Greenhouse is showing early signs of spring

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 29th January 2015

Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden has been in the grip of dark, freezing conditions this month, but in the greenhouse tiny green shoots are already emerging: a little glimpse of spring in the depths of winter.

bean shootEarlier in the month, Jo sowed some early peas in a trough. These were put in the heated part of the greenhouse which has been sectioned off with bubble wrap to prevent us having to heat the whole greenhouse. This is not only cost efficient but also allows for part of the greenhouse to remain unheated. In the unheated section broad beans were sown into rootrainers and shallots sets sown into seed trays. These were placed into an unheated propagator to protect them from extreme frosts and prevent the mice from eating them before they got a chance to grow. These have all now germinated and green shoots adorn our greenhouse staging.

Our heated propagator and growlight have been cleaned and assembled ready for the first tender sowings of the year. We have heated propagatorsown aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, chillies, celery and celeriac in small batches and successional sowings will be carried out during February. The growlight is on a timer and will extend the normal daylight hours to ensure the seedlings get maximum light conditions to keep healthy. The propagator is placed in the bubble wrapped section of the greenhouse which is heated. This will help keep the little plants warm and snug through the remaining cold months.

All of our seed trays have been cleaned to protect our seedlings from overwintering bugs that may cause them harm. We use sheep’s wool compost to grow our plants in, which provides the nutrients and drainage they need to thrive. They are then covered in vermiculite to prevent them damping off.

Outside in the Kitchen Garden, the cold weather has often left the ground frozen solid and unworkable. We have taken advantage of the few milder days and cleared the ground where the brussel sprouts grew last year as well as digging in some well rotted farmyard manure to prepare the ground for this year’s potato crop. The ground was then covered with polythene to prevent the goodness from the manure being washed away by winter rain. The polythene will also help to warm up the soil come the spring. It was well pegged down to stop it blowing away.

We have pruned our autumn raspberry crop down to the ground and mulched them with well rotted manure to give them some goodness ready for the season ahead. . This also gave us an ideal opportunity to clean the raspberry support with a soft cloth and soapy water.

On a sunny January day, Jo cleaned the greenhouse glass, to wipe away the winter grime and allow maximum light levels to reach our winter crops. For the outside of the greenhouse we use our swop top cleaning system. This makes a difficult job an awful lot easier and always brings the glass up sparkling clean, without the hazards of climbing ladders. Inside, Jo was up the ladder with a greenhouse cleaner and cloths wiping down all the glazing bars and glass. She also gave the glass in our cold frame a thorough clean to allow more light into the overwintering plants. This completed the annual winter clean in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden, all ready for the new season ahead.  

The end of January always feels to me that the worst of the winter is behind us. Of course, there may be more freezing weather to come, but the days are already getting longer and the sowing of summer crops always signals that spring is only just around the corner. I can’t wait!

Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for February in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:

  • Chit potato tubers
  • Apply sulphate of potash to soft fruit bushes and garlic crops.
  • Force rhubarb.
  • Move vegetable cages to where brassicas are to grow this year.

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Happy gardening!