The sad greenhouse will be transformed

Ripening tomatoes, dangling grapes, cucumbers, peppers and peaches have all gone. So too the streptocarpus, fuchsia and geranium displays, all of which served to put a smile on the face of whoever entered the summer greenhouse.

Saturday, 17th December 2016, 12:08 pm
Chrysanthemum Boulou White has been blooming for weeks, giving some winter colour to the greenhouse.

In mine, it looks rather sad at first sight now, but not for long. The big winter sort-out just needs a moderately warm day. It’s all about clearing the decks for a fresh start to the new growing season.

Leaves shed by the vines did exaggerate the situation. Once they’d been gathered and composted the transformation was under way. A start was even made on the shreds of loose bark that can harbour all manner of pests. It’s quite therapeutic pulling those away, but to really get down to business you need a wire brush to cover every main rod systematically.

The older vine needs serious pruning, including the thinning-out of spurs and removal of a thick rod that arches overhead. I’ll give it until the end of this month to get into deepest dormancy and avoid loosing any sap.

All benches are up for clearing. Potted plants are discarded into separate containers; one for spent compost, the other, material worth composting. The former is spread over vegetable beds. Pot-grown perennials, such as pelargonium, along with rootstocks of chrysanthemums, go outside for an hour or two until the glass is cleaned and benches scrubbed.

Final decisions are made on which plants are worth keeping in the unheated greenhouse, and it’s amazing how effective sheets of protective fleece can be.

It is so satisfying when the vines have been pruned, windows cleaned to encourage maximum light, and everything is set up for the first sowing at the end of this month.

Nor is the greenhouse without colour. Late chrysanthemums are flowering in large pots. The reflex variety, Boulou White, has been blooming for weeks and the large terminal buds of threes should be open for Christmas. Pots of dwarf Narcissi Minnow are shooting strongly, and a double layer of the fragrant Paper White is showing promise.

The greenhouse border is also productive. First it was the tomatoes of summer, which gave way to chrysanthemums from the garden. Now it’s time for leaf lettuce.

A dusting of fish, blood and bone fertiliser is forked into the soil before sowing, followed by watering and a cover of fleece to encourage modest warmth for germination. But if you’re not prepared to wait, sow seed into the cells of a modular tray, keep it in the warmth of the house until plugs have formed, then transplant to the greenhouse border.