A serious gardener may lust after a greenhouse in the same way a car enthusiast hankers after a garage, or a craftsman loves their workshop. A greenhouse lets you indulge in your love of gardening all year round, enjoy the delights of fresh vegetables out of season, and save money on plants by giving you somewhere to propagate plants from seed, but what if having a greenhouse means you won’t have much space to plant?
While there’s no doubt that greenhouses are wonderful additions to a garden, it is possible to replicate its benefits in a much smaller space – even indoors – with a host of clever alternatives.
If you want your greenhouse predominantly to grow plants from seeds for planting out in the spring, a multi-tier greenhouse will do the job nicely. They are usually two to four shelves high, small enough to tuck neatly against the side of a house, and come with plastic and fleece covers to protect delicate seedlings. Costing around £17 for a two tier version, and £30 for four tiers, they are not an expensive outlay for the prospect of a garden full of healthy flower and veg seedlings in the spring.
Indoor greenhouses look a little like fish tanks with a hinged lid. You can buy them from garden centres, as well as high street stores like IKEA and Argos. They are light enough to move around your home should you want to adjust their temperature inside, or hide them from sight when visitors come over.
A simple, inexpensive way to sprout seeds is to plant them in potting mix in an egg carton. Cover the carton loosely with plastic, remembering to keep the earth moist. Putting the compost in eggshells will allow you to easily transport the seedling into the garden in spring, with the added benefit of the shell giving nutrients to the soil as it biodegrades. You could also plant seeds in a pot and cover with an upside down clear plastic soft drink bottle that has had the top cut off.
Clear plastic storage boxes, like the ones you might use to store toys or out of season clothing in, work well to protect delicate plants during winter. Storage boxes are cheap, portable, and can be opened to provide ventilation when needed.
If you don’t have space to bring large pot plants indoors, you can protect them from cold winter temperatures by wrapping the sides of pots securely in bubble wrap or hessian. Doing so will help prevent frost causing the pots to crack, and the roots of the plants to freeze. Plants which hail from warmer climates, like ferns or olives, can also be given a blanket of horticultural fleece, and placed somewhere sheltered – preferably under cover, where the fleece can remain dry.