The Greenhouse Year – February 2014


As part of January’s End of Month View post I suggested that I might do a monthly post on my greenhouse.  I don’t think greenhouses get much coverage anywhere in the media, which I think is a real pity.  The response to my suggestion implied I wasn’t alone in this feeling.  So I have decided that I shall do a monthly meme on the 20th of the month on my greenhouse.

2014_02160029So let me introduce you to the greenhouse.  It is probably the smallest freestanding greenhouse you can get – 6′ x 4′.  It’s an aluminium frame and due to its smallness has  no vents or louvres.  The greenhouse  is positioned on my patio about 3 steps from the back door and backs onto the wall that holds the garden up.  It isn’t the optimum location for a greenhouse but there are few flat areas in my garden without a lot of digging and levelling to there wasnt much choice and its location to the house means I have electricity in the greenhouse and its easy to access at all times of the year.  I am trying to remember how long I have had the greenhouse and I think its five or six years and I have never regretted the purchase, my only regret is that it isn’t bigger but there is no room for something bigger there and I have now given up the only other possible location to my son for his workshop.


My greenhouse works hard, I even did a blog post for Notcutts entitled ‘The hardest working greenhouse’.  It is in use all year round and is kept frost-free with a small electric heater.  I currently have two different types of staging – one slatted bench and one with gravel trays.  If I was starting again I think I would go for two gravel trays as to me they are so much more adaptable.  I find them hugely beneficial for keeping humidity levels up but also I find that seeds germinate well in this environment. The gravel also holds the moisture longer and helps water plants, drawing down their roots.  I also have a heated tray which fits into one of the trays to help with germination and propagation but I haven’t used it in the last year as I find it does dry out the compost very quickly.  Of course you don’t need to have gravel in the trays if you don’t want to.


One the other side of the greenhouse I have slatted staging which was the original staging and works OK.  However, I find myself frustrated as they allow water to drip down from the top layer to the one below so I don’t like placing seed trays or succulents on this layer which restricts its use a lot.  Personally, I find that the plants on the gravel tray staging do much better.


I did have a potting bench in the gap between the two sets of staging but this has moved in the last month to my new potting station in the garage.  Removing it has opened up the limited floor space meaning that I can overwinter larger tender plants here.  I was going to put some gravel tray  staging in this gap but now I am thinking a shelf or two on the back wall would be more useful and would help me retain the floor space.

I have such a range of interests in plants that need the greenhouse at some time in their life that it is hard to come up with the ultimate solution especially in such a small space.  Currently, as you can see from the photos, it is used for overwintering succulents, pelargoniums, chrysanthemums, agapanthus, and bulbines.  There are also autumn sown seedlings and a few early trays of seeds.   Over the coming months this will all change.  However, this year I will not be emptying half the greenhouse out to accommodate tomatoes or cucumbers as I have decided that this isn’t really where my heart is.


I am still working out how to accommodate my bulb collection and alpines.  I have two cold frames and have been using those for these plants and I might continue to do this. It’s all a juggling game and I need to do some more research into whether the bulbs need heat during their dormant period or not.

So welcome to my greenhouse, I hope you enjoy popping in each month for a look-see.

Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

40 thoughts on “The Greenhouse Year – February 2014”

  1. I’m so delighted that you are doing this Helen, I am hoping to learn lots about how to use a greenhouse well, though as you will see from my contribution when I get it together my greenhouse year is starting in chaos! Interesting what you say about the gravel, I use gravel trays with capillary matting, which is harder to clean but does the same job of drawing roots down.

    1. Hi Janet
      As I said to Alison I hadnt anticipated people joining in so that will be lovely.

  2. Helen I found this an interesting post and look forward to reading more, unfortunately I don’t have a greenhouse so can’t join the meme but I am looking forward to seeing just how they are used, Frances

    1. Hi Frances
      I suppose the wind can get too strong for a greenhouse where you are. It is a luxury which I am very fortunate to have and I do love it

  3. Hi Helen – interesting what you need to put in glasshouse. Agapanthus – the large blue and white ones – are on the noxious weeds list here in Auckland NZ! They grow like the billyoh and get washed down sides of roads etc. They do look nice and I had them holding up a volcanic bank but they are NOT for sale. They have spread into the lovely bush in the Waitakeres amongst lots other weeds! The small ones are still ok tho’ and are pretty. In the South Island they are not so invasive. Nice swim today at Tindalls Bay, sheltered yet just over the hill a klm away a howling NE wind! Very lucky to have choices as to which direction the wind is coming from. Has been a very windy summer since January lots of SW – cool and quite a few NE and N warm but very strong.
    Of course you know North is our sunny side!

    1. Hi Yvonne
      We do have hardy agapanthus that are OK outside over winter but also some more tender ones which need some protection. I think they come from different parts of the world

    1. Hi Marian
      I’m glad you are interested in this meme, I always enjoy reading about aspects of gardening that are unfamiliar to me

  4. Having just acquired our additional ‘half’ greenhouse I am still contemplating how best to have staging, so it was interesting to read about yours. The Golfer will make the staging to suit and I will go along the lines of gravel trays on the staging again as in the other greenhouse. I ended up just using lower staging for storage, so may have a slim higher shelf where things will still get light. Decisions….!

