Don’t throw stones (or having a greenhouse)

This year I have gained a greenhouse. Free for collection including metal staging and pots and potting tables, it was in good condition, we dismantled and moved it in October/November last year. I spent a day cleaning the framework and the glass with a friend. We decided it was worth getting a professional to re-erect it rather than spending 3 days arguing over it! It was up in about 5 hours for a reasonable price. Well worth it!

It’s not the first time I’ve had a greenhouse. The last one was some time ago and came with the house. I remember having success with the tomatoes but don’t remember much else apart from needing to clean it and having to open the door each day to ventilate it. A greenhouse will require some extra time commitments!

This time my desire was to have somewhere to sow and grow on, with tender plants remaining in there for the rest of the summer. I was hoping to minimise the trays of seed festooning the window ledge in my home office and spilling over into the guest bedroom. 

Siting the greenhouse was a thing of deliberation. In the end we removed the shed and put it on existing hardstanding. It is lightly shaded by a tall ceanothus which protects it from the full heat of the summer sun. It does get some early morning and late afternoon sun. It may not be the most optimum site but whether this will prove a problem may well depend as much on the variability of the British weather.

I have been frustrated in the past trying to grow aubergines and peppers outside in my garden in North Wales. Sometimes tomatoes do really well but I am often left with a lot of green ones and really we can’t get through that much chutney! So, one of my priorities was to make room for them undercover.

Most of the tender plants needed starting off indoors for the warmth and this year I ensured that I sowed the seed early enough for aubergine, which likes a long light growing period. 

I currently have growing two types of chilli pepper, sweet peppers, aubergines, cape gooseberries, a melon and some basil in pots. I have used grow bags for the tomatoes and a courgette. Some of the tomatoes have not been pinched out well enough but I may just limit them and they have not been pinched out at the top.

I pinched out my aubergines and they are only just flowering - which I’m hoping won’t be too late for them to set and ripen fruit. My friend about an hour north has already got fruit setting on an outdoor aubergine in a sheltered spot. I’m jealous!

However my sweet peppers are setting fruit as are the tomatoes and I’ve already had the delight of a couple of cherry type ones. The melon is in flower and the chillies are getting there.

I am experimenting with watering. I have used trays with capillary matting to keep potted on plants moist before going outside and now using it for some of the peppers and aubergines. Most of my pots are in saucers but still dry out on the top. I bought larger depth growbags. Two of the tomatoes have tomato halos and tend not to dry out as much as those without. Before I go away for a week I need to set up a drip waterer for the peppers and aubergines as I don’t think my son will be as conscientious with ventilation or watering - my hopes are that because I’m growing chillies for him he will be. It will be somewhat of a risk to leave them unattended at the hottest point of the summer!

I have had a few learning curves in this first season. I was glad I bought a digital max/min thermometer to keep an eye on the minimum temps when I’d moved the potted up plants to the greenhouse. White fly has been a bit of a pest - not really treated it but have squashed what I can. I need to keep an eye on it but as yet it doesn’t seem to have got a hold.

Hopefully I will have a successful end to the season. Better start weighing the produce - if it survives the sampling!

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