Ten good rea­sons why I love my green­house

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Ihave a rick­ety old green­house. It is noth­ing fancy. I bought it from a neigh­bour for £100, dis­man­tled it in his garden, and then spent sev­eral months frown­ing at it as I tried to piece it back to­gether in mine. De­spite not be­ing the most deluxe of struc­tures, it is one of my favourite places to be in the garden. There are a thou­sand rea­sons why I love it, but here are the top 10.

sweet, slug-free pota­toes

The small de­gree of pro­tec­tion an un­heated green­house af­fords can have a big ef­fect on some plants. Pota­toes are a case in point: I’ve pretty much given up grow­ing them out­side af­ter such a slug and blight-rid­den year as 2012, but in a pot in the green­house they pop up early, free of slug-holes, and are par­tic­u­larly ten­der and tasty.

Straw­ber­ries in May

Straw­ber­ries like a good chill over win­ter oth­er­wise they are re­luc­tant to flower, so you wouldn’t want to leave them in the green­house all win­ter long. Move them in dur­ing Fe­bru­ary or March, how­ever, and it’s a dif­fer­ent story. Post-chill, the plants leap into life. My in­door straw­ber­ries come a month ear­lier than my out­door ones.

Blem­ish-free to­ma­toes

Who hasn’t had their heart bro­ken by to­mato blight? Blight spores travel on the wind and only to­ma­toes un­der cover had a hope of sur­viv­ing last sum­mer. The sea­son was so bedrag­gled that even some green­house toms were af­flicted, but at least they

stood a chance of es­cap­ing.

Big flow­ers in De­cem­ber

If you have a bor­der in your green­house you can flower large, floppy-headed chrysanthemums right into De­cem­ber. Mine is paved, so I grow ear­lier- flow­er­ing types at the al­lot­ment and dig them up and over­win­ter them un­der glass, which still gives me flow­ers un­til early Novem­ber. I like the sin­gle-stemmed ones above the smaller multi-headed spray types: volup­tuous old-school glam­our from your chilly win­ter green­house.

Tiny flow­ers in Fe­bru­ary

At the other end of the flower scale are the tiny spring bulbs that can be fooled into think­ing it is spring in Fe­bru­ary. Plant minia­ture daf­fodils, scilla, cro­cuses, even roots of lily of the val­ley in au­tumn, and be treated to del­i­cate blooms through late win­ter and early spring.

Year-round salad leaves

It is true that by choos­ing the right va­ri­eties you can grow salad leaves out of doors all win­ter. It is also true that those same leaves look ut­terly un­ap­peal­ing af­ter be­ing tough­ened up by cold, bat­tered by hail and splat­tered in mud by win­ter down­pours. Grow in the green­house and you still need to choose the hardi­est of let­tuces and other leaves, but they will reach the kitchen in beau­ti­ful con­di­tion: soft, mild and pock­mark-free.

A back-up plan when the dog eats your home­work

This past au­tumn there were a few wet weeks that put me off go­ing to the al­lot­ment just as I should have been plant­ing my gar­lic and broad beans. In­stead I sat in the house and watched Ice Age 3 with the kids. I missed my slot. But all is not lost, be­cause I have since been able to plant both crops into small pots and mod­ules in the green­house. Here they will hopefully catch up, and may even make bet­ter plants than they would out­doors. I’ll trans­plant them out­side in spring.

Grow aeo­ni­ums

Aeo­ni­ums are the rea­son I have a green­house at all. I would go on hol­i­day to Cornwall ev­ery sum­mer and see their beau­ti­ful plump rosettes of leaves emerg­ing from ev­ery crack in ev­ery wall and bring arm­fuls home, only to kill them off each win­ter. I soon found that I could kill them just as well with a green­house as with­out, but even just the heat from a prop­a­ga­tion mat seems to be enough to keep them alive (and all man­ner of other ten­der ex­otics, should you fancy).

An out­let for un­sea­sonal urges

We all get them. It’s noth­ing to be ashamed of. It’s late au­tumn, or per­haps very early spring, and ev­ery­thing is snooz­ing un­der a blan­ket of chilly damp. Any seed sown di­rect into the ground would rot, freeze or both in a mat­ter of hours, and yet along comes a sunny mild day, a whiff of spring, and the urge to sow be­comes ir­re­sistible. In a green­house – es­pe­cially if you have a lit­tle heated prop­a­ga­tion mat upon which to place your seed trays – there is al­most al­ways some­thing that can be sown. Peren­nial flow­ers, sweet peas, early peas, let­tuces, all can be started at odd times of year un­der the refuge of your glass roof.

A place for tea and bis­cuits in the rain

Per­haps the most im­por­tant func­tion of the green­house: when the rest of the garden is too soggy to set foot in I can take my mug of tea and spend a cou­ple of hours tidy­ing plants, sow­ing seeds, or just lis­ten­ing to the rain on the roof.

Peo­ple in glass houses: Lia en­joys early bulbs in her green­house, as well as early straw­ber­ries and an oc­ca­sional cup of tea

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