Gardening, George, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own

Greenhouses are a staple of English gardens and an aspiration for all serious home-growers. But how do greenhouses work and what benefits do they provide for your plants and vegetables?

How do greenhouses work

What is a greenhouse?

A greenhouse is an external structure for growing plants, primarily made of a transparent material like glass or polycarbonate panels. They’re used in professional agriculture for growing huge volumes of crops, as well as by enthusiasts in their own back gardens. Inside you get a stable, warm environment that makes cultivating fruit and vegetables much easier throughout the year.

How do greenhouses work?

Greenhouses work by letting in as much light as possible then trapping this as thermal energy. The transparent walls and roof of the greenhouse allow all the visible rays of sunlight to pass through. This light heats up the air and objects (like the plants and soil) inside the greenhouse. But the glass also acts as an insulator, so this heat is locked inside the structure, keeping the temperatures warm all through the day.

Greenhouses are great at moderating a stable temperature. Matter within the greenhouse like soil and water absorb the thermal energy from sunlight and release it slowly, so they keep the greenhouse warm even after the sun sets. If the greenhouse contains lots of soil, the iron content within this has high enough thermal mass to regulate the temperature in this way with gradual heating and cooling throughout the day. Since the greenhouse is a closed structure, there is no breeze to disperse the warm air.

So the temperature remains constant, generally much warmer than the cold snaps we face outside, and your plants stay happy. They get all the sunlight they need to grow healthily and are sheltered from any harsh weather.

What are greenhouses used for

What are greenhouses used for?

Greenhouses effectively allow you to cheat the weather. In Britain we often have unreliable seasons at best, with cold winters and short summers. With a greenhouse you can extend the growing season – for example by sowing seeds earlier and growing vegetables like French beans and cucumbers for most of the year. Outside they would get too cold, but in the greenhouse they are protected.

The warmer environment in the greenhouse also means you can grow plants maladapted to our climate. Exotic species, such as melons and sweet potatoes, can thrive under the hot glass and delicate plants that would normally die in the winter frosts can be kept safe.

What are the benefits of having a greenhouse?

  • You can extend the growing season.
  • You can keep crops safe from pests within the physical structure, and so minimise the use of chemical pesticides you need to spray on produce.
  • You will protect plants from excessive temperatures (both cold and hot) and extreme variations in weather.
  • A greenhouse offers protection from strong winds which can damage delicate plants.
  • Shelter from rain and snow allows you to manually regulate how much water each plant is getting. This can be made easier with irrigation systems.
  • Temperatures can also be regulated with ventilation systems like auto vents to open windows and let air in, or shading to reduce light getting in during the peak of summer.
  • You can grow plants that wouldn’t normally survive in your climate.

Benefits of a greenhouse

Tips for keeping plants healthy in a greenhouse

While your plants will be kept warm and protected from the elements, you need to make sure they still get all that they need. Since they won’t receive water naturally from rain, you must remember to water regularly or set up an irrigation system to do this for you. It’s also worth setting up greenhouse guttering and a waterbutt to harvest rain falling on the roof.

During the summer months, the greenhouse can sometimes get too hot, which isn’t healthy for everything growing. So be sure to open a window or door if it gets too stuffy. You can also use a ventilation system like louvre windows or automatic vent arms to manage this for you. If excessive sunlight is causing the greenhouse to heat up uncontrollably, then hanging or spraying temporary shading on the roof windows can alleviate this.

Your greenhouse will also need taking care of to make sure it’s at its best year after year. This includes things like an annual deep clean, sterilising pots and checking for damage. You can read more in our greenhouse maintenance guide. Also make sure that you keep on top of pest control in your greenhouse.

Lacewing greenhouse

Different types of greenhouse

Thankfully there’s not just one type of greenhouse to satisfy all gardeners. If you have space, then it’s worth getting the biggest freestanding one you can to maximise your growing area. But if space is limited then you can get a lean-to greenhouse attached to the side of your house, which offers the same robust frame and panels. For allotments and patio gardening, mini greenhouses and cold frames provide very compact space for crops, and can be portable too.

Read more about how to choose your greenhouse.

So we hope you now have a better understanding of how greenhouses work and why they’re such an invaluable treat for hobby gardeners and pros alike. If you’re interested in buying one for yourself, Primrose has a great range of high quality greenhouses available.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

George, How To

How to Windproof Your Garden

In our unpredictable climate, protecting your garden against wind is essential. Blustery weather can damage tender plants, scatter seeds and hurl objects into your property. But don’t worry, with just a few simple tips you can learn how to windproof your garden in preparation for the next unexpected gusts.

Ways to windproof your garden

The only way to provide protection from the breezes is with windbreaks. A windbreak can be any sort of barrier, provided it is securely held down and around 50% permeable. This allows enough air to flow through, rather than sending the wind over the top in even stronger eddies. Here are some ideas for making your own windbreaks:

Hedges and fedges

A windbreak just needs to divide up your garden against the blustery air, so a natural barrier is fine. Hedges such as beech or hornbeam are particularly wind-resistant. For an alternative look, you could also grow your own living fence – a fedge. Simply plant a row of willow and weave the strands together.

