Full to bursting – the greenhouse end of February

I have wanted to write an update about progress in the greenhouse for the last couple of weeks; things progress so quickly it is easy to be swept along without taking time to note exactly what happens.

I love the smell when I open the greenhouse in the morning, that wonderful earthy smell mixed with citrus flowers and opening flowers of Narcissus. 

It was been interesting to note that germination times for each type of seed is pretty consistent over the years; I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet with sowing and germination dates for the last 2 years and this year I will be recording times to pricking out (if applicable), planting out and first and last harvest for both vegetables and cut flowers.  I don’t imagine I will be weighing the crops as long as I have a sense that the crop was worthwhile I will be happy.

Almost everything I listed as having been sown in my last post has germinated with the exception of 2 separate sowings of Euphorbia oblongata, Alstroemeria aurantiaca and all three types of Larkspur.

I now have three heated trays on the stands with seeds germinating or to help promote growth of the plants that need extra warmth.  All the tomatoes were sown earlier this month and all have germinated well, including those from saved seeds.  I realised that I hadn’t saved seed of the small orange tomato that is so sweet and delicious so having discovered that I’d frozen some I scraped out the seeds from one and sowed them this week, it will be useful to know whether the seed is still viable after freezing, I do hope it is as I don’t even know the name of this tomato as it came from a mixed pack.  I can’t decide if I like mixed packs of seed or not; on the plus side you can try several different new varieties but then you don’t know what they are to be able to buy them again.  Have you ever sown seed that has been frozen?

Tomatoes are one of the quickest germinating seeds that I grow, the fastest was a couple of years ago when some San Marzano germinated within 24 hours; the average time is about three days, I regulated my sowing date this year to take account of this.  I have tried to be more frugal with the tomato seed as I always have far, far too many plants.  Some I sowed directly into modules to save one stage of pricking out, they will hopefully only need to go into 9cm pots when they are large enough and then into the ground.  Others are in quarter sized seed trays; they will need to be pricked out in the next few days firstly into modules and later into 9cm pots.

Top level salad leaves I'm picking, lower levels developing seedlings

Top level salad leaves I’m picking, lower levels developing seedlings

I sow too many seeds into a tray. A one quarter sized seed tray sown with Oak leaf lettuce yielded 18 pricked out into modules for planting outside later plus tow full seed trays with 45 in each tray!

I sow too many seeds into a tray. A one quarter sized seed tray sown with Oak leaf lettuce yielded 18 pricked out into modules for planting outside later plus tow full seed trays with 45 in each tray!

Lemons are ready to pick

Lemons are ready to pick

I usually use my lemons to put under salt water in the Moroccan style or to make lemon curd.

I have added another shelf unit to this side of the greenhouse since this photo was taken, the tulip pots have been moved and the unit is in front of the lemon and passion fruit.

I have added another shelf unit to this side of the greenhouse since this photo was taken, the tulip pots have been moved and the unit is in front of the lemon and passion fruit.

I find these shelving units very versatile, I have a mixture of aluminium slats, gravel trays and seed trays that fit them, the heated trays also fit directly into the unit. They are light to move and can be fitted with castors

I find these shelving units very versatile, I have a mixture of aluminium slats, gravel trays and seed trays that fit them, the heated trays also fit directly into the unit. They are light to move and can be fitted with castors

Various seedlings waiting to be pricked out

Various seedlings waiting to be pricked out

This year I’ve decided to only grow long then aubergines from seed that came from Vietnam, they are the most prolific and fast cropping of all the types I’ve tried.  I would like to grow the large round pale violet ones too but they obviously need slightly different conditions as I’ve never had a good crop from them.  This year I’ll buy any I need (they aren’t expensive in the shops) as I only need them if I want to grill slices on the barbeque.

This week I sowed Cosmos.  From many discussions here about how and where to sow them I decided to try sowing 2 seeds into modules so they’ll have less disturbance to their roots which seemed to make the plants weak last year.  I also have saved seeded collected from last year’s plants; I may sow these directly into the ground if I have space.  I noticed this week that seeds that had fallen onto the ground where they were planted last year have already germinated, should I leave them where they are or maybe try to move them into lines where the irrigation tubes run?  Any advice would be appreciated.

