Guide to Easy Greenhouse Gardening
Put up a greenhouse in your garden and a whole new world of horticultural interest and delight, even profit, will lie open to you.
In the first place you will no longer have to do your gardening by kind permission of the weather. Whatever it does outside, it will always be snug and comfortable in the greenhouse — for you to work, as well as for your plants to live there.
You will be able to raise all your summer-flowering bedding plants at home yourself, instead of having to buy them and take whatever kinds and colours you can get. Raising your own means that you can work out your colour schemes in advance and use a far, far wider range of plants than you can ever buy.
Also, you will be able to bring along from seed at ridiculously low cost, pot plants for the home and to give to your friends, even to offer local charities to sell to help swell their funds.
If your interest lies in vegetables, in the greenhouse it will be possible to produce early, out of season salad crops, and to raise the young plants of other vegetables that will lengthen the outdoor cropping season. You will be able to grow strawberries in pots that will suffer from neither slugs nor birds, nor late frosts either.
Your house plants will be much happier for spending part of their lives in the greenhouse instead of dragging out a permanent existence on the windowsills, where they eventually give up. Instead, in the greenhouse they will have that lushness and lustre that you find in house plants let out to shops on hire and which owe it to only a temporary life in the dim light of a room.
If you are something of a sportsman gardener you will be able to grow fine chrysanthemums of prize winning quality in the greenhouse, or bring up the latest in dahlia varieties. And if you have a fancier’s outlook on gardening you will be able to grow orchids, or cacti, or bizarre kinds of carnation.
Above all, though, a greenhouse will offer you the incomparable delight of just growing things from seed and from cuttings, aspects of gardening that never lose their fascination for even the most seasoned gardener of the longest experience.
A lot of work involved?
That depends on how you manage it all. You can get equipment for greenhouses nowadays that will do it all for you. Just switch on and the whole place runs itself. On the other hand, if you actually like the work of gardening, as most gardeners do — you’ll enjoy all these jobs of tending and fussing that go with looking after plants – you need never be without something to do out there in the garden, whatever the day, whatever the season of the year.
Where to position it?
The first thing to consider is just where to put the greenhouse in your garden. To get the fullest value from it the structure must stand fully exposed to all the light going. The ideal can seldom be realised in a small garden, but try to find a place where the shadows strike across it least often, especially during the winter months, when the sun never rises very high and the days are short. Most plants, but especially seedlings, need the light if they are to grow strongly and healthily.
In practical terms, for most people this means putting it way down the end of the garden. But at this point another factor has to be taken into account. If the greenhouse is to be taken full advantage of and used throughout the year, you don’t want always to have to go that far every time you want to adjust the ventilators, or water some plants, or just see how everything is getting on.
Moreover, if the greenhouse is to be heated byor , both very practical means these days, laying on the services can be quite expensive and involve excavations. So it is sometimes better to sacrifice a little light and site the greenhouse near the house itself, which can compensate also by offering a little shelter and thus lower fuel bills.
Of course, the land must be made level and firm before laying any foundations. The actual base can be of timber or concrete blocks, but it is worth going to the trouble of laying these on a concrete base to give stability.
Another important point is to “allow easy access. Management of a greenhouse involves carrying pots and wheeling about bags of fertiliser, while the plants themselves that have to be taken to and fro can be brittle and easily damaged.
What type of greenhouse?
The advantage of the aluminium type of greenhouse, is that the spars combine strength with a slender profile that lets in every possible bit of light. They are easily fitted together with no more than the bolts and a spanner. Though light, the design makes certain that it is very strong.
Glazing calls for no puttying since the glass slips into the rebates and is held firm with spring clips.
When you buy a greenhouse it is essential to make sure that it has ample ventilators that open. The smaller the house, curiously, the more important this is. The delicate leaves of seedlings can only too readily scorch under hot sun, and in summer the problem is not how to keep the greenhouse warm but cool enough for the well-being of its plants. A greenhouse which has side as well as top ventilators will greatly improve the air flow when it is most needed. The louvre type on the sides are specially easy to manipulate.
What about heating ?
As for the temperatures to which a green-house needs to be heated in order to grow plants at a time when out of doors they would be dormant, if they lasted there at all, the key figure is 48 degrees F (9°C). At this temperature plants will just grow. Below it they will remain in a condition of suspended animation. Though in theory such plants as bedding geraniums can be kept through the winter in an atmosphere where the temperature sometimes falls to just above freezing (32°F, 0-0°C) they are not happy then and are inclined to “damp off,” as gardeners say.
Seeds will not germinate satisfactorily in a temperature as low as 48°F, and need higher levels than this, up to around 60°F in general. But this is easily achieved by using in the greenhouse a small electric propagating case in which the pots or boxes of sown seeds can be kept until the seedlings are 1/2in. or so high.
Then they can be removed to the lower temperature. Of course, if the house can be kept above the 48°F level the young plants will grow faster.
Many types of electric heaters are on the market, ranging from tubular units to fan heaters. Natural gas can be used cheaply in another type, which can also be fitted up to use Calor gas, though this proves the most expensive of all methods. Paraffin lamps can be burned, but then ventilation has to be very carefully watched as moisture is created in the process of burning. However, many amateur gardeners use paraffin very satisfactorily.