Your Garden in December

Greenhouses

        If there is one piece of equipment that is useful to the gardener 365 days of the year and that is a greenhouse.

        For small spaces the range of options has really increased over the years and now there are lots of different styles and designs available from lean-tos to cold frames and compact grow-houses.   If you are purchasing a new greenhouse pick the biggest and best you can afford.

        The main things that will need consideration when owning a greenhouse are ventilation, watering, heating, benches and shelving and shading.

Ventilation

        Good ventilation is necessary when the weather warms up to control the temperature, damage usually occurs when the heat rises over 27C.   Roof windows are an ideal way to let hot air escape and these can be opened automatically with auto vents.   Side vents provide good air flow around the plants lower down.   Don’t forget the door which can also be useful for providing ventilation during winter.

Watering

        Getting the balance right when watering is always tricky but comes with experience.   Picking up plants in pots and checking the weight is a good indicator if they need watering.   Of course you will need to water more from late spring to autumn than in the winter.   During hot spells also damp down the floor which will help to reduce the temperature and also increase the humidity.

Heating

        Using a heater in the greenhouse is an option if you need to keep the greenhouse frost free.  An electric heater with a thermostat is the easiest option.    Covering plants with fleece will also help to protect some plants from frost damage.   Lining the inside with bubble wrap will help with insulation but remember it does block out a certain amount of light.

Benches and Shelving

        You can maximise the space in the greenhouse by using benches and shelving.   These should be constructed from metal and slotted to allow for drainage when watering.

Shade

        Shading is another useful way of helping to keep the greenhouse cooler.    It is important to find the balance between having enough shade yet not blocking out too much light.   There are different options available from blinds, fitted on the inside or cheaper option of netting or mesh.    Shade paint applied to the outside of the glass is another option.

        It is also important to keep the glass clean, the best time to do this is when there are fewest plants in the greenhouse.   Wash the glazing both inside and out with soapy water, also give the benches a thorough clean.

        Spring is the time of year when activity in the greenhouse begins to hot up.   Sowing seeds in trays, for which a heated propagator is useful, and pricking out seedlings.  

        Make use of the greenhouse in summer by growing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines and melons and potting up cuttings.

        During the autumn move tender plants into the greenhouse for overwintering and in late winter start sowing broad beans and onion seed.

Now for a few jobs to do around the garden this month.

        Plant  bare root shrubs, roses and fruit trees during their dormant period.

        If you have large mature clumps of rhubarb these can now be lifted and divided up.   Lift the clump with as much root as possible, and divide up, getting them back into the ground as soon as possible.   Before planting add lots of organic matter to the soil.

        Remove the foliage from hellebores as this will expose he flowers and also prevent the spread of hellebore leaf spot

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