It is slightly worrying that the greenhouse is as full as it is now at the end of February.  There are still more flower and vegetable seeds to be sown and of course all those little trays will produce plants needing more space before being planted out.  I think I need to organise some kind of cold frame, but the most suitable place to put one is where I already have plants in pots being overwintered in the open and there are a lot of snails in this particular spot that I’m sure would love to have some tasty new foliage to munch on.

Have you started sowing yet?  Does everyone sow too many seeds and then find it difficult to throw away the ones you don’t need?

Have a great gardening weekend and I hope the sun shines for you; our forecast is for rain!!!

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39 thoughts on “Full to bursting – the greenhouse end of February

  1. I admire your organization and exacting methods, which are sure to bring success. I don’t have a greenhouse, but am hoping there will be one in my retirement (after June 2022). Are you visiting the US this year?

    • No, sadly we have no time for a US visit this year. My husband has two knee replacement operations planned for this year. A greenhouse is a wonderful asset but also a hard task master.

  2. Excellent progress Christina, and I will be interested to see what you do when space is at even more of a premium. I am much better at not sowing too many seeds, and try to only prick out what I think will be needed although I do have a friend who is happy to take excess seedlings but ideally only when they have been pricked out. I have also had good success with seeds left over from the previous year but wouldn’t try keeping them longer than that. Here it has got up to 30°+ in the greenhouses on some of the sunny days this week although only a few degrees outside!

    • I already have the shade netting on the greenhouse and I open the door if the sun is shining as it takes very little for the inside temperatures to rise to 30°C so far not higher than that with the precautions I take. I’m just about to do some more pricking out so will have to be very strong willed and throw the excess away! What a shame we can’t share.

      • Would we have room in our gardens for everything if we were able to share?! I have pricked out a few things over the w/e too but there were only enough seedlings for trays of 12 – not so the next batch!! It is so exciting to see how strong the seedlings are even though night temp are low and many of the days are still cool – and the ‘winter’ sweet peas are doing brilliantly!

  3. Hate to say it is snowing here and again the 20s. No sowing yet. I am sowing less this spring. But oh seeing all that is growing in your greenhouse makes me want to get going soon. Tomatoes are my fastest germinators too. Love seeing those lemons. What a joy to have a greenhouse…

  4. Great inspiring post Christina and a timely reminder to get on with it! I have just started to sow a few seeds, I keep diaries but not as diligently as you, I will be interested to hear if the frozen tomato seeds germinate and wish I had previously saved my own tomato seeds too, thats something I shall try in future.

  5. You have made a really good start with all your seed sewing. I love the lemons too! I have had a few problems with damping off with seedlings this year. Maybe the cold spell we are having just now is not helping so I am trying to curb my enthusiasm and slow down the seed sewing until warmer lighter days in March. Difficult though when you just want to get going!

    • Light levels make a huge difference to success with seeds I think, I have sown some things later this year despite it being much lighter here than in the UK. The Latitude of central Lazio means our levels of light give me the opportunity to sow earlier.

  6. I admire your orderly greenhouse, and what a beautiful lemon tree! I am still learning about when and how to sow seeds in Egypt: it seems that the best time to sow most veg. seeds is through the winter starting in October. Onion sets and garlic go in the ground in November. I almost always sow too many seeds as well, but the germination record is very varied and patchy. I wonder about the quality of the (imported) potting compost; or maybe the problem is the unpredictable weather we have from December onwards (e.g. sleet and very low temperatures two years ago). Among flowers, cosmos has been a total failure. I wish you every success in your garden!

    • Thank you Sylvia, garlic and onions are planted in November and December here too (although I didn’t plant onions for this year after losing all last year’s crop to rot). I will enjoy following your growing seasons and comparing it all with mine.

