I cannot believe that I am already writing my May greenhouse review!! However hard I try to live in the moment, time just seems to fly by too quickly. May is the month I most look forward to in the year – the garden is so full of promise and the hedgerows are billowing with hawthorn blossom and cow parsley. All my favourite flowers will be making their appearance in the next couple of months and my greenhouse is moving from workhorse mode to a summer retreat.
I am pleased to say that the hectic pace of late winter/early spring in the greenhouse is now slowing down. Most of the hardy annuals have been planted out and the half hardy seeds are now small plants in the cold frames ready to be planted out on my return home (I am away on a short break in Lancashire). I still have a few more seeds to sow – I started off zinnias last week and must sow some sunflowers next week. Although I could have sown these seeds earlier, I like to have these flowers arriving in the late summer,when we return from our summer holiday, so I am in no rush to get them growing.
Once again lets grab a cup of tea (fresh moroccan mint tea is now back on the menu!) and go out to have a wander around the greenhouse – look who is waiting to welcome you this month – the greenhouse is still the place where you are most likely to find Ruby hanging out.
Opening the door this month, the greenhouse is starting to have a very different feel.
Tucked inside the door are 2 pots of hosta’s growing safely away from slug damage – these will be placed outside at the front of the house in a few weeks time. I have a collection of pots on gravel outside the front door and this is the place where the hosta’s are least likely to be found by the slugs.
Stepping inside you can see that the winter variety of sweet peas that I have been growing since last autumn are proving a great success!! Flowering started in April and the plants are producing a steady supply of beautifully scented blooms.
I use this lovely frame from Agriframes to support my sweet peas. It is just the right height to fit under the roof and means I can plant the sweet peas direct into the greenhouse bed. This frame is from their Elegance Kitchen Garden series and I also have the matching crop cages in my vegetable garden which are doing an excellent job of keeping the birds away from my newly germinating carrots, beetroots and spinach plants.
My favourite watering can is getting a lot of use now. I have a hosepipe in the greenhouse and always water my new seedlings with tap water as I have been told that it is better for them (stored rainwater can harbour disease and may cause the dreaded damping off). Mature plants in the greenhouse can be watered with the rainwater that is collected from the roof and stored in an underground tank that was installed with the greenhouse. This tank was a blessing in the drought a few years ago when hosepipes were banned and I still like to make the most of its ample supplies. The beautiful Haws watering can came from Sarah Raven and was a Christmas present from my son a few years ago.
I am so pleased with my early sweet peas that I just had to share a selection of photos taken last week. Although I cannot share the beautiful scent with you, you can see how long the stems are and the stunning clear colours – perfect for a quick bunch of flowers. Growing sweet peas in the greenhouse was an experiment this year and I am delighted with the results. I will certainly be buying these Winter Sunshine seeds again and will start them off a bit earlier this year – probably late September rather than late October. Who knows – maybe I can have sweet peas in March next year. One of the biggest advantages of having these early sweet peas is that they are not full of the pollen beetles that plague my outdoor crops every year.
As late spring moves into early summer, I am starting to change the greenhouse over from a working space into a flower filled summer retreat where I can while away a few hours gently pottering amongst the flowers. Scented leaf geraniums are a lovely addition to a summer greenhouse display and can be used to flavour drinks and cakes in the kitchen. I only have two plants at the moment, but am planning to build up my collection this summer.
I have added a few annuals to the greenhouse beds to provide some early flowers. This is orlaya, which is a stunning filler flower in bouquets similar to the wild cow parsley.
This amaryllis was a free gift from Gee Tee Bulbs that arrived with the bare rooted perennials I ordered in January (I did not keep a record of the variety). I was late starting it off so it has only just flowered, but this stunning bulb has inspired me to think about growing more of these statuesque flowers throughout next winter.
I also have a few pots of Lily of the Valley flowering in the greenhouse. Although I finally have this plant growing outside, I love being able to study it close up. Having a few flowering in pots is also great if you want to make a quick table setting using these beautiful flowers.
As an experiment I picked up a couple of Bougainvillea plants last week in the garden centre. I love to see these growing in the hot climates of Europe but have no idea how they will perform as a greenhouse plant. In the foreground you can see some white pelargoniums – the beginnings of yet another collection I fear!
In previous years I have concentrated on growing tender tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in this greenhouse, but now that I have my smaller greenhouse up and running in the vegetable garden I am planning to focus much more on making this a plant filled summer haven. I still need to bring in the seating and I can see from the photos that I really need to get the glass cleaned.
You may remember from my first post that my lovely greenhouse has an internal division. In the smaller room I have my potting bench and propagator. This area will continue to be used to sow seeds and pot on small plants throughout the season. Just last week I had a delivery of rooted chrysanthemum cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct. These were potted up and are now settling into their new environment. Later this month I will move them outside where they will stay until late October, when I will bring them back into the greenhouse for late flowers in November and December.
These are the zinnia seedlings sown last week – germination is very quick at this time of year.
You can see that the bench is full of summer bedding. These were bought as tiny plants very cheaply in the garden centre and are now ready to be moved outside to harden off and fill my pots and containers after the tulips finish flowering.
Below you can see all the little pots that I keep handy to transplant my seedlings into once they have germinated and started to develop their true leaves. I have to be honest and admit that at this busy time of year some trays get ignored and have to be planted straight out in the garden, missing this vital potting on stage – these seedlings never do as well as those that had the chance to develop their root system in the protected conditions of the cold frames.
Moving outside, I am now leaving the tops of the cold frames open at night. Only the risk of a heavy frost would tempt me to close them now. It is vital that the plants get used to outside conditions quickly so that I can move them into the cutting beds.
Finally for this month I wanted to show you how I keep the greenhouse cool in summer. These blinds are fitted to the outside of the glass, so that when they are dropped the glass never gets hot. I was dubious about this when we were buying the greenhouse and Alitex explained the difference between inside and outside blinds. They recommended the outside blinds and I am so pleased that we followed their advice. The blinds are fitted just on the south facing side of the greenhouse and kept down throughout the summer – there are opening vents on the other side of the roof which stay open and the door and windows are left open throughout the night to maintain the ventilation. I also spray the floor and benches regularly when I am watering to increase the humidity inside the greenhouse. With this regime even on the hottest summer day the greenhouse provides a pleasant shaded retreat from the heat.
There will always be jobs to do in my greenhouse – more seeds to sow (it will be the turn of the biennials next month), plants to pot up and bulbs to start off – I have a box of acidanthera waiting to be potted up for elegant cool white flowers in September – not to mention keeping on top of the watering, but at least the busiest period is over and I can take a breath and start to look forward to seeing my flowers bloom and the produce from the vegetable garden making its way to the kitchen table.
Next month as well as showing you my (hopefully) flower filled summer retreat, I will make sure to take some photos of my smaller greenhouse where bags of potatoes are coming into flower and I am ready to plant out the tomatoes and cucumbers into the newly dug greenhouse bed.
In the meantime I am looking forward to seeing what you are doing in your greenhouse this month – please do link in so that we can all have a look and be inspired by the different ways we use our protected growing spaces.