Gardening tips: Prep your greenhouse for winter
AUTUMN offers a useful window of opportunity in the greenhouse to ensure you're prepared for winter. Gardening expert, author and broadcaster Matthew Biggs offers the following tips on greenhouse jobs for autumn.
:: 1) Sow while it's warm
While it is still warm and sunny, sow trays, pots or old growing bags in your greenhouse with 'cut and come again' crops which you can harvest throughout autumn and into winter.
If you are looking for inspirational species ideas, try land cress, oriental salad leaves like pak choi, mizuna and mibuna. Or stick to classic lettuce varieties, like 'Valdor', chicory and radishes. You can also add brassica crops for microgreens which you can harvest earlier.
2) Grow out-of-season flowers
Plants which are normally dormant during early autumn and winter months can be 'woken early' and will look their best several months ahead of those grown naturally outdoors.
Some, such as hyacinths, are often available as 'prepared' bulbs, which means they have been treated to simulate an artificial winter and will therefore spring into growth as soon as planted. Buy quality bulbs in autumn and plant closely in pots using peat-free potting compost and keep them in cool, deep shade under the greenhouse bench until the leaves are 5cm long.
If you have a greenhouse bed, use vacant space is to raise cut flowers. Freesias can be grown for display or cutting and flower naturally in late winter and thrive in a cool greenhouse.
:: 3) Clear up
Aim to clean the inside and outside on a warm, dry autumn day. Remove moss from overlapping panes with an old kitchen knife or plant label.
Protect/remove delicate plants before cleaning the floor of your greenhouse. Disinfect all benches, shelving and equipment.
:: 4) Check guttering
Clear leaves from gutters and down pipes. Flush debris away with a hosepipe or watering can.
:: 5) Get ready for winter
Make sure your greenhouse heater is working. There are pros and cons to insulating the greenhouse with bubble wrap in winter. If you do choose to do it, be sure to maintain a balance between the amount of light, heat conservation and ventilation.
Full insulation reduces light and increases humidity, which can cause disease problems. To minimise this, be sure to remember to cut holes for the ventilators.
If plants need more than protection from frost, wrap them individually with fleece in the greenhouse.
:: For more information visit Hartley Botanic (hartley-botanic.co.uk) to read Matthew Biggs' Greenhouse Growing Month by Month guide