I dreamed of my own greenhouse long before I had it and in the beginning I grew lots of annuals in spring, failed to grow tomatoes in the summer and stored pot plants there in the winter. It was a luxury, but over time I came to wonder if it was really worthwhile.
For three years I have had a vine there to give it a role in summer, but the grapes were full of pips, the skins were tough and it attracted mould and mice! This winter the vine has been removed – so what now?
Well, I still find this unheated greenhouse useful in spring for bedding plants, but why haven’t I used it for growing tomatoes in summer. The earlier attempts were disappointing. The tomatoes were tasteless and became infected with moulds and watering was a chore. However, it is a new year and I have plans for my redundant glasshouse.
Vegetable gardening has never interested me. Books on vegetable growing send me to sleep and they cover so many different crops I always feel a failure even before I start. I have grown many things over the years, but really dislike gathering and picking them, even though I know that that is the point. But 2013 is going to be different, I have promised myself.
There is no room in the garden for vegetable, but maybe I can grow some of the ones I actually need in the greenhouse. The plan is to grow some things in the ground and others above, in pots, on the staging.
I have many books on vegetable gardening and greenhouses but they are too detailed. The greenhouse books especially have chapters on purchasing, positioning and erecting them. Information and tables abound with what to grow and when – it’s all so dreary.
The revelation came when I realised I should have a polytunnel and not a greenhouse. These cheap and ugly structures are normally not heated, but they are ideal for growing crops all year round.
I have just purchased a very well presented book The Polytunnel Book by Joyce Russell published by Frances Lincoln Ltd – here– probably the most respected gardening book publisher in the UK. Initially I was underwhelmed by the book as it does not cover the plethora of options normally suggested in such specialised manuals, but limits itself to things like tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, basil, peas, peppers, cabbages, lettuce and mixed salad leaves – precisely the basic things we all need on a weekly basis. Apart from a few peripheral chapters on compost, feeding and other practical matters, the core of the book is a month by month section which tells you exactly what to sow and plant to supply you with fruit and vegetables all year round.
Each month’s chapter is long enough not to put me to sleep, but detailed enough to make sure I know what I am doing – when and why. So long as I can keep on top of the watering, surely I am going to save a fortune. And whilst savings are fine it is the promise of tasteful crops that will urge me on.
With this new mindset I have ordered my seeds – 14 in all including three different types of tomatoes (two to grow as vines – one medium sized and one cherry – and one to grow as untidy bushes in pots; they arrived yesterday.
Last summer was disastrous for most european vegetable gardeners, perhaps my new endeavour is going to be something that many others are thinking of trying as well. Currently it is very mild here in Holland, and according to my new book I can gamble by sowing a few salad leaves and carrots now, but by this time next year I should have pots of seedlings already waiting to plant up and grow on.
I wonder if I will get that far – only time will tell – I shall keep you posted.