  5. I’m glad you’ve started up this meme, and I’ll be joining in as soon as I put something in mine that is worth taking pictures of. I’m really interested to see who else out there in Blog-land has a greenhouse too. I hope your new meme attracts lots of other bloggers. I enjoyed seeing how you use your greenhouse.

    1. Hi Alison
      I hadnt intended it as a meme but it’s nice that others like the idea, more greenhouses will be good

  6. I have an 8 x 12 size that I built and it doesn’t take long to fill one up. I think whatever size you get, it turns out to be too small. But you utilize yours to its full potential! Thanks for your post!

    1. Hi Debbie
      I’m glad you like the post and you are right whatever size you have it will be filled up

  7. There’s seems to be a lot going on in there Helen – you are certainly maximising the use of the space you have. I think that once you have a greenhouse that it’s always a slippery slope – you always want bigger and better. The gardening monthlies do tend to skate over greenhouse use but the weeklies devote more space to them. Will try to put a post together about my glass palace over the next day or so.

  8. It’s a great idea to write about using your greenhouse. There isn’t much in the way of practical day-to-day info on using a greenhouse, so it is really useful to read about how you use use yours and what the find works in etc.

    I was particularly interested to see your comments about using gravel trays in the greenhouse. In the past I’ve used capillary matting in trays, but I found they have a tendency to get mouldy, despite cleaning them often. I gather you don’t have this problem with gravel?

  9. You make such impressively good use of your greenhouse Helen, it all looks beautiful, and your decision not to boot all your plants out to grow tomatoes makes perfect sense given your interests. I will really enjoy seeing what you grow in it over the coming year. I can use my staging as gravel trays too, but have never done so, I use capillary matting in plastic trays to make it easy to move things around, and then out in to the cold frame. Bet gravel is easier to clean though! I probably get similar advantages in terms of humidity and drawing down of roots, but the pots do end up sticking to the matting, which is irritating. Maybe I should switch to gravel. Right now I have more desperate greenhouse problems! <a href=""My greenhouse post is up, thanks for starting this!

  10. Now Helen, this is an interesting post for me and I might just get out with my camera later and share what’s in mine too as I have exactly the same Greenhouse!

    It should be said from the outset your Greenhouse puts mine to shame for varied content however, that being said, you might find it interesting (as I do) to see how the exact same space is being used by another gardener.

    An odd greenhouse expose throughout the year could be fun – it might even make me use it more. Although in fairness, it does get used during the winter. I dabbled with lettuce etc last summer so perhaps this could make me raise my game!

    Interestingly enough, my dream was originally for an Alpine house as my first plant loves were alpines. I have some tufa rock that was destined for a light display that never quite happened.

    1. Hi Shirley
      Oh dear I seem to be unconsciously pricking people’s consciousness about their greenhouses!

  11. I’m going to enjoy reading this monthly meme about your greenhouse. I see it has encouraged others to write posts about their greenhouses also. It made me look at how mine has fallen apart and as its the start of a new year (albeit the middle of February) it is a good point to take control over mine again. I too am going to join in this meme, if its ok with you. Thank you for pricking my conscience and making me take stock of things.

    1. Hi Ronnie
      I think exploring your greenhouse again would be a positive thing. I find my greenhouse quite relaxing

    1. Hi Christina
      I suppose they are like mini gardens where each of our styles and interests are different.

  12. I have never understood why slatted staging has remained so popular now that glasshouses are generally glazed to the floor or tunnels are used. In the old half brick houses there was an advantage in allowing light through and helping with the air circulation, but as you have found, there are drawbacks and plants tend to thrive far better on a gravel bed where you are more able to monitor the watering. The management of plants on slatted staging is far more difficult and when you have both even more so, I would suggest investing in some plastic trays to cover the slats and make life easier.

    1. Hi Rick
      I notably agree I bought the slatted staging when I got the greenhouse as I didn’t know better but it is now a nightmare. I like your idea and I am thinking I might replace it completely next year

    1. Hi Nell Jean
      you are right I hadn’t intended it as a meme for people to join in with as it didn’t occur to me people would but it is nice that so many are enthused so you are welcome to leave a link but I am not going to do a Mr Linky or anything like that as I don’t want to feel obliged to do the post every month!

  13. This should be interesting! I always admired how so many more British gardeners had greenhouses, while the climate seems so much more benign than here in the US. If it were just the matter of buying the greenhouse I would jump right on board, but the cost to heat it is what’s so troubling…
    Your succulents have never looked neater nor better cared for!

    1. Hi Bittster
      Generally we have mildish winters here so it doesn’t cost much to keep it frost free but even when we had -18C for weeks it wasn’t too bad. Some people use bubble wrap to insulate them as well

    1. Hi Horticultural hobbit
      Nice to hear from you, conversely I would love the space for a poly tunnel

  14. My dream is to have a greenhouse but doubtful it will happen although I love this size. I never planned the garden for one so it would be a bit difficult to add it now, but you never know….looking forward to reading these posts monthly.

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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