Fencing

Remember that solid fences will actually make wind problems worse as they will force the air over, or risk bringing the fence down. Permeable fencing like willow and hazel hurdles make great windbreaks though, filtering just enough air through. This kind of fencing is also ideal for sheltering hedging while it grows to size.

Willow Hurdles

Screening

Putting up a barrier of screening material is a thorough solution for creating a windbreak. Netted privacy screening is effective either on its own, on in combination with other kinds of decorative screening. This option is ideal if you need a fast, complete result, if not always as attractive as more natural dividers.

Plants

Growing a windbreak is one of the most flexible methods of protection. You can adapt the borders to the areas of your garden that are most exposed or that you want to shelter. As well as the hedges mentioned above, plants such as lavender and box hedge make reliable barriers for low-growing areas.

Garden dividers

There are all kinds of other ways to break up your garden into less wind-exposed patches. Retractable windbreak awnings provide reliable protection for your patio. Pick and choose from trellis panels, pergolas, sail shades and even fruit trees to add more shelter elsewhere – and a bit of a feature!

Greenhouse Wind Protection

Greenhouse wind protection

Of all the things in your garden, the greenhouse is often most vulnerable to wind damage. Strong gusts can fling debris into the windows and shatter the glass. They particularly suffer when the wind can get inside and blow out panels, so the best protection is to try to prevent any air gaps. Fix up any damaged or lost panels as soon as you spot them. Tape up any cracks and board up missing pieces until you’re able to replace the panel. Finally, when you notice it getting windy make sure to keep the greenhouse door firmly shut.

Emergency wind protection

If it suddenly starts blowing a gale outside, you need to act fast to limit any potential damage. Make sure all garden buildings like sheds and greenhouses are locked up. Bring inside any light objects that are likely to blow away and cause damage to windows and other structures. These include plastic pots, ornaments and – ironically – windchimes.

Dog in Wind

Blown away

In the UK at least, we’re unlikely to get too many disastrous wind storms a year, so it’s best to keep your garden prepared for the regular blustery spells. Use dividers and clever planting to create borders and shelter the most exposed areas. Keep an eye on your greenhouse to make sure it’s sealed against the wind. Bring inside or tie down anything that might take off if a gale really picks up. And if your garden only gets a gentle breeze, embrace it with a wind chime or hanging decoration. After all – you can’t fight the wind, only prepare for it.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Ben Thorton, Bulbs, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Planters, Planting, Plants

Often once it gets cold outside we stop gardening because it’s difficult to grow plants outside when the temperatures are low and the ground has frozen. Luckily you don’t need to just throw away gardening because you cannot do it outside, you can start an indoor garden and continue to get your gardening fix even in the dead of winter.

How to Grow Plants Indoors
Indoor gardening by definition is growing plants inside, whether it be in your house, some other building, a greenhouse, your basement or any other sheltered structure. This method of gardening usually is used to not only start plants earlier in the spring or extend their growth in the autumn, but also to grow your plants during the winter too. But any old indoor garden won’t do if you want to grow big, healthy plants, so that’s why I will give you some tips how to more successfully create and use an indoor garden.

1. Decide on the best place for your indoor garden

When you are thinking about setting up an indoor garden first you really need to think about where your garden will be. If you plan on creating the garden in your basement or in your garage you might want to think about some additional lighting for your garden. However if you situate your indoor garden in a room where there are big windows and plenty of light, or even set-up the garden on your windowsill, then you can get away with just the light that comes through the windows. Also when you’re choosing a place, think about how warm the room will be once the temperatures drop and how humid it will be in your planned indoor garden grow room, as too cold or too humid an environment will only stunt the growth of your plants.

2. Think about the growing medium of your indoor garden

Another important thing to think about once you have decided on where you will place your garden is in what growing medium you will plant your plants. You shouldn’t use soil found outside as it often is filled with different pests and weeds and doesn’t contain enough minerals to sustain the plants once they are indoors. That is why I recommend to either buy some kind of special potting soil or give your plants plenty of additional minerals, if you decide on using soil from outdoors.

3. Don’t forget to check on the plants regularly

When you are gardening outdoors often the plants get the minerals, the light and water they need from nature, but indoor gardening is a whole new ball game. You cannot forget to regularly check on your plants and see if they need more water, light or food (fertiliser). Often plants in different growing stages and in different conditions require different care so make sure that you keep up with what your plants need.

Quick tip: If you don’t want any pests to settle on your plants, rinse them under flowing water at least once a week, so the plant foliage is clean and you don’t have to use any pest control products to treat the plants.

4. Chose the right plants for your indoor garden

It is true that you can grow indoors virtually any plant as long as these plants don’t get too tall, as indoors you don’t have unlimited height. But there are certain plants that will grow better indoors. Plants that will thrive indoors are the ones that like warm environments and can grow even if there isn’t constant sunlight shining on them. For example tomatoes, beans, peas, any herbs like rosemary or peppermint, fruits like strawberries and grapes, and most flowers will be perfect for indoor growth. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot grow other plants in your indoor garden too. Just try it and if it doesn’t work out move on to next type of plant, because the beauty of gardening is trial and error and doing everything you possibly can to help your plants grow.

