The Greenhouse Review – April
Here we are and the greenhouse is just as full as last month although the occupants have changed a little. Some salvias and an agave which were being overwintered have now moved outside, although I will have to keep an eye on the temperatures. The succulents and pelargoniums have been moved around to make room for seed trays and the remaining pots of bulbs have been moved out to the cold frames or outside completely. Working in such a small space is a constant cycle of relocating plants to give those most in need the best conditions.
I have brought out a heated propagator (the long thin one) to get some seeds which need warmer temperatures going. These are all Mediterranean plants and I want to get them going asap to give them a long season of growth. The other propagator is unheated but I am using it to give some of the seeds a little bit of an edge over the normal greenhouse conditions. It seems to be working as I am starting to have to move out seeds sown only a week ago. I have sown a ludicrous amount of seeds this year especially as I was all for not bothering but it seems to be something deep in my psyche that I cannot avoid. I should say these are all ornamental plants there are no vegetables or fruit seeds.
The two small shelves that my sons bought for my birthday last year are in full use. I have to be careful though as the top one gets strong light and heat being so much closer to the roof and I am currently housing some of my smaller succulents up there. The second shelf has a mixture of cuttings which are bulking up, tender bulbs and more seeds.
This is the top level of the sand plunge whose purchase wasn’t my best decision last year. You can see how much staging space I have lost at one end. I can put some taller plants on the ground here but it is rather tight. I am thinking of putting a plank across the end of the greenhouse between the two lots of staging to give more surface area. I have got a potting bench which fits in here but it’s too low for me and gives me back ache so I use a work surface in the garage which has been put in at the right height. I could get a small bit of staging to go in this space but then again it is very helpful to have the floor space for tall plants to overwinter and I have some southern hemisphere plants which should get quite tall and need space so it’s a case of coming up with temporary solutions as and when they are required.
As you can see pricking out has already started, the tray above is full of rudbeckia seedlings. These of course add to the problem as one small seed tray quickly multiples up into larger module trays with seedlings, and then maybe pots. I am quite good at being ruthless with seedlings. I only prick out a tray of each as I know I don’t have room for 50 odd rudbeckia so I only prick out just more than I want.
I have started to move some of the seedlings out into the cold frame to free up space and to start hardening them off. These are generally hardy annuals so they should be fine with the lower temperatures. I have two cold frames. The one above used to be my mother’s and it didn’t have the middle shelf as I think it is meant to be for tomato plants. Anyway this was wasted space for me so my son has built me a 3rd shelf. Both cold frames have been full over winter with one year old perennial seedlings overwintering and pots of seeds sown last year or the year before waiting to germinate. I always leave the pots of seeds of perennials for at least a year, two if I can, as many need cold to germinate and in my experience it doesn’t matter how much time you spend putting them in the fridge and taking them out it really doesn’t work, they need a good long cold snap with low temperatures.
I have been making myself sort through the contents and bringing out the perennial seedlings to harden off completely before planting out. Some will get repotted just to bulk them up and some have already found their way to new homes with my mother and aunt. This is the part of growing plants from seed where I always fail. I am pretty good at getting plants to germinate but when it comes to pricking out and then growing on, I tend to lose my way. Plants fail due to a lack of the right conditions and then I become despondent so this year’s aim is to do better.
The second cold frame is older but of the same style. Its location by the garage is not ideal. When the sun comes out like this week the compost on the top layer has a tendency to dry out quite quickly so I need to monitor the situation closely. Then the lower shelves are very shady and seedlings don’t really benefit from the environment. Having removed all the overwintering seedlings from here I am now using the lower space for the pots of seeds from over a year ago on the off-chance that some of them decide to germinate – two pots of fritillaries decided to do just that this week. The top shelf is a real mess and is in need of sorting. There are some newly sown seed trays but the majority of the rest are pots of bulb seedlings. The yellow labels indicate that the seeds germinated in 2014 and so if they germinate again this year I will then pot them up into a bigger pot or prick them out.
So there is my complicated greenhouse operation early in April 2015. Sometimes I think I should just go back to tomatoes it would be so much simpler!!
For more peaks into greenhouses visit Julie at Peonies and Posies