In the cold greenhouse we have one luxury – a home-made propagating box, constructed from bookshelves, with one square metre capacity.
It has a soil-warming cable fitted by an electrician, and is active throughout the year, germinating seeds and rooting cuttings. This offers a head start in raising vegetable and ornamental plants.
However, soon after germination, seedlings must be moved into full light and the cooler greenhouse. The following weeks see them transferred to compost-filled pots and gradually hardened-off for planting outside.
Thanks to this, there were batches of pea, broad bean and onion sets ready to plant out the last week in March. Some were in an eco-friendly pot made from peat-free, biodegradable materials, which I shall use again because they allowed more vigorous roots to penetrate the bottom and sides.
Planting completed, the birch branches used as supports were put in. Three days later they were enveloped by sleet, snow and a raw breeze, which made them stronger.
The patch where sweet corn will go is empty as the plants wait on the greenhouse bench. They’re being fed and watered, with frost-protecting fleece standing by. Runner beans are receiving the same treatment.
Vegetable and flowering plants grown in cell trays have revolutionised gardening. You can avoid the time-consuming process of raising your own plants. Let professional nursery-growers take the strain until May, turn up and buy jumbo plug-plants ready to go. That is a reasonable, albeit expensive.
But if you don’t mind the occasional disappointment and enjoy the thrill of burying seemingly lifeless, dried-up, brown specs in compost, and praying for a miracle, welcome aboard.