Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Turn your greenhouse into a farm

Meyers Lemon

A greenhouse is wonderful full of gorgeous foliage and beautiful flowers with lovely scents but when needed can become a remarkably productive food machine. The extra warmth and shelter enables more outdoor crops, to get others off to a flying start and produces huge quantities of salads and fruits almost year round. Fortunately for us this ghastly pandemic has struck now with time to make the conversion.

April is often too cold for sowing many crops in situ  outdoors so most do better sown under cover in small pots or cells then moved out later. Peas, broad beans, beetroot, spring onions, leafy salads and herbs to start with. Then a bit later outdoor tomatoes, gherkins, ridge cucumbers, French & runner beans, sweet corn, marrows, squashes & courgettes to plant out from mid May.

You can also grow some outdoor crops that do not transplant easily such as carrots, mangetout & sugar snap peas and baby turnips, in deep tubs- but sow and thin to give each enough space!

New potatoes also crop sooner grown in tubs under glass and I reckon taste even sweeter. Likewise I’ve successfully cropped sweet corn months earlier by growing in large buckets (you need several for pollination thus it helps to capture pollen from male tassels which come out first, shake onto a sheet of paper, then a week or two later dust this over female silks- long threads coming from young cobs).

Then there are summer crops that grow outdoors but are so much better under cover especially grapes, nectarines, figs, strawberries, all female mini-cucumbers, quality tomatoes, aubergines, sweet & chilli peppers and herbs such as basil and oregano. These are all delicious, healthy and can be processed and stored for another day.

Strawberry (Milvana)

Don’t try growing courgettes indoors as these run to all male flowers, and squash & marrow plants just get too big. Melons can be grown under cover, indeed have to be, and are a treat worth having. Sweet potatoes are productive trained up canes in large tubs, it’s not widely known their foliage is edible much like spinach and you sometimes get the bonus of pretty flowers.

Do not forget perennial fruits that crop in winter such as the Citrus, Cherry guavas and Cape Gooseberries which are relatively easy to look after. These have been dealt with in more detail in previous blogs here. Stay well folks!