Growing in a Small Greenhouse

Speaker: Wilf Simcox
Date: 24th November
Year: 2021

Wilf and Chairman Liam in conversation before the talk

Wilf Simcox introduced himself as someone who was interested in horticulture from a young age. He took up an Apprenticeship in Manchester Park, and two weeks after graduating went to work in Wigan. He left there soon after because of problems with his accent and went to College to get another qualification. Returning to Wigan he started training people in horticulture. He has spent 15 years at Sparsholt College and is still teaching RHS courses to this day.

Wilf defined a “small greenhouse” as being 6’x 8’ or 8’x 10’as average for a small garden. A wide range of plants can be grown in one of  such a size. It is difficult to maintain temperature and ventilation in such a small space. Wilf advised buying extra vents, about 1/6 of the floor area needed for adequate levels excluding the door. Automatic vents are also advisable, and an East West orientation is idea.

Provide a good soil base for growing, maneuverable benches and narrow shelves up high are useful. Only a narrow path down the middle is all that is needed, say two planks or 14’’in width. Don’t grow under the benches, and rotate crops from side to side. It is not necessary to change the soil, just add organic compost. Two 40 gallon water butts to hold rain water as tap water restricts what can be grown. For seedlings, water must be at the same temperature as they are or as the greenhouse.  Keep a can of rain water in the greenhouse.

Maintaining the Greenhouse

Empty the greenhouse and wash it inside and out, clean the glass twice a year, winter and spring.  Use it all 12 months of the year and don’t use it as a place for storing things and don’t waste space.  Compost will go off quicker and rooting powder and fertilizer go off after a year. Pots and trays must be kept clean and Hygiene is an important aspect in reducing the risk of pests and diseases, also biological control and air circulation.

What to Grow

Start your planning in the Autumn, for example, bulbs for spring time, winter vegetables give a good return. For flowers, sew seeds and pot up plants to grow on. Rotate plants into the house all year round. Grow something new each year. All seeds sew should germinate so don’t sew too many. Extra plants can be given away or composted. If growing tomatoes, aim for 10lbs a plant. Poorer results if they suffer a check. Bedding plants/bulbs and polyanthus may be planted in pots and kept outside but brought in for the winter.

Wilf discussed the need for heating the greenhouse. It can be useful to bring on small plants bought from the garden centre. Buy a heating system to heat the soil in the benches. Bubble wrap can be used for insulation, but must be changed every 2/3 years as it degrades. Covers can be used for some plants but never shade tomatoes. A set of frames is useful too, about half the area of the greenhouse.

There followed a slide show illustrating some of the flowers and vegetables that could be grown in a greenhouse, some of which will flower at Christmas or in the winter, including narines, amaryllis, clivia and red hot poker. Sow tomatoes in the soil and potatoes sown in February will be ready to eat in May. Other vegetables Wilf suggested were Pak choi, radish and cucumbers. Fuchsias and begonias are easy to grow and Lachenalias make a stunning show.

All in all Wilf’s talk was full of practical advice and the slide show colourful and interesting.

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