The Palm House at Kew Gardens
There are several uses for a greenhouse. It can be used to display plants, but generally
it is used to grow plants for use in the garden. A benefit to using a greenhouse is that you can plant seeds earlier than you would outside, and therefore bring on flowers
that much earlier.
Growing your plants from seeds is also the cheapest, and probably the method that gives the most satisfaction. However, if this route is too labour intensive, then during February and March, your garden centre is also likely to have germinated seeds which will give you a head-start.
What you grow in a greenhouse depends very much on choice, and more importantly, what kind, if any, heating you have and what it is. If you can achieve high temperatures, you can grow tropical plants, such as orchids and begonias.
In a frost-free greenhouse try plants such as cacti and alpines. For those really cold days and nights, the easiest method of heating is
to use an electric heater with a thermostat control which only comes on when the weather gets too cold. If your greenhouse has no electricity you can use a paraffin heater, but then you would need to remember to turn it off when it is not required. Even without heating, seeds will grow faster in this type of environment as it will always be one or two degrees warmer than outside. Another benefit is that while it is usual to grow plants to bed out in the summer, with a greenhouse you can also sow seeds in June which should then be ready to plant out in September.
The biggest problem with a greenhouse, unless tropical, is keeping it cool in summer as, with glass, it can get very hot. The plants will then need to be shaded with netting or horticultural fleece, available from garden centres, and will require lots of ventilation. This can be done by leaving the door open, but can also be achieved by having automatic vents.
Watering a lot is essential, every day. Germination for annuals takes a week or
two depending on what you are growing.
Growing seeds in a greenhouse also means that you have them concentrated
in one area, which makes it easier to look after before planting them out. One of the most important things to remember when your plants have come into bloom and you wish to plant them out, is the difference
in temperature. The plants need to become accustomed to their cooler surroundings.
For about two weeks harden them off. This means taking them outside in whatever they are growing in, trays or pots, and bringing them in at night until they get
used to the outside temperatures. One of
the biggest hurdles of having a greenhouse
is the warmth which encourages pests such as greenfly, red spider mites and white fly. However, if you stock up on biological control, a natural predator for pests rather than spraying chemicals, and use it as soon
as the weather warms up or immediately
you see any greenfly, you will hopefully keep them under control.
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