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Sunday, 6 May 2012

How I cope without a greenhouse

It's that time of year. Not that the risk of frost has past, far from it, but it is time to start getting my tender plants outside and used to the higher light levels, and more importantly for some, used to direct sunlight.

Three different bedrooms in use at the moment!

The biggest problem I have with overwintering geraniums (pelargoniums to be absolutely precise) and other tender plants indoors is that all the interesting leaf colour of the geraniums gets faded indoors, even though they are sitting beside windows and do get direct sun for part of the day. Also, even though they are in unheated rooms they still require a fair amount of water and I tend to neglect them - out of sight, out of mind!

So when they go outside these tender pale leaves would get absolutely frazzled by the sun and therefore I have to ensure they are in total shade to start with (which entails a lot of moving them about as the day goes by) until they can start to be introduced to sunlight, little by little. In no time at all the leaf markings start to appear - it's quite amazing what a difference natural light makes. 

Leaf markings have practically
disappeared from this plant
This was closer to the window so
the new leaves are closer to
the normal markings

Of course, at the moment, I still have to bring them inside at night time too - so there is a lot of moving around of plants to be done!

It's also time to start getting those poor leggy tomatoes out into the cold frames during the day so that they can start to get some proper light and grow as they should. Now they can take a bit of sun directly onto them but what they can't take is any wind as they are too weak and spindly, so it's imperative that they are in the cold frames for shelter until they have built up some size and strength in their stems (and by then I start to stake them anyway). It has been interesting to note that the Gardeners' Delight cherry tomatoes are far less leggy than Apero, and that the Piment d'Espelette are not leggy at all whereas the Jalapenos are now quite tall by comparison. Either way, they are barely growing in terms of new leaves and so they need to go out during the day - and yet more plants to bring in at night! So it's a busy time of year.

Great cold frame which my OH made
for me many years ago

I'll then have to clean the two spare bedrooms that I have been using as greenhouses and my poor OH will have to struggle down two flights of stairs with a giant oleander and a plumbago. I left my other oleander out all winter as I have a third, very old one which lives in a pot outdoors all year round; although it looks like it has karked it many a time it always comes back even if I do have to chop off some frosted branches and pick off many a frosted leaf. In fact this year if we hadn't had that severe cold spell at the beginning of February I don't think they would have frosted at all, but they both look rather tatty right now.

So, cold frame no. 2 has been brought out as that's now filling up with pots with seeds sown such as cucumber, courgettes, potimarron, various different French beans and parsley, which was sown on 19 March and there is no sign of as yet. But I don't care as a friend gave me some parsley seedlings so all is well! I bought this cold frame last year from a supermarket and it's perfect except... there's always something that doesn't work with these bought cold frames... you can't open the lid fully. You can leave it ajar on little fixings, or open it 3/4 of the way but you have to keep holding it open whilst you move plants around. Sigh. So I have to take the entire lid off which is then fiddly to put back on - not ideal when it could pour down with rain at any time.

I did once have a real proper grown up greenhouse, which I treated myself to when we bought our previous house in 2001. However we didn't stay there all that long as 'things' aka 'life' aka - all right I'm going to swear - 'shit' happened, as it does, so we had to move. We couldn't face dismantling the thing and packaging it all up carefully along with all the other stresses of moving, so left it behind.

Rubbish scanned tif file that I can't be bothered to redo;
that's not our old house next to it (!!), that was
'The Cottage', a garage conversion!

Then when we moved here to Chateau Moorhen, I treated myself to one of these cheap €60 jobs. Which lasted all of 5 days until it collapsed and buckled in a faint breeze.

So these days I stick to spare bedrooms and cold frames as they are somewhat more reliable, easier to install, cheaper to run and don't tend to blow over. It does work, in its own way.


  1. Cor, considering how fantastic your garden looks (I've just looked at your next post too) I kind of can't believe you don't have a greenhouse... You are very good at moving things about, as you say. I have discovered I am terrible. Hardening off is, I have decided, for sissies (plants not people). And it's too much like hard work. I haven't some a cropper yet, though I am sure I will. I have to say though my leggy pampered tomato plants seem to be absolutely thriving in the greenhouse despite being shoved in there without a moment's notice...

  2. Well the toms and chillies stayed out last night in the cold frame but it was rather warm - I do watch the weather forecasts like a hawk so any sign of frost and they will be back indoors. I have ummed and ahhhed about a greenhouse for so long that I figure I don't really need one if I've coped without for this long! I wouldn't plan to grow anything inside one during the summer anyway as it would be too hot (for me, if not the plants!).