About 90% of all annuals, biennials and perennials in my garden have been grown from seed or cuttings. Without a permanent or heated greenhouse, improvisation has been necessary.
The growing season is started in the living room each March! Two inexpensive plastic patio greenhouses are placed by a sunny window for germination and kept at about 20°c. Extra lighting is provided on dull days by a few energy saving greenhouse light bulbs. Using this system, germination and propagation has been surprisingly successful for many plants – but that’s always the easy part! Keeping light levels high and temperatures low is the key once germination has occurred and the living room is much too warm. After pricking out and once seedlings are growing well, the greenhouses are then moved out onto the balcony to grow on in cooler temperatures.
Growing on Outdoors
The solution outside has been to ‘join together’ the two plastic patio greenhouses and situate them on the west-facing veranda in March/April every year. Wheels are mounted on both greenhouses so that they may be easily separated and re-joined for accessibility.
The greenhouses are held together with a wrench at the top and given extra polystyrene insulation at the base. With Heath Robinson artificial lighting and a small thermostatically controlled fan-heater for warmth and air circulation it is possible to keep the temperature above 5°c keeping the greenhouse frost-free and providing essential air circulation which, in turn, helps prevent fungal growth and seedling rot.
To begin with or when low night-time temperatures are forecast, an old duvet is thrown over the top at night. This is removed first thing in the morning. In the event of very cold weather being forecast, they are simply wheeled back into the living room!
The aim is to provide seedlings with at least 10 hours of quality light each day and to gradually acclimatise plants throughout the spring before hardening them off and planting out in late May.
It’s hard work, but good fun and extends an otherwise short Norwegian growing season. It’s a great way to get children involved in gardening too.
It would be wonderful to have a larger, properly heated and lit greenhouse – but there is not really an ideal location in this small garden.