Jean Vernon explores some of the plants that are ideal for your first greenhouse
Let’s be honest, what’s the first plant that springs to mind when you think of a greenhouse? Chances are it’s tomatoes, and while they can be high maintenance there are ways to succeeding with tomatoes AND there is nothing tastier than a freshly picked tomato still warm from the summer sun.
By May your tomato plants should already be starting to set, that means tiny little tomatoes on your plants. But don’t panic. If you didn’t sow any tomato plants this season, you can still buy plants ready to grow on. That’s a good head start and although it will reduce the choice of varieties you can grow, it could offer the chance to grow grafted tomatoes that will produce an earlier crop. Buying ready to plant tomatoes, will avoid many of the difficulties associated with growing tomatoes and if you buy from a reputable source should ensure strong healthy plants too. One of the main reasons for growing greenhouse tomatoes is to avoid the dreaded tomato blight. It can still affect plants growing in a greenhouse but if you choose blight resistant varieties and are vigilant, you can delay the onset of this disease and get an earlier, blight free crop.
Once you’ve invested in your greenhouse, you want to get some of your money back. Or at least get the full value from your investment. Think of the fruit and vegetables that you buy that are costly. Choose the premium products. Organic produce demands a higher price, so why not grow your own? It’s healthier anyway and reduces the need for expensive treatments. Organic salad is a good place to start and you can choose what to grow from what you would normally buy. But what about chillies? So easy to grow and you can buy plants from nurseries and garden centres. And the closely related aubergine – buy plants and grow your own. Herbs are another great choice. Imagine adding organic basil to your tomato salad, or making an organic basil pesto from leaves picked in your glasshouse. Wow. What about fruit? You could force an earlier crop of strawberries under glass, or how about the lovely cape gooseberries – very easy to grow from seed, ideal for a greenhouse and really tasty too. High-end restaurants use them as a garnish for delectable deserts, dipping them in chocolate and using their filigree capsule as a dainty coronet.
Think about what you buy a lot of in the summer months. I love cucumbers and the organic versions and baby snack sized fruits cost a lot if you buy them weekly. You can grow your own in a greenhouse and to get a constant supply you need to sow two or three seeds every 3-4 weeks so that you have new plants taking over when the mature plants start to slow. I love the idea of a living larder, where you can simply go and pick whatever you need for supper from the greenhouse. Perfect if you’ve been out all day and haven’t shopped and of course we all need to grow a few things to eat if Brexit really does affect our food supplies.
A few exotics
Let’s face it, if you’ve got a greenhouse you are a keen gardener and the chances are that you have your eye on a few extra special plants that you’ve always wanted to grow. You might not need a greenhouse to keep them the whole year around, but it might be just the right environment to allow you to take cuttings, grow them from seed or indeed just to over winter them? Indulge your plant fantasies and buy the plants that you have set your heart on. It’s a good idea to find a specialist grower that has a similar passion for the same plants where you can learn a bit more about their needs and nurture. Look out for the NCCPG collection, or indeed a nursery that grows and sells them so that you can buy good plants from an expert grower and share in their knowledge and experience.
OK you might not be able to actually grow a chair but you really need a stool or a seat in there to rest when you get weary. Your greenhouse will quickly become your haven, your escape room, your savior for it presents a place where you can cut yourself off from day to day stresses and somewhere you can indulge your passion for gardening. Somewhere to sit with a cup of tea on a cold wet day is worth its weight in gold. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Look for a second hand chair in a junk shop or charity shop and just move it into the greenhouse to provide a place to stop awhile.
Remember that a greenhouse can be used to bring plants on early at that start of the season and also extend the growing season at the other end too. With the summer flower shows on the horizon, not to mention all the private gardens open under the NGS scheme, why not visit some gardens with greenhouses? Have a look at what other gardeners are growing, you never know, if you show some interest you might come home with a plant or two too.