Greenhouses - A Necessity
29th Jan 2005
Some people consider purchasing a greenhouse to be a luxury that they can well do without. Personally I couldn't manage without one and if you are going to enjoy gardening to the full, then it almost becomes a necessity. Now is therefore as good a time as any to consider purchasing one as it will give you time to have it in order and ready for Spring. Now is also a perfect time to be sorting your own greenhouse and polytunnel. It's the time of year when plants and general growth rate will be at it's lowest and allows you to really get cleaning.
It really is important before you start sowing and growing on any seedlings that they receive the maximum amount of light that they can through the panes of glass. This means giving the glass a good clean, both on the inside and outside as well as the woodwork or aluminium structure using the prescribed amount of Armillatox into a bucket of water. This will not only ensure that your glass is clean, the whole growing environment will smell clinically clean as well.
Once you have cleaned you out your greenhouse you can start sowing a few of the more hardy vegetables, an early summer cabbage is always welcomed in the kitchen together with the queen of the vegetables, cauliflower. Sow the seed thinly onto some Multi purpose compost in a shallow seed tray and cover the seed over with fine grade vermiculite. I get a far better and more even germination when I use this material rather than covering the seed with the same compost. Sit the trays in a small container of water so that they take the moisture up from the bottom by capillary action, really wetting the compost through without the risk of unsettling any of the seed. If you have a propagator, use it to get a quicker germination, otherwise place a piece of glass over the tray and cover the tray and glass with some fleece tucking it just under the seed tray. Germination will naturally be slower but the resulting plants will be that much stronger and better able to grow on inside a cold greenhouse. If frost is forecasted, place a layer of fleece over the trays, if low temperatures are forecasted for a few nights then use an additional layer as well.
We have had a rather wet Autumn and winter so far to say the least and the water level within the soil is quite high making the job of planting outside rather difficult. You can obviously get on the land using your Wellies and turn over the soil but as soon as you walk on it again, you have destroyed all your good intentions. One vegetable that I really do like to harvest as early as I can get them form the garden are Broad Beans. Pick a nice dry windy day and, along side where you intend to sow your beans, lay out a couple of planks which will let you walk on the soil without causing any damage to it"s structure. Draw out a shallow trench about 2 inches deep and a spades width using the planks edges as a straight line. The trench can be opened up using a spade or even a hoe and then scatter a small handful of a compound fertiliser such a Vitax Q4 or Fish blood and bone if you are an organic grower. An alternative would be to use Growmore which has the straight NPK ratio of 7:7:7, just the Macro nutrients whereas the compounds, suchas Vitax Q4 have the additional benefits of micro nutrients which helps the plants to glean the optimum out of the soil. Don't just scatter the beans into the trench, take a little trouble to place each bean onto the soil in a domino or staggered fashion. Allow about four inches between each bean to ensure that you get an even well grown row without any plant struggling for it"s own space. Draw the soil over the beans using a rake, holding it upright, tamp down on the soil with the back of it to consolidate the beans and the soil together. Try growing some newer varieties at this time of year, we shall soon be into March, the day will lengthen and the beans will very quickly romp away.
Cloches, Fleece and Enviromesh
Cloches are always helpful to get an early and even germination as well as offering protecting to the beans. Whilst Broad Beans are quite frost hardy, they certainly don't like the cold frosty winds and the cloche offer perfect protection against these elements. There are two other products well worth utilising as well, Fleece is one which will not only offer protection, it also assists in keeping the soil temperature warmer than the adjoining exposed patch. The other material is Enviromesh, this is a tough lightweight nylon fine mesh product that will help to prevent the winds from hammering at the foliage. I shall be using this material extensively from Spring onwards as I have made simple panels with it using roofing battens which form boxes on top of my raised carrot beds. This prevents the dreaded carrot fly from destroying my crop.