This week (20th March) the lengthening of daylight hours has become apparent and we are attracted outdoors by the warmth of the bright sunshine. The clocks have changed and we begin the growing season by organising our venerable old greenhouse. It is looking so lovely with the Magnolia Stellata flowers dancing in the sunshine alongside its rickety panes.
This heirloom greenhouse was erected in 1966 and it's survival is a testament to careful maintenance and the properties of cedar wood. It is a good roomy greenhouse, 22 feet long, with plenty of roof windows and a door at each end. These are so useful for access and air circulation. Ventilation is very important to greenhouse plants because although the protective environment encourages plant development, it also protects pests and diseases which can readily flourish. Lying awake at night and wondering if the windows are closed is a familiar spring occurrence.
One important aspect of organising the greenhouse in the spring is making room for seedlings by moving out mature plants that require time to adjust to the low temperatures at night. Over the winter we have kept the temperature above freezing with a minimum of heating and bubble wrap insulation. Our mature plants are not hardy and will benefit from a few days of protection at night. A new development has been to use the old rabbit run and the plastic wrapping from our new double bed to make a temporary cold frame. It seems to be a triumph of design, no glass panes to break and the interior is warmed a little by the heat of the house wall. All for less than a fiver, as good old Geoff Hamilton used to say!
Inside the greenhouse a first sowing of sweet peas failed to germinate because they were soaked before planting. Happily, the second batch which was planted dry is growing away well. The onion seeds were planted on Boxing Day; at last these seedlings have been pricked out, a boring task made easier by listing to Gardeners Question Time. Finally all the old boxes of seeds have been brought out for sorting. Timing is so important because seedlings planted too early can be overtaken by younger specimens but a well tended batch can result in the enjoyment earlier produce such as the 'first tomato'.
Decisions will have to be made with consideration of this year's water shortage although our interconnected water butts will minimise the mains water needed to water greenhouse plants if we get regular rain during the summer.