  7. Your greenhouse is so wonderful, Christina. I usually direct sow any seeds in my garden; however, I may give up on seeds until I work out a better form of protection for my raised planters. The annoying raccoons and skunks have repeatedly disturbed my seeds and seedlings – even chicken wire laid on top didn’t keep them out altogether.

  8. You are well on your way with your seeds but I won’t be starting until late March without a greenhouse. Your extremely sweet little orange tomato sounds like my Sungold. It is the only tomato I plant from seed now as I can’t buy it. I noticed I only got 8 seeds in the packet this year – I’ve been getting 10 previously. It is certainly worth trying and makes an excellent apperatif. Bad luck with the Larkspur, are they a special type? Amelia

    • Thanks for that Amelia, I’ll look out for Sungold; do try saving seed as I’ve always found that they come true from saved seed; somehow I just didn’t save any two years ago. The frozen seed hasn’t germinated yet so I’m not very hopeful, I might try again making sure I remove all the pump and let it dry out, I didn’t do that with the last one and I’ve since heard that it is important for tomatoes.

  9. Oh now that looks like a veritable hive of industry Christina. I’ll be especially interested in the results of your cosmos sowing. I’m getting itchy fingers but as yet have not made a start. Possibly tomatoes this weekend if I can find my heated propagator which seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth!

    • The Cosmos have now all germinated, most just taking two days; I will watch with interest to see how these module sown seedlings compare to direct sown and to the ones that have already germinated from the dropped seed from last year.

  10. I love seeing all the fresh green sprouts and new plants, but the lemons 🙂
    I can only imagine the citrus scents and warm damp air inside your greenhouse. We are supposed to have a warmer day tomorrow but still the central heat keeps chugging along and the indoor air is stale and dry.
    I plan on beginning my onion seedlings tomorrow, it’s probably late already but you know how those things go!

    • I lost my onion harvest last year to rot so I’m not growing them at all this year; I know I will regret the decision as it means I’ll always need to remember to buy some every time I go to the vegetable shop which in summer isn’t very often. I’ve never grown onion from seed, always sets. Good luck with yours.

  11. Amazing amount of growth going on for February. You are so organised. It all looks wonderful and exciting. Here the light levels remain unpredictable and it is too early as we are still experiencing minus night time temperatures. I think you have justified a second greenhouse!

    • I already have the shade netting on the greenhouse, in fact I didn’t ever take it off! Light levels are so much higher at this latitude, it makes a huge difference to plant growth. I think a shade tunnel or shade house would be much more useful for me than a second greenhouse which is almost usable during the hot summer months. I’m also going to look for coldframes as these would also be useful for hardening plants off.

  12. Your greenhouse is filled with abundance! Having too many seedling is a blessing. I confess that without a greenhouse I have never had much success with seedlings, except tomatoes and annual flowers such as marigolds and cosmos, which are foolproof. My experience with cosmos is that they do well with little help from the gardener.

    • You’re right Cosmos seem to do best with the least interference from the gardener. Too many is better than too few but it is important to be strong willed and not pot them all up only to have to throw them away for lack of space in the greenhouse or in the garden.

  13. Your are making excellent use of your greenhouse – but I think you might need another one!! I really like your seed tray racks, they seem extremely flexible, I will have to remember that when I have to replace the now-rotting greenhouse bench that I inherited. I have staging for most of the length but will have a gap – one of those seed tray stands would be perfect.

    Strange that the euphorbia is taking longer to germinate, I have always found it one of the faster ones. I’ll be fascinated to see whether the frozen tom seeds germinate as I often keep ornamental seeds in the freezer, it guarantees that dormancy is broken and keeps them far fresher than just leaving them in the garage.

    • I think the Euphorbia must be bad seed; the second sowing has done nothing either whereas the Larkspur I mentioned have now germinated after a couple of weeks out in the cold, so that’s good to know. As I said to others I think it it cold-frames I need rather than another greenhouse or better still a shade house or tunnel, I have been looking but haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. I really recommend the seed-tray shelves from Two Wests and Elliot, they are very versatile, you can’t keep plants on every level at once (they don’t get enough light) but I four levels in use on some.

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