Wednesday, 13 April 2016

In the greenhouse

As you may know, I have a small greenhouse situated in the front garden of my home. It is an unheated glass house measuring about 6ft square . Marc bought it for me as a Mother's Day present several years ago. Apparently it was a complete bugger to assemble and put up. I wouldn't know about that, because while he was wrestling with it, I was in my next door neighbours garden drinking wine.

I love my greenhouse. It is one of my most favourite places to be. I have spent many pleasurable hours with seeds and soil and pots. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy popping in and our of it during the day to check on the seed trays and look for small changes within. On a cold blustery day, the air is still and warm. The smell of things growing fills my nose and I swear all that lovely oxygen being pumped out is extremely good for me.

At the moment I have an assortment of flowers and veggies growing away. I try to grow everything from seed. Partly because it is cheaper. Partly because it's easier to do it with a greenhouse. But mostly because it is one of the most rewarding pastimes I know. Last year I saved an enormous quantity of flower seeds from my own garden. I also swapped seed with my friend Sophie and my neighbour Sandra. I was sent some by lovely people, and I also knocked on doors and asked whether I could take a seed pod or two.

For example, near my sister in law's house is a gorgeous garden with an array of plants. I admired a yellow poppy in particular, and I asked the lady that lived there whether I could have a couple of poppy heads. She invited me into her garden, and we spent a lovely half hour wandering around talking about different plants. I came away with several poppy seed heads, and some cuttings too. In return I gave her some of my marigold and cosmos seeds.

I find gardeners to be the loveliest of people. They are always generous with their produce. They love talking about plants as much as I do. They swap and share information, in a very democratic way. There's none of this know it all attitude with a gardener. I have learnt so much from talking, watching and listening to gardeners like my Uncle Alan and my father in law. I really value their input and advice, and their sharing of a lifetime's experience in their own gardens. I class myself still very much the beginner, and yet I love to pass on what I have learnt too.

I almost always grow more than I need. And so I pass seedlings and young plants on to other people. It's another reward of the greenhouse, that I can share its' bounty with others. My neighbour, Sarah, will probably be the main recipient this year. I have already given her a tray of sweet peas. I had five of them after all. I don't have the space for them all, and yet I just love sowing those seeds. The joy of seeing those first leaves push their way through the soil just never diminishes. I always sow extra veggies, because they don't always germinate. This year, every courgette and every cucumber and every tomato has. And they seem to be thriving. I shall be passing some of these on to anyone fool enough to take one off of my hands.

Olly likes to sow seeds too. This year he has chosen sweetcorn, sunflowers and rocket. The sweetcorn is more or less ready to pot on. The sunflowers - giant and a late flowering bronze variety - have just pushed their first leaves through the soil. He is very excited about them, because we are going to see how high we can grow them (Jennifer, get your ruler ready!). The rocket started off in the greenhouse, but we have moved it outside today. To make room for all the potting on that I am preparing to do in the next week or so. I think it may be quite a mammoth task. But one that gives me pause to sit quietly, and let my mind wander to this and that as I absorb myself in the process.

This weekend I shall be sowing all the legumes; runner, French, mange tout and peas. These will eventually be planted outside, but they are always started off in the greenhouse. The sweet peas will be moved outside to make room for them, and to prepare them to be planted in the garden. I cannot wait to be picking those first sweetly scented bunches to put by my bedside.

I always try something new, and this year I have sowed aubergine and dahlia seeds. The aubergines have all germinated and I'm really hopeful that I will get a crop of sorts this year. I had a go at the dahlias, because my established tubers in the garden did not thrive last year. I was apprehensive, because I had heard that it could be tricky getting them to germinate. So I am super pleased that they have, and are growing away with the true leaves showing that unmistakable variegated pattern.

I've also decided to do a little experiment. I have bought a selection of seeds for my dedicated butterfly area; cuckoo flower, red campion, ox eye daisy  and so on. Some I have sowed in seed trays, to be kept in the greenhouse. Some I have sowed directly into the garden. I'm interested to know whether the greenhouse will yield a greater number of seedlings for me to pot on and pot out, or whether these hardy plants will fare just fine from being sowed direct.

Finally, to prove that not everything goes according to plan, the bottom middle picture shows two  seeds trays that should have leek and chilli pepper seedlings romping away. They didn't germinate. I've no idea why. I thought leeks were really hardy. Another life skill that the greenhouse has taught me; to be pragmatic. As my father in law always says when planting seeds "they will go one way or the other."

I guess these went the other.

C'est la vie.

Leanne xx


  1. Don't you think this all harks back to our roots literally. We are made to grow our own and survive from what we grow. We get inordinate amounts of pleasure when the harvest is good and we our responsible for the production. Life is very bland when we just pick up our veg from tesco. I hope all your plants succeed particularly Ollies sweet corn . I look forward to progress reports. B x

  2. so many lovely things! I love my greenhouse too, she's called Gertie x my leeks haven't grown and nor have my pumpkins, I may need to try again with them. I have a billion tomatoes though, I'm already wondering who I'll give them to x

  3. I love my greenhouse too, its a place to escape, potter and just be, surrounded by my jungle. Also still get such a kick out of sowing seeds and seeing them germinate both at home and at the nursery (a more industrial and slightly terrifying scale!) and mine sometimes go the other way too, have a great week x

  4. I'm a hopeless gardener, but it's one of those things I wonder if I'll try later. No space for a greenhouse until the children's trampoline goes! You must have very green fingers :) I'm very envious :)

