Well the greenhouse is finally back up and running! The last couple of months I have written here about how the greenhouse had become used as a bit of a dumping ground when we demolished our big old shed, sledges and spare rabbit hutches taking the place where tomato seedlings should be thriving. We did the big dump run, scrubbed the glass, replaced all of the broken and cracked panes and ousted the vast fern that had taken up residence in one corner, along with its bevy of spiders, woodlice and baby slugs. It is now spick and span and clean as can be, ready for the growing season.
In the nick of time too, or perhaps not quite. While we managed to sow a few bits and pieces in our mini greenhouse, we just couldn’t fit in everything, and so a compromise has had to be reached in order not to miss the beginning of the growing season. I’ve always been a big fan of buying in a few plants when needed. A few years ago small vegetable plug plants were really hard to find – it was sow your own or do without – and you had to go to specialist suppliers if you wanted them. But now you can pick them up in any garden centre and lots of seed companies offer them by post. And they are a life saver if, like me, you have got off to a late start this year. We went to the garden centre and picked up some cucumber plants. Aware that we were getting a bit late to sow our usual favourite ‘Mini White’ cucumbers we have had to settle for ‘Femspot’, a much more standard cucumber than the cute, sweet and prolific ‘Mini White’ but – crucially – already grown for us and ready to pot up. When you go via garden centres for plants rather than sowing your own you do inevitably lose out on variety, but that is the price you pay for getting them into the ground (or a pot in this case) at the right time. I have in the past had late starts and forged ahead with sowing anyway, and this is a mistake. These plants want early sowing because they take a long time to reach maturity, and because our growing seasons are short. It’s a race against time and I can tell you from experience that there is nothing so heartbreaking as nurturing plants all summer long only to find the first frosts closing in just as they start to produce.
So, if you too have had a late start of tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, aubergines and any other greenhouse crops for whatever reason, it is time to swallow your pride and get some plants in now. This spell wont last long either and once you’ve missed this, that’s really it for the season. It’s your last chance.
These ones have been potted on into slightly larger pots than they came in, just to give the roots room to grow. But they are not yet into their big pots because the greenhouse is unheated and there is still a chance of frost, at which we can whip them indoors for the night easily if they are still little, or gather them all together under a fleece. They will shortly be planted up into lovely big tubs of compost, not quite immoveable but not far off, and given bamboo supports to scramble up and provide us with big, green cucumbers all through the summer. Little, sweet white ones will have to wait. These will do very nicely for now.