Benjamin ThortonBen Thorton is the owner and main editor of a website called www.t5fixtures.com. He is an avid gardening enthusiast and has many years of experience gardening indoors.

Awnings, Current Issues, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Planting, Plants, Weeding

Gardening in the Rain

Why on earth would you want to try gardening in the rain? It’s a perfectly reasonable question. But, daft as it may seem, there are a surprising number of benefits if you’re prepared to brave the elements. And as our wet summer becomes an even wetter autumn, getting outside on drizzly days will enable you to get a huge amount more done in the garden. Plus, cloudy weather makes for cooler air, which is always a relief for hardworking gardeners. The damp keeps away most insects and, of course, the rain waters your plants for you. So grab your coat, and get outside!

What Can You Do in the Rain?

  • Planting. One common concern that puts people off gardening when it’s wet is whether you can really plant in the rain. In actual fact, it’s fine – as long as there’s no standing water. Just use a pot, or place in the garden, that has good drainage. For new seedlings, planting in the rain can be of great benefit since you don’t have to worry about watering them.
  • Feeding. As well as sitting back and making the most of the rain watering your plants for you, you can take the opportunity to feed them too. Get out there with your fertiliser and sprinkle around the base of each plant. The rain will then help it to run straight into the roots for maximum uptake.
  • Harvesting. Some fruiting plants and vegetables love wet weather, and will produce lots of great crops for you to harvest. So while the season is rainy, it’s the perfect time for picking salad plants like lettuce and watercress, or herbs like mint.

What Can You Do After the Rain?

  • Weeding. Just after a good downpour is the perfect time to get your weeding done. Heavy rainfall means damp soil, which loosens up the weeds’ roots, making them much easier to extract. This is particularly useful for weeds which are notoriously difficult to remove, such as dandelions and those with taproots. Taproots are the thick, original root stems of weeds like creeping buttercup and wood sorrel. It’s much better to get taproots out while the soil is wet so that all the offshoot roots also slide from the earth, since if they break off they can regrow into new plants.
  • Edging. If you’ve ever tried to neaten up the borders of your lawn, you’ll know it can be a challenge to dig a crisp edge in the turf. Garden edging – usually plastic or metal strips – are the best solution for maintaining a trim border, and just after a rainy day is the best time to install it. Just like with weeding, the damp soil is your friend here. It’s much easier to shape with a spade or trowel, and the edging pins will sink into the ground much more freely.
  • Tidying. Though rain is of course essential to a healthy garden, it can also leave a few problems in its wake. When you go outside after a downpour, look for anything that’s been washed out of place, particularly soil or fertiliser. Make sure you turn the compost heap too, if it’s an open one, to help with the air circulation and prevent it getting waterlogged.

Snail in Rain

How Can You Prepare Your Garden for the Rain?

Not all parts of your garden are going to appreciate a real British deluge, so it’s best to be prepared. If you’ve just planted seeds they may be vulnerable, but simply covering them with a plastic cloche or sheeting should shelter them from the worst of the weather. If you have fragile plants in pots, an easy alternative is just to bring them inside while the weather is bad.

What to Wear for Gardening When It Rains

Gardening can be mucky, and never more so than when it’s pouring outside. But don’t let that put you off – with the right clothing you can easily stay warm and dry. Obviously a raincoat is a must. But it’s also worth investing in a pair of waterproof trousers if you’re going to be outdoors for a while, as normal materials will quickly become soaked through and weigh you down. You’ll want something to cover your head, but a waterproof hat is actually better than a hood for gardening since it allows for more flexible neck movement as you’re working outside. For your feet, walking boots are generally more practical than wellies. They’re lighter and don’t restrict your ankles, which makes it much easier for trampling through undergrowth and flowerbeds. Just make sure to check if your boots need spraying with a waterproofing agent first.

Useful Kit to Cope with the Showers

  • Greenhouse. Although more of an investment, a greenhouse will offer a permanent sheltered spot for gardening in a downpour. You’ll be able to get on with repotting and planting seeds whenever the weather decides to turn. It can also be a useful area to have for unexpected rainfall, as you can shift delicate plants undercover in an instant without having to worry about causing a mess indoors.
  • Garden track. One of the best ways to deal with the muddy ground rainfall causes is some garden track. This is a plastic roll out path that provides a solid surface to ensure you don’t slip over on the wet lawn, and is especially useful for stopping wheelbarrows sinking into sodden earth.
  • Garden shade. Sometimes you may just want to relax in your garden without the risk of sudden rain spoiling your day. Having an awning or shade sail installed is a great way to cover your furniture or guests when you’re entertaining outside. No more events ruined by bad weather!

So I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to not be downcast the next time the clouds appear on your gardening day. As we’ve seen, there are always a few bits and pieces you can crack on with in the wet weather, and even some benefits that the rain brings. It’s a garden essential. And if all else fails, stay inside, put your feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea. After all, you were out working hard in the garden all summer…

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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