May is a trying month outside

Greenhouse overflowing. Picture by Tom Pattinson
Greenhouse overflowing. Picture by Tom Pattinson

May can be a very trying month for gardeners.

There is the continuing concern for tender outdoor shoots, with ground frost a constant possibility, and a sudden increase in maintenance jobs such as mowing and weeding. But top of the concerns list is the greenhouse or poly-tunnel, where constant over-crowding demands painful decisions on which plants should be cast out into the cold.

Sagely advice would have it that when purchasing a greenhouse you first decide on the size you want and how much you can afford, then double both figures.

It’s all down to Parkinson’s law and no greenhouse is ever big enough. In ours there are modest refinements including automatic roof vents, manual side windows, and a stone-flagged floor throughout.The first mentioned are particularly useful, and being based on a mineral oil which expands and contracts according to temperature, incur no running costs. The floor area is safe, solid and encourages tidiness. Better still, on hot days it canbe covered with water to facilitate temperature control. In May, when the greenhouse is full of young plants, it is a joy to walk into this damped-down environment and smell them growing. Under normal circumstances mine would be quite adequate. At 22 foot by 10, it should easily house a vine, accommodate a peach tree, sport a propagating case and grow a decent range of ornamental and edible plants inseason. All of this it does – and more.

The problem arises in catering for outside agencies – plant stalls at coffee mornings for different societies we support, including the garden club, are typical of mine.

Last week had me wishing for a flexible-sided glasshouse as we almost reached breaking point.

The lady of the house arrived during a potting-up session, brush in hand, to find no floor space to set foot on.

The offending plants were off to garden club by nightfall and the chi is restored.

Once Warkworth Show market stall (June) and Lesbury Church summer fair (July) have passed we can return to a normal.