The Greenhouse Year – January

Having un-surpressed (is that a word?) my passion for propagation I think my greenhouse will be in even more use than normal in this coming year so I thought I would show you what is happening in it on a monthly basis.

Stupidly when I took these photos last weekend I didn’t take one of the exterior so you could see it in situ and it is dark when I go to and from work so I will have to try to describe it to you.  My greenhouse is probably the smallest you can get and stand in comfortably.  Its 6ft wide by 4ft deep, made of aluminium and I have had it about 5 years.  Being small it doesn’t have any vents which is annoying but on the plus side it is situated on the patio a step from the kitchen door as this is one of the few flat places in the garden.   Whilst I covert an old-fashioned part brick greenhouse with fancy twiddly bits, vents and lots more space I have had to settle for what space and the budget would allow – after all I had been waiting 10 years already.

Being me I did a lot of research before I got my greenhouse about how to get the most from it.  I didn’t want it to be one of those greenhouses that was only used for tomatoes in the summer and to overwinter a few tenders in the winter and ending up with loads of rubbish dumped in it.  Having waited so long I was determined to maximise the potential and to indulge my passion for growing plants from seed.  I started off with a bench on one side and space on the other for tomato plants. However after a couple of years I concluded that I needed more bench space and decided to sacrifice the space for tomatoes which was only used for 3-4 months a year.

So my 2009 Christmas presents were another rack and a potting bench.  I have one bench which has two layers of slatted shelves and one bench which has two shelves with gravel trays.  I am really pleased I went for the gravel trays as they have proved to be excellent for propagation.  The gravel retains the moisture and helps prevent the seed trays etc drying out too quickly.  They also help to keep the humidity levels up. Plus when I want to grow tomato plants I can remove the gravel trays and use the shelf framework to support the tomato plants.  I have also invested in a heated propagating tray which fits in one of the gravel trays and again this has proved to be a good investment and improved germination rates of tender plants.

The potting bench fits neatly in the gap between the two racking units leaving me just enough to stand and work.  I also found the potting bench better than the racks as it is higher and I was getting terrible back ache from bending over a low unit pricking out.

At this time of the year, as you can see, the greenhouse is pretty full of various plants overwintering.  However I have more or less cleared the gravel trays and prepared them ready for the seed sowing extravaganza to start.  There are already a couple of seed trays and these are hardy annuals which I wanted to get going ahead of other seeds in an attempt to manage space.  With a small greenhouse like mine the most important thing is space management and planning; luckily I seem to have a mind which works well in this regard although there are times when I can’t actually get in the greenhouse without first removing plants.

At the moment the floor  is full but that’s because I keep watering cans in there so the water warms up before I use it. I also have a  small electric heater which is on a thermostat – with the greenhouse being so close to the house it was easy to run power out to it which is a real boon.  I am now considering getting some battery operated lights to put in it so I can work further into the evening.  I keep the greenhouse frost-free during the winter and it seems to work for the sort of plants I over winter.

I anticipate that this coming year will see  the greenhouse being used to its maximum as I have lots of seeds on order both vegetable and ornamental.  But it is the perennial ornamentals I will really be concentrating on with a view to my plans to  sell plants in the future.  I have even, in a moment of adventure, bought some seeds from South Africa some of which need smoke primers to get them to germinate which I think is quite exciting but then thats me!!

Another update will appear in February




27 Comments on “The Greenhouse Year – January

  1. fynbos is adapted to fire ;~) It is amazing to see hundreds of protea seedlings roaring up in drifts, with the first rain after a fire. What have you chosen to grow?

    • Hi EE – I have some Bird of Paradise seeds which have the smoke primer and also some aloe, geranium and some other seeds which are classed as medicinal. Will post about them soon as quite excited about the challenge

  2. Helen I didn’t realize the tight fit but oh my it is wonderful. I am resigned to the basement with grow lights and it is sufficient for now. I am also blogging about my seeds and am happy to follow along with you to see what you are growing….

