Save Money with Greenhouse Gardening
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No food plant which can be grown in a greenhouse is more downright useful and profitable than the tomato, which will continue to yield pickings over several months, the actual length of time depending on how soon the plants are started, which in turn depends on the amount of heat which can be made available, remembering that it costs more to heat a greenhouse in March than in April and more still in February.
Seed has really to be sown during February for a worthwhile crop, but it is possible to buy plants at the end of March for a greenhouse which is lightly heated and at the end of April for one which is not heated at all but which is religiously closed down late in the afternoon in order to trap the heat which has accumulated there during the day.
While tomato plants can be grown direct in the soil in the greenhouse, since this is one which is heir to more troubles than any other greenhouse plant, despite its commonness, it is better to grow them in large pots filled with the peat-based compost stood either on a gravel base or on a sheet of black polythene laid over the ground.
For the sake of allowing the plants the maximum height so that they can go on growing and producing more trusses of the flowers that will be followed by the fruits, it is best to stand the pots at ground level rather than, on a bench.
Always allow tomato plants plenty of air in order to help keep down disease, but try to protect them fromand sharp changes of temperature.
Lettuce is the next most useful salad crop to grow in a greenhouse. By sowing direct into the ground during February, even if the house is not heated, you can have your own lettuces ready to cut during April. If during this time you bring along some seedlings and plant them out of doors during March or early April this will continue the succession and give you a head start for the main outdoor crops. In August or September more sowing can be done in a box in the greenhouse, and if the seedlings from this are planted out in the soil after the tomato plants have been cleared away these will mature very early in the year under the stimulus of lengthening days.
Likewise, carrots can be cropped early from sowings made direct into the ground in February and March.
The two main fruit crops which are easy to raise in a greenhouse, heated or not, are strawberries and rhubarb.
The strawberry plants are planted in 6in. pots during the summer, kept out of doors until. February (if the house is heated) or March (if not) and brought in then. They will then grow swiftly and produce crops four to six weeks in advance of those grown out of doors and will not be at risk from birds and bad weather.
Clumps of rhubarb are put in boxes of compost in February and these are placed under the bench, from which black polythene is then draped. In the darkness within, the rhubarb leaf stalks will grow out and as they will lack their characteristic strong colouring they will be mild in flavour and sweet.
Among the hobby flowers which people take special pride in growing, chrysanthemums are pre-eminent. The late flowering kinds which come into bloom under glass for the sake of protecting them against the November and December weather spend only part of their lives in the greenhouse.
You start with young plants bought from specialist growers in April, give them individual pots of successively larger sizes until the 10in. size is reached. Then during May they are stood out of doors and watered regularly. During June the main buds are removed to encourage the plants to branch. Then, some weeks later, these branches are deprived of the side buds, a process which encourages them to produce fine flowers, one to a stem. In October the plants, still in their big pots, are returned to the greenhouse, which must be kept specially well ventilated, to bear their flowers.
When they are over the roots are put into boxes and left almost dry till February, when, by watering and spraying, they are encouraged to produce new young shoots. These are taken off with a sharp knife at a point where they will have a sliver of old wood and set in small pots of compost as “cuttings”, when they will become new plants to start the cycle all over again. The shoots root quickest and most surely if they are set up in a small electric propagator, just as germinating seeds.
Dahlias are grown in broadly the same way, except that the plants are put out in the ground when they are bought in May or early June. The tubers are kept under the greenhouse staging after they have been dug up in the autumn, prodded into growth in March and the shoots taken off as cuttings and rooted to form new plants for the succession by the same process.
A use of the greenhouse for hobby plants, which finds special favour with the retired, is as an “alpine house”. No artificial heat is employed and the house is kept specially well ventilated. Alpine plants of a wide variety can be grown in shallow pots, and in quite a small greenhouse it is possible to form a large collection which will flower successively through much of the year, the season beginning in January with the dwarf bulbs and coming to a close at the other end of the year with the miniature hardy cyclamen which flower in the winter.