When it comes to growing your own ornamental plants and vegetables or protecting your plants from extreme weather conditions during the winter, a greenhouse can be a game changer for the gardener. Even cold frames, lean-to greenhouses and cloches will help accelerate seed growth, protect young plants from frost, rain, snow, birds and mammals and extend the life of your plants .
There are, however, a few tips and tricks you need to know to get the most out of your greenhouse.
Make sure to keep your greenhouse free of pathogens, diseases and unwanted animals by cleaning your greenhouse thoroughly twice a year.
Do this once in the spring and again in the fall with hot water and a bit of laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid.
I know it’s tempting, but don’t overcrowd your greenhouse.
Be sure to 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 be sure to water well.
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Installing a simple drip or sprinkler irrigation system on a timer will help in the long run, and be more cost effective and durable, especially if you are going away for a few days or on vacation.
There are also systems available that use a container that you fill with water, either collected in a water catcher or filled at the tap, and a mini pump that turns on and off at pre-set intervals to power the tubes and sprinkler heads. There are also solar powered options.
Greenhouses heat up very quickly, so be sure to ventilate your greenhouse, especially on hot spring or summer days.
If you have vents in the roof, maybe consider adding automatic door openers, otherwise just open the door wide.
In the spring, frosts may still be present, so before it gets dark or before the outside temperature drops, close the door, window and vents to protect your plants inside your greenhouse.
To prevent birds from entering your greenhouse, especially when the doors are open, consider adding a door screen. Versions with magnets in the middle allow you to get in and out easily, while stopping curious birds, wild rabbits or unwanted deer.
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To increase humidity, fill a watering can with water or attach a hose to an outdoor faucet and wet the soil in your greenhouse early in the morning.
Paving slabs are essential either in the middle (if growing into the ground on either side) or all over the ground (if everything is grown in pots or grow bags).
Avoid wetting the soil in the ground, except for watering. As the temperature rises, water evaporates from the paving and increases the humidity.
Aphids, flies, mosquitoes, red spider mites and more can be a nuisance in the greenhouse, so hang yellow sticky fly traps from the roof and under the stage. Alternatively, introduce biocontrol insects to keep you aware of pests.
Greenhouse staging can be expensive, especially if built-in, so go to a garden center or DIY store with measurements of the greenhouse and grab some metal or plastic shelving/shelves.
Otherwise, find a standard metal or plastic table. Once you’ve got them set to the right height, you can add levels using bricks for pillars and metal oven grates for staging.
Slugs love greenhouses. Get in the habit of checking around and under all pots, shelves and staging at least once a day.
If you are setting up your greenhouse on hard ground, such as a poured concrete area or paving slabs, you will need to securely anchor your greenhouse to the foundation.
Location is key. Place it in an area of the garden or allotment where it receives at least 8 hours of sunlight.
If your greenhouse doesn’t get eight hours of sunlight a day, add a few lights. Daylight lamps and grow lights work best.
Also consider adding a fluorescent light or LED lights – this will help a lot, especially if you are working in the greenhouse when it is dark outside.
It can be difficult to control the temperature in your greenhouse, especially with the UK’s variable temperature, so add a heater, especially in the winter months.
You have the choice between electric, gas and oil heaters.
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 a capillary mat to shelving and staging and place your pots and seed trays directly on it.
The plant will therefore draw water from 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 outdoors more than ever.