    • Hi Donna – I find it fascinating that you grow things from seed in your basement. Isn’t it a problem with light? I am going to blog about the greenhouse every month so please feel free to join in:) Will be on the 20th

  3. I got a present of Agapunthus seed from South Africa…the smoke primer was included. I will plant them soon in my little propogator from Lidl.

    • HI Bridget – how exciting, I didnt realise you needed smoke primers for agapanthus too, I am going to try Bird of Paradise

  4. I spy some melianthus major plants in the first photo. I’ll bet you grew these from seed, Helen. They’re very satisfying to propagate because they are so exotic looking and are expensive to buy. Looking forward to your next post about your greenhouse.

    • Hi Janet – yes the melianthus were grown last year from seed. I desperately need to pot them up and to think about harding them off to be planted out

    • Christine – yes I thought it would be interesting to share the greenhouse with people, maybe others will join in

  5. You’ve made the most out of your limited greenhouse space with an efficient lay out. On an ideal world we could all do with bigger greenhouses but space is a premium for most of us. I’m still fingering through the Cjiltern seeds catalogue to see what we can prop in the next few months so the greenhouse will be of use in the summer.

    • Hi Mark/Gaz – I have my order of seeds from Chilterns but of course I have now spotted other things I would like to try. Maybe I should just bin the catalogue!

  6. Great post – I don’t suppose you feel like hosting a monthly meme on the subject?

    Nowhere near enough on the web about greenhouse growing – I’m a fanatic, I have two greenhouses (one frost-free and overwintering my scented-leaf pelly collection plus a few seedlings I’ve snaffled from Bicton during my RHS Level 3 course) and the other empty at the moment because it’s waiting to be moved – but next year I hope stuffed with salads all winter long.

    Then a friend of mine comes up to me the other day and says ‘when we move house, do you want our greenhouse?’

    I don’t have room for it; I shouldn’t have it; two is quite enough for one girl; but what could I say but ‘yes’ 😀

    • Hi Sally – well if I was offered a greenhouse I would say yes and I would find a way of leveling teh ground here to accommodate another one. Yes am going to post monthly on the 20th. You are welcome to join in

  7. I liked reading your plans! you made me laugh when you said you have to move something out to step in the greenhouse! I was just thinking if you wear those watering cans like shoes when you’re in! Good luck with your plans and plants!
    PS those melianthus are amazing!!!

    • Hi Alberto
      Today I nearly ended up wearing the watering cans – my own fault trying to reach something without making some space first!

  8. Wish that my greenhouse was tidy enough at present to reveal its innards ~ small can be beautiful! Another great theme for a monthly meme as Constant Gardener suggests 🙂 What is the identity of the seeds that you have you bought from South Africa which require such an exciting start to life?

    • Hi Anna – I shall be doing a monthly meme on the 20th. I have Bird of Paradise and some other seeds, will post about them soon

  9. I’ve often dreamed of having a greenhouse, but I didn’t want to get one then not use it. Congratulations on having one and utilizing it to its fullest potential! I look forward to reading your posts – maybe I will move a greenhouse from ‘wishful thinking’ to ‘really want’!

    • Hi HG – there is so much you can use a greenhouse for. Once you have one you will want a bigger one.

  10. I’m so impressed at how organised you are with your greenhouse Helen, I’ll look forward to seeing how you use it over the coming year. I’ve been using capillary matting, but was thinking about converting to gravel or sand, so interesting to read that you find it so good. I’ve been getting fed up with the way the roots stick to the matting, though of course this only happens when I fail to re pot in good time…

  11. Hi – lovely post Helen and like everyone else I’m in awe of how tidy it is! You’re so right about wanting a bigger greenhouse once you have one. We bought a polytunnel from eBay instead of a greenhouse because of cost but it’s been brilliant. Look forward to reading the updates!

  12. Great post. I find your greenhouse particularly helpful. Nice concept, Helen (I’m putting it lightly :D) your plans are commendable.I agree with you, I also think that you need an extra bench to make room for more plants.
    Good luck!

  13. Thanks for sharing your greenhouse and telling your story. I have always said you need to plan for storage and supplies in your greenhouse and you make the most of your resources.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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