When you are buying a house, having a greenhouse is unlikely to be one of your top priorities. However, if you have just moved into a new property and inadvertently inherited a greenhouse during the process, you might be wondering what you should do with it. Of course, you could simply get rid of the greenhouse or look to sell it. Alternatively, you could seek to utilise it as much as possible, and grow your own plants. Searching online, naturally, brings up a selection of results. For example, click on https://steamcommunity.com/app/413150/discussions/0/405694115196704849/ to read one of the multiple discussion threads.
If you decide that you are going to grow plants, here are a few general tips and factors that you should consider:
General equipment. Ensure that you analyse the full range of equipment that you will need, to get your greenhouse project off the ground (or simply ask the previous owner of the house?!) Keeping a greenhouse is not always cheap, you need to be aware of expenses such as soil, containers, fertilisers and water – and this is before you’ve even got to the plants! Once you have got the plants, other expenses need also be considered.
- Sources of light : During the spring and summer, your plants may well receive enough light to help them to prosper. However, one of the main advantages about owning a greenhouse is that you can grow plants all year round. In the autumn and winter months, you need to create the conditions to make them flourish, yourself. Fluorescent lamp strips and LED grow lights are particularly effective if you have a large greenhouse. If your greenhouse is smaller, a fluorescent strip located about 3.7 inches above the plant is suitable.
- Source of heat : You guessed it! Of course plants need heat as well as light, and in order to keep them alive during those cold winter months, you need to check that the temperature within their environment is satisfactory. You could choose to use an electric heater, a gas heater or, if you are more energy conscious, use a ventilation system via your house which cleverly recycles some of the unwanted energy from your household, for use in your greenhouse. Furthermore, rocks and other heat-absorbent materials can also be used to provide extra heat in your greenhouse.
- Even in the UK, conditions can get too hot for the plants so you will need to consider ways in which their environment can be cooled. It can actually be more problematic trying to cool the atmosphere than it is to heat them! The best advice we can give you, is to regularly check the temperature in the greenhouse, and use evaporative air coolers if necessary.
- Going hand in hand with cooling, the ventilation of your greenhouse air needs to be satisfactory all year round. This means that during the summer months, you will need to keep the roof and wall vents open. During the winter, it is important to keep an eye on how you water your plants; don’t over-water the soil and keep an oscillating fan running.
Watering plants : The best rule when it comes to keeping plants sufficiently watered, is not to keep to a schedule. This might be against every rule you have ever learned, and can also be fairly frustrating if you are a really well-organised person, but by sticking to the same routine, you are naively ignoring a range of factors. How much water your plants need will depend on the temperature, the humidity and the stage at which your plants are growing. In order to judge the amount of water required, you can measure the soil’s moisture with a specific metre, or simply by the sight and feel of the soil.
Now that you know the ground rules (pardon the pun), you can start to make decisions as to what you want to grow in your greenhouse. One of our favourites is the chilli plant, so we thought it would be helpful to provide some steps on how to grow chillis.
Chillies benefit and grow best during a long, hot growing season so if you want to grow chillies in the UK, you are better off doing so in a greenhouse (for obvious reasons!) The best time to start sowing your chillies, is in February time. Try to look to grow them in a temperature of between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.
- Begin by sowing your seeds individually in small (2.5 cm) pots which are covered with a little perlite. Water the seeds very gently.
- When your seedling has grown some small leaves, the plant is ready to be trans-planted into a slightly bigger pot (7.5 to 10 cms) which has been readily filled with multi-purpose compost.
- Water at a warm temperature to begin with, to avoid startling the seeds. As time goes on, you can reduce the temperature gradually until you reach around 15 degrees.
- After about a week, check the bottom of the pots to see if more roots have grown.
- Support the plant with 2-3 short canes in the pot: as they get bigger they are likely to wilt and will need some help retaining their strength.
- When the main stem reaches around 30 – 40 cm in height, carefully ‘pinch’ it out of its pot as this then encourages side shoots.
- When the flowers appear (about 5 or 6 weeks later), you can give the plant its first feed. We recommend doing so with a fertiliser, and when you feed the plant after this (every 2 weeks) you are then best off using a tomato feed.
- When your plant has matured and coloured, carefully snip it off and leave the immature fruits in the pot where they are, so that they can develop.
- If you are troubled by whitefly, yellow sticky cards or spray (if particularly serious) can help fend them off.
We hope that, having inherited a greenhouse, you are able to utilise it effectively and that you enjoy becoming a passionate gardener