartwheeling across the lawn in the 1987 hurricane, but I had actually forgotten the amount of technical equipment and expertise needed to manage a greenhouse efficiently. I and my long-suffering husband are at the moment very engaged in such conundrums as capillary matting, water butts, how to put up shading without it looking like granny’s net curtains, and how to arrange a watering system that doesn’t drench the chair, the potting bench and the tool rack as well as the greenhouse border.
But it’s fun and I’m excited about it! Rather than heat the whole thing in winter, I’m planning to have just a heated propagator at least at first. And nothing too fancy in the pots and borders for my first year – tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, salads, some heat-loving ornamentals……..gonna take it slow until I’m ready to graduate on to the exotic stuff like Plumbago or Hoya …or bananas. I recall that I achieved some rather delicious white peaches in that long-gone greenhouse…….
Now I know that Caroline has a greenhouse or two, but I believe that she’s planning more of a summerhouse-cum-rumpus-room next. Heaven knows if plants will be allowed a look in.
Yes the kitchen in our new house in the Scottish Highlands will extend into a glasshouse (Hartleys Botanic) which I plan to look rather more like Singapore’s famous Raffles Hotel, (ideally complete with an eager-to-please young butler) than Laura’s vegetable-packed plastic tube. I’m thinking palms, orchids, the scent of freesias, and a grapevine meandering overhead.
I know my plans fall short of Growbags’ horticultural ideals (Laura keeps asking me if I’ve allowed for ‘planting holes’ in the glasshouse floor – duh! the drinks trolley could get stuck in these!) but as usual I have more useful tips on this topic than either of my sisters…..
- Yes, if you live in the UK, definitely get a greenhouse. It’s a plant and human refuge. Porches or sunny windowsills just can’t compete.
- You’ll need much more shelving and bench space than you thought – so don’t worry if you only have room for a lean-to greenhouse on a gable end wall, that solid horizontal elevation can be jolly useful.
- Be quite strict with moving things OUT of your greenhouse. If you’re not, it can quickly get cluttered with empty pots, bags of compost and old favourites you can’t bear to admit are technically dead. Keep that precious sunny space for your spoiled plants, easy chairs and, dare I say, a small fridge for mixers.
- NB You’ll need to dig deep to invest in Louise’s Great Plant this Month – but worth it she says!