We remain in the grip of winter and February weather can swing dramatically from warm spring sunshine to damaging frosts, snow, gales or torrential rain and this all has a direct effect on what’s happening in the greenhouse.
Linda Lane, manging director of the family-owned Griffin Glasshouses (photographed), has seen a strong increase in interest in greenhouses, since COP 26, from customers across the UK wanting to grow their own food.
“According to the Met Office, spring begins on 20 March and ends on 21 June – the longest day – when we move into summer. So, regardless of what the February weather throws at us, there is plenty to be getting on with in the greenhouse. The days are lengthening giving us more opportunity to start growing our own fruit and vegetables,” says Linda.
Regardless of temperatures the soil inside the greenhouse must never be wet. Although watering will need to increase marginally as the weather warms up, waterlogged soil is a potential killer.
When frost is forecast cover tender plants with horticultural fleece and you can leave it on for a few days as light will penetrate. Don’t forget to ventilate on warm, sunny days but close up at night.
Guard against pests and diseases such as slugs, snails, mildew and other fungal infections.
If you have a heated propagator clean the base and the lid thoroughly and let it dry. Sow tomato seeds in fresh compost towards the end of the month but you will need to keep them warm and moist and, on very cold nights, cover with horticultural fleece.
Other seeds that can be planted now in thoroughly clean seed trays in the greenhouse, without artificial heat include broad beans, early varieties of pea and lettuce, selected cabbages, early Brussels sprouts and parsnip. Keep the seed trays covered and further protected by horticultural fleece during cold weather and do not leave them close to the glass.
General housekeeping is very important at this time of year. Floors and work benches should always be clean and remove leaves that have blown in or fallen. Diseased plants should also be taken out of the greenhouse. Keep a couple of full watering cans inside the greenhouse at all times so that you dispense it at room temperature not at near freezing, direct from the tap. The shock of very cold water can be damaging to plants.
“I open my greenhouse door on sunny days but check before closing in the late afternoon that I am not hosting any local cats,” says Linda. “My other advice is always to make absolutely certain that you label your seed trays with precise details including the dates sown. Time put in now will pay dividends when your come to harvest and enjoy the fruits of your efforts. And they won’t have any damaging food miles attached to them.”