Greenhouse Calamities -
Thoughts from a Novice Gardener

Things You Should Know About Gardening

by: Holly J. Masters

  • Greenhouses are a great addition to anyone's garden. They come in all different sizes and you can nestle them right where you want them and with smaller versions of greenhouses you can move them quite easily. That said, as great as they look and of course smell, there should be some type of manual to buy when you are first setting up shop in there. There are many things no one bothers to tell you and if you don't know, you don't ask. Here are five things I learned by plodding along on my own:


    1. Never assume that your seeds are not growing and then buy plants instead. I started growing tomato seeds, in the proper seed tray, and within a month nothing had happened. However, I used pretty expensive potting soil and didn't want to waste it so I dumped it on the floor of the greenhouse and turned it in. Then, I planted 6 tomato plants into the ground and had homemade salsa recipes salivating in my head. A month later I had well over 30 tomato plants tumbling over each other. The worst part was that I didn't label the plants and wasn't sure which ones to thin out. I thinned and ended up with the orange pixie variety mostly and they were about the size of a mutant cherry tomato.

    2. Never assume that just because your garden is now "indoors" that you won't get an insect infestation. If you are afraid of insects, greenhouse gardening is not much better than being out in nature. After you plant your garden, whether in grow bags, on tables or directly in the ground, look up. There he is...Sammy the Slug peering down on you with a slight smirk on his face. If you are allergic to bee stings, every year at least one gets in your greenhouse and seems to twoddle around in there for what seems like an eternity.

    3. Never think you are a pack mule and can water your plants enough by using a gardening can or bucket. You can't! With the heat and the sun shining through the glass the plants need more water than the outside plants. You need a mister, some type of irrigation system, ideally, and at bare minimum a hose. This means you'll require a water source. Think about it when you are putting the greenhouse in place. If you're water source is close to the house you must put the greenhouse within reach. Or, you can be like me... carry about 20 buckets of water out each night and only water 1/4 of the plants before you give up. (That said, the cursing involved in the greenhouse creates more carbon dioxide and makes plants grow better).

    4. Always read or know the size to which your plants grow. Picture this...novice to gardening and new, proud-owner of a large greenhouse. "Oooh, what can I grow," immediately pops into ones head. She plants dill, (accidentally) 30 tomato plants, eggplant and zucchini among other things. Everyday the novice goes out to water her plants and gets very excited. Until slowly, the greenery is a foot tall, then 2 feet tall then, well, then these plants are insanely out of control. Have you ever seen the size of a zucchini plant's leaves...they are twice the size as your head! Zucchini sucks the life out of the plants planted underneath it and surrounding it. So, as for the garlic cloves planted...she was forced to make salsa sans garlic. On another note, the dill she planted grew to be at least 15 feet tall. A word to the wise, find out how big the stuff gets and plan accordingly.

    5. Never buy a greenhouse if you have no one to look after it while you are on your holidays. Greenhouse plants require a lot of work because generally the soil dry-out quicker. Therefore you must water everyday at least once. Irrigation systems can help with this, but it is still advisable to have someone check it regularly to ensure it works. I went on holidays for 2 weeks and yes I had a friend looking after the glassy greatness, but the following things happened:

    - She left the door open one night and some strange animal went on a frenzy hacking up all of the plants, probably eating a couple too.
    - She watered, but not enough water was used. Therefore, I lost a lot of plants including my favorite.
    - Leaving the door open also helped some of my plants get infested and it also created havoc with the internal temperatures.
    - Some of the tomato plants needed to be pinched out and after 2 weeks I had inferior, deformed tomatoes.
    - Cats. Cat pee in a damp, warm environment smells well, like cat pee.

    There are many other kafuffles and calamities associated with this divine garden structure. There are many, many good things too. It is advisable to ask your friends, garden centers and online resources for advice before installing a greenhouse and planting plants inside. Now, that I have had my greenhouse for five years, I have trial and errored myself to plant-death and have a general idea about what is correct. After all, gardening is 90% trial and error and 10% knowledge.
    About the author:
    Holly Masters loves to garden and takes pride in her greenhouse. She has spent much time learning proper greenhouse effect techniques and serves as a contributing writer for http://www.greenhousesandgazebos.com - a site that offers information about everything greenhouses and gazebos.

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