Phoenix in the greenhouse

On 23 August I decided to carry out an experiment. I’ve had a greenhouse for a while, but only ever used it in the winter to house tender plants and then the spring to bring on seedlings for summer planting. It seemed a waste not to use it the rest of the year, but the extreme heat and wasps put me off trying anything different.

I managed to get rid of the wasps, having found their nest in some stored pots. The day time temperatures were as high as 54 degrees centigrade in the greenhouse – far too hot for anything to survive, I thought. But I decided to give it a go anyway, counting on temperatures falling pretty quickly in the following days. (They didn’t.) I filled crates with compost and planted and sowed lots of things for the autumn.  And then our youngest dog, Scout, decided she didn’t like having soil in containers so on 24 August she dug it all out.


I put it back in and replanted and re-sowed everything. I watered daily, sometimes twice. I planted sweet potatoes, potatoes, some stunted tomato plants that I’d kept going all summer but hadn’t planted out, some pepper plants that had had the same treatment and some transplanted mint. I sowed two types of basil, coriander, lambs lettuce, parsley, lemon grass, chop suey greens, winter lettuce and some viola for the spring. I had no confidence any of it would survive the heat.

13 September 2016
25 September 2016

However, miracle of miracles, it all started to flourish. And here it is now, some six weeks later. We are awash with basil, coriander and mint (not to mention all that we have in the regular vegetable garden). The lambs lettuce is just ready, the tomatoes are developing on the plants, the spuds are enormous as are the sweet potatoes. I have a small mouse who likes to nibble the shoots as soon as they come up, but now the vegetables are more abundant he doesn’t seem to be able to keep up so there is enough for all of us.


6 October 2016


I’m going to try to keep as much as possible going through the winter – especially herbs, although I know the basil will wither as soon as there is a hint of frost. I have a few panes missing in the greenhouse so replacing those will be a job for next week. Meanwhile, the regular potager is doing pretty well. We still have tomatoes, courgettes, herbs and chop suey greens. The real highlight of the moment is a good crop of physalis fruit – delicious on breakfast cereal and to be savoured before the frosts come.

The apples are a real disappointment. They haven’t enjoyed the ferociously dry summer and, despite my efforts with pheremone traps, most of them have codling moth. I really have to find a solution for that otherwise there’s no point in trying to grow apples.