The Isle of Wight has long been recognised as benefitting from both a mild coastal climate and fertile soils favourable to the gardener
“In general such is the purity of the air,the fertility of the soil, and the beauty and variety of the landscapes, that this island has often been styled the Garden of England” – The History of the Isle of Wight, Sir Richard Worsley. 1781
This is one of a series of articles and anecdotes largely based around our work on the Isle of Wight and occasionally further afield
I do, I really do. What do I love about it? Well for starters there’s the smell. Warm, wet, leafmould and compost. You tip up the watering can on a warm day and the water sinks into the humus rich soil and within a few seconds it’s released a wonderful earthy odour that holds the promise of growth. The greenhouse is so full of promise in the spring. Everything has the potential to be a success.
Seed sowing is a great activity for a cold blustery day. I can slide back the door, nip inside quick and shut out the bad weather. With the heater going I perch on a stool and fill small trays and pots with compost that’s been warming up over the last few weeks. I find it pays to get bags of compost early, store them in the greenhouse and when you want to use them they’re not totally soggy and freezing cold. I keep my seeds in biscuit tins, the deeper sort that crackers come in are good. In December I’ll go through the seeds that I have left from the previous year and chuck out the ones that are probably too old to germinate well.
Then I order what I need from a catalogue, that’s a good bit of armchair gardening for a rainy day too! I have dividers made from a cereal box, which are labelled with the months January to July, which fit across the tin and I sort the packets into the months they are to be sown. I find that if I don’t do this during a quiet time then when spring really gets into it’s stride things are so busy that something gets forgotten.
I have a couple of ‘window-sill’ propagators on a shelf and they are invaluable, bottom heat gets things started so much quicker. If you want to get things going early then electricity is a must in the greenhouse. The thrill of a new season starts when those little shoots start unfurling in the trays. I love going to the greenhouse every morning to see what’s come up. Then the game of musical plants starts. For a couple of months I have pots and trays on shelving, makeshift benches or on the ground. It’s too cold outside still and there’s just so much of everything. I swear that growth can be smelt in the air, particularly tomatoes. Just brush a leaf and the pungent odour is with you.
At last the weather warms up and the tougher things destined for the outdoors anyway can be moved out to a sheltered spot. I can space things out, start to dismantle the benches and think about planting the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I grow all these in the same greenhouse, some people say you shouldn’t. Or can’t. But I have found over the years that with a little improvisation you can grow them together, after all, who has the luxury of several greenhouses? The toms and peppers like the sunnier side and the cucumbers benefit from a bit of shade, I’ve found that a strip of horticultural fleece hung on the southern side of the cucumber plants works well. So, they’re planted out and they sit there for a few days, looking like they’re doing nothing. But the roots will be burrowing into the humus rich ground and suddenly they’re off! Rich green leaves are doing an impression of Jack’s beanstalk and spotting the first embryonic cucumber or the yellow blossom of tomato becomes the thrill of the morning visit.
The best thrill of all comes when I go into the greenhouse and cup my hand under a ripe tomato, gently twist upwards and take it off the plant. The flavour from that fruit will remind me why I go to all this trouble every year. Oh, I most definitely love my greenhouse.
Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our website email firstname.lastname@example.org phone 07890 869918