This Morning: James Martin shows inside his greenhouse
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When it comes to growing your own ornamentals and veggies or safeguarding your plants from the extreme weather conditions over the winter, a greenhouse can be a game-changer for the gardener. Even coldframes, lean-to greenhouses and cloches will help speed up seed growth, protect young plants from frost, rain, snow, birds and mammals and help extend the life of your plants.
There are, however, a few tips and tricks you need to know to get the best from your greenhouse.
Ensure you keep your greenhouse free of nasty pathogens, diseases and unwanted animals by thoroughly cleaning your greenhouse twice a year.
Do it once in the spring and again in the autumn with hot water and a little detergent or washing-up liquid.
I know it’s tempting but don’t cram too many plants into your greenhouse.
Ensure you keep space around each plant, especially when they are young. Plants need good air circulation and light.
Plants in pots, trays, seed trays, grow bags and hanging baskets can dry out very quickly behind glass or polycarbonate, so ensure you keep on top of watering.
Installing a simple drip irrigation or sprinkler watering system on a timer will help in the long run, and be more cost effective and sustainable, especially if you go away for a few days or on holiday.
There are also systems available that use a container that you fill with water, either collected in a waterbutt or filled from the tap, and a mini pump which turns on and off at pre-set intervals to feed the tubes and the sprinkler heads. There are also solar-powered options.
Greenhouses heat up very quickly so make sure you ventilate your greenhouse, especially on hot spring or summer days.
If you have vents in the roof then perhaps consider adding automatic vent openers, otherwise just open the door wide.
In spring, frosts can still be around so before it gets dark or before the outside temperature drops shut the door, window and vents to protect your plants inside your greenhouse.
To stop birds flying into your greenhouse, particularly when doors are open, think about adding a mesh door screen. Versions with magnets down the middle make it easy for you to go in and out, while still stopping any nosey birds, unwanted wild rabbits or deer.
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To increase humidity either fill a watering can with water or attach a hose to an outside tap and wet the floor of your greenhouse early in the morning.
Paving slabs are essential either down the middle (if growing in the ground either side) or across the entire floor (if growing everything in pots or grow bags).
Avoid wetting the open-ground soil, unless for watering. As the temperature increases, the water will evaporate from the paving and increase the humidity.
Aphids, flies, mosquitos, red-spider mite and more can be a nuisance in the greenhouse, so hang sticky yellow fly traps from the roof and under staging. Alternatively, introduce biological control insects to keep on top of pests.
Greenhouse staging can be expensive, especially if built in, so pop along to a garden centre or DIY store with measurements of the greenhouse and pick up metal or plastic shelving/staging.
Alternatively, find a standard metal or plastic table. Once you have them set at the right height you can add levels by using bricks for the piers and metal racks from ovens for the staging.
Slugs love greenhouses. Make it a habit to check around and under all pots, shelving and staging at least once every day.
If siting your greenhouse on hard-standing, such as a poured concrete area or paving slabs you’ll need to attach your greenhouse to the foundation securely.
Location is key. Put it in an area of the garden or allotment where it gets at least 8 hours of sunshine.
If your greenhouse does not get eight hours of sunlight a day, then add some lights. Day-light lamps and grow lamps work best.
Also, think about adding a fluorescent light or LED lamps – these will help greatly, especially if you are working in the greenhouse when it’s dark outside.
It can be difficult to control the temperature in your greenhouse, especially with the UK’s varied temperature, so add a heater, especially for over the winter months.
There is electric, gas and oil heaters to choose from.
Electric heaters with fans are a great idea as they can be hung from the roof and will also help circulate the air.
To help with watering add capillary matting to shelving and staging and place your pots and seed trays directly onto it.
The plant will therefore take up the water through the soil and its roots, taking only what it needs.
Follow these tips and tricks and your plants will love you for it and you’ll be outside more than ever.
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