One of the most valuable assets any gardener may possess is a greenhouse. For those gardeners fortunate enough to have one, the growing season can be extended. This enables the gardeners to make the best use of the sun for longer periods of time. A wide range of fruit and vegetable crops can be produced in a greenhouse, but there is a bit of a difference between crops grown as starter plants and greenhouse vegetables.
It is important for someone new to this process to understand what is good to grow in this more controlled environment. There are so many possibilities of vegetables and fruits to choose from, so picking the best of the options can be overwhelming. For beginners it is always best to choose the vegetables that are easiest to grow. This gives new gardeners some experience for the first year so they will have the knowledge and confidence to try growing more complicated crops in following years.
Since the greenhouse environment can be controlled, providing heat and extending the growing season, it is important to understand which crops to plant during the different seasons of the year.
A productive greenhouse can be utilised throughout most of the year, with heated greenhouses allowing gardeners to grow crops year round. For the novice or home gardener the latter may not be so cost effective. It really just depends upon the needs and abilities of the gardener. Here are some of the seasonal guidelines to follow for starting and growing various crops.
Late winter and early spring is usually the time most gardeners are prepping their outdoor gardens for the post frost plantings. However, in late winter to early spring hardy plants can be sown in the greenhouse. These plants include cabbage, celeriac, early leeks, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, onions, and peas. The greenhouse is ideal for starting these vegetables and then planting them outside when the warmer weather has arrived. To ensure germination a heated propagator is suggested. Tomatoes and peppers and other tender plants can be sown early in heated greenhouses, also using a propagator.
Middle spring is the time to sow the fast growing tender plants. These include squashes, pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers, melons, French beans, and even sweetcorn. This will get them ready for planting in their final destinations either under glass in late spring or early summer outside. As with the other plants above, a heated propagator will assist with germination. In unheated greenhouses it may be better to buy ready grown tomato and pepper plants. Now is also a good time to sow basil for growing indoors or in summer moving outside.
Late spring to early summer is the time to move greenhouse summer plants outside and plant them in their final positions. Middle summer is what gardeners look forward to; the beginning of summer crop harvesting. It is time to remove spent melon, French bean, or cucumber crops, which can then be replaced by later sown plants of the same for further crops to harvest. Late summer is the ideal time to sow spicy salad leaves, lettuces, and baby carrots indoors. The autumn sun can be utilised in this instance to produce late harvests. New potatoes can be planted in heated greenhouses for late year/Christmas crops.
Autumn is the time to remove spent summer crops, but to continue to enjoy others. Lettuces can be planted out into beds or grow bags for harvest over winter. Parsley, and French beans seedling can be planted to mature indoors. Broad beans and peas can also be sown over-winter for planting out in early spring. Likewise, hardy lettuce cultivars and pea shoots can be sown for harvesting indoors in the spring. Finally, any herbs in pots that have been outdoors can be moved indoors to keep them cropping longer.
Using a greenhouse to grow vegetables requires planning, sowing seeds indoors, growing on, planting, summer maintenance, and winter maintenance. Planning begins with measuring out and ensuring there is room to space out all the planned summer greenhouse crops. Benches will provide plenty of space for seedlings of which many will be moved outside, making space for the needed summer greenhouse crops. Furthermore, planning allows for sowing a catch crop of salad leaves in greenhouse borders before the space is needed for the summer greenhouse crops. Sowing seeds indoors simply uses clean pots and trays as well as fresh, peat-free seed or multi-purpose compost and following the instructions on the seed packet.
Once germinated, seedlings require light and warmth, which an unheated greenhouse may not have until about April. Consider heating a partitioned section of the greenhouse for the more tender plants. As soon as protected crops are sturdy and well-rooted, plant them in their final positions. Be sure to plant containers, growing bags, and greenhouse borders. Summer maintenance involves checking the watering daily, ventilating the greenhouse on warm days, shading gradually when necessary, hanging yellow sticky traps for early pest warning, and tying new growth into supports as needed. Winter maintenance involves keeping structures clean, fitting insulation as needed, and ensuring proper working of thermostats in heated greenhouses.
If you would like to try your hand at growing your own food in a greenhouse then take a look at the greenhouses Shedstore have to offer.