Protected Growing in the Spring: Tips from Jane

This year try some under cover gardening – not James Bond style but simply a way of extending your gardening year or growing some tender crops. Growing plants undercover includes simple fleece keeping the worst weather away from early outdoor sowings, plastic cloches placed on the earth to warm it prior to planting, cold frames to harden off tender plants or greenhouses and polytunnels to start off seeds and young plants, grow tomatoes, aubergines and peppers and overwinter tender perennials.

On a cold winter’s day a greenhouse can offer one respite from the elements, and give you some precious gardening time even if it’s just cleaning out pots or checking overwintered plants for pest and disease. But in spring protected growing really comes into its own, when early sowings of crops like lettuce, beetroot and carrots provide a tasty treat before the main season. Summer bulbs can be started off in pots and young bedding plants can be grown on too, even hanging baskets planted and grown into beauty before hanging outside in mid-May. A polytunnel would be perfect for an early crop of potatoes or tender French beans.

At the other end of the year, tomatoes can still be ripening on the vine well into October in a greenhouse, used grow bags can be sown with lettuce for a catch crop or Dahlia tubers stored in crates (insulated if necessary) under the benches to be replanted the following spring.

Cloches are useful to warm up the soil before planting, and for keeping crops cosy and pest free. There is a huge range of styles available, but it’s worth buying the dearest you can afford. Treated well and stored dry overwinter, robust cloches can last many years, repaying your investment many times over.

Investing in a greenhouse or other plant protection method opens up a wealth of opportunity for the gardener, so take a look at what’s on offer – there’s a solution for every size of garden.

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