Springtime is officially here and that means that so is my greenhouse’s busiest time. We will all be slowly but surely cramming our greenhouses to the gills with seedlings and cuttings over the next few weeks. This seems as good a time as any to have a look at the various kit and gadgets that can make a greenhouse more productive and make greater use of space – because space is always at a premium in the greenhouse in spring. So here are my top five accessories for getting the most out of your greenhouse during the coming season.
Staging and shelving
You need surfaces in the greenhouse and the more the merrier, as you will continually run out of space. The great benefit that slatted staging has over solid benches is that light and air can get through, and that means more growing space down on the ground. You can lay out all of your seed trays on these as well as using them as surfaces for carrying out practical tasks. Shelving is perhaps less crucial but adds more space. You can also use them to store important bits and bobs such as plant labels and pencils, or can make the place pretty with trailing plants.
This is one of the most useful things you can use to get your season going. The greenhouse itself is still pretty chilly at this time of year and it would be expensive and wasteful to heat the whole thing. A heated propagator keeps a gentle heat going just where it is needed: underneath germinating seedlings and rooting cuttings. You will need a power source, but they use very low levels of power and have mighty impact on seedling success. Greenhouse heaters are brilliant if you do need to heat the whole greenhouse and some are very economical, but it is best to use them along with insulation to prevent waste.
Staging is all very well, but a dedicated area for doing all of the messy business is hugely useful, otherwise you can end up endlessly sweeping up compost and hunting for labels. Keep all of these things together in a neat little potting bench specially designed for scooping, filling and generally messing about with compost. The best designs will have a ‘potting shoe’ which will help to corralle compost just where you need it.
As spring turns into summer the temperature in the greenhouse rises and you need to provide good ventilation in order to prevent your plants overheating. Most greenhouses will have a window that you can prop open, but you may not be around at the right time of day, or perhaps just don’t want to spend your day running up and down your garden and monitoring the greenhouse temperature. An automatic vent is as useful for the tricky times when it is chilly in the morning and warm at midday as it is when it is roasting hot.
And speaking of roasting hot, sometimes you just need to provide a bit of shade to stop your plants from burning to a crisp. Although we spend much of the year trying to get as much light as possible onto our plants, there are moments when it is just a bit much. You can paint over your glass with white shading paint to cut down on the heat and light, but this is far from beautiful. It is also on there long term (at least, until you wash it off) which means you cannot react to a dull day. Greenhouse blinds are the answer here. You can block out the sun on hot days and leave them up on cooler, duller ones.