  5. My husband got a greenhouse last year and he loves it. We've always gardened, but this makes it so much easier.

  6. What struck me about your greenhouse was the tidiness. Mine is usually a complete mess and every year I swear that I will get some gravel for the floor area but it's still lacking. I do love it though, I was trying to do some weeding last weekend, the heavens kept opening and it was quicker to just shelter in the greenhouse than struggle to take my wellies off and go indoors each time. It was so warm and cosy in there listening to the rain patter on the roof. Sadly, I didn't have a cuppa with me or I'd have been in there for hours. I look forward to seeing how your aubergines do. Happy potting on. xx

  7. A lovely post Leanne. There is something magical about pottering in a greenhouse, so much positivity. My favourite time to be in it is midsummer when the plants are growing fast & sitting amongst them xx

  8. I think I am at my most relaxed when pottering in the greenhouse. Beware, there are some cold nights forecast for the weekend, but you're probably safe enough on the coast. I shall be sowing legumes too :)

  9. I really enjoy reading about your gardening, Leanne. I think you're very good at it. I'm really just learning myself, because I didn't take much interest until we bought this house seven years ago. Then I really started to care and have been trying to improve. I love that you have a greenhouse. My grandfather had a small one that he built himself from all scraps and it was very nice. I liked playing in there while he worked. I haven't planted any annuals yet this season. I'm waiting another week or two, until I'm sure it won't be cold at night. I've ruined a lot of annuals that way. We did plant seeds and some young veggies last week, and they're doing well so far. We're doing those in containers because our attempts with them in the ground have gone very poorly in the past. It takes too much water in this dry climate. I hope you enjoy the planting season, it sounds like it must be one of your favorite times of year.

  10. Lovely post on a lovely subject. Some wild flowers require long periods in the earth of hot and cold cycles so worth holding onto any seed trays that look like they haven't germinated. I've plants in the garden that took two years xx

    1. The cuckoo flower and campion are germinating in the greenhouse already. That's surprised me, but I'm dead chuffed.
      L xx

    2. Yay! Once your cuckoo flowers are big enough you can take the basal leaf off, lay it on a pot of damp compost, put the pot in a plastic bag somewhere warm until you see lots of roots and shoots growing off it. You'll get hundreds of new plants from it. It's like alchemy :-) xx

  11. Lovely post. I am looking forward to seeing how your seedlings grow. Aubergine sounds exciting. We are growing herbs, potatoes, salady stuff and peas. The eight year old asked for cucumber so we are going to try. I love growing edibles! X

  12. Greenhouses are wonderful things aren't they. You've reminded me of the greenhouse when I was little, that warm humid air with the smell of tomato leaves. To this day one of my favourite smells. Alas no greenhouse here, so the south-facing windowsills are stuffed to bursting. I'm growing achochas this year as one of my new-to-me things. They're related to cucumbers apparently. You eat them when they're tiny. I have spare seeds if you would like them, Caro at The Urban Veg Patch sent them to me and they've germinated brilliantly. You're right that gardeners are such nice people. I love having a chat to everyone down at the allotment, and I'm always leaning on the fence with my veg-growing next-door neighbour and comparing plums etc. I leave all my extras in the "Free Stuff" place at the allotments, it's a great way to share and pick up new things. Have a good weekend Leanne. CJ xx

  13. I'd dearly love a greenhouse. I always look on enviously at those garden centre employees, potting and sowing and lost in their own little worlds. I think it's the only job I could do these days - an escape from office politics into an absorbing, repetitive, rewarding little bubble.
    An ex boyfriend of mine (we're talking teenagers here) had a rather terrifying mother, a sort of Margot Leadbetter/Barbara Woodhouse hybrid. His dad was so mild-mannered and put-upon and I remember he'd always hide out in the greenhouse to smoke his pipe and get some peace.
    I love the idea of you slugging wine next door whilst someone else put yours up. Made me laugh.
    Have a great weekend.
    S x

  14. The greenhouse is my happy place. I do agree with what you say about gardeners in general (rather like quilters I found). And I loved that tip about the cuckoo flower from Countryside Tales and will try that this year. A lovely post

  15. I bet it's lovely being tucked up in there if the weather outside is rubbish. Love the smell of greenhouses! Ours is tiny and keeps losing its roof. It's very unglamorous, gaffer taped down in places! I love the smell of tomatoes growing in it though, always reminds me of my grandad. Lots of seedlings in our house start off on the bathroom windowsill with shower caps over the trays (stolen from hotels over the years!) as it's the warmest room in the house. And I ALWAYS grow too many courgettes on our allotment! X

  16. Loved this post. I don't have a greenhouse, just a very old wooden Growhouse that is falling to pieces, so I do most of my sowing direct, which works well for me as it does away with having to drive to the garden centre to buy bags of compost. I do sow the first wave of beans and courgettes and squashes in three inch pots and use a crumbly free-draining mix of mole hills from the field and leaf mould for my growing medium. I always sow my leeks in a rough grid at the plot and they grow really well and and are ready to transplant to their final growing position whenever there is time, space and rain. There are always leftovers which carry on growing into very slender leeks for harvesting in bunches in late summer. I'm growing lots more herbs this year as I've noticed that bees love the flowers. Have a good week Leanne.

  17. What a wonderful post, I've always loved this time of year when the weather warms up a bit and I can get those first seeds in the soil. I've lost my mojo this year though, I haven't sown anything, except put some spuds in containers, I think it's with giving up the allotment. I wasn't planning on growing much actually but I really need to get back in the swing of things and get my tomatoes sown.

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  19. Greenhouses (and the scent of tomatoes) bring back such intensely happy childhood memories of spending time in my grandpa's greenhouse. I love how much you appreciate yours. Your enthusiasm for gardening is infections Leanne. Xx

  20. You have articulated exactly what it's like to visit seedlings in the greenhouse and the immense joy that gardening also gives me. Brilliant. Thank you xx