Commercial horticulture relies heavily on covered space. Uncertainty is the enemy and the weather is one big part of that which can to a degree be controlled by growing crops under glass or polythene. The nursery where I worked for 30 years had several polytunnels and three glasshouses. The biggest polytunnel was 63 feet wide and 160 ft long, 11,340 square feet of space. With the other tunnels we must have had 25,000 square feet under polythene. In relation to the horticultural industry, that’s pretty small, larger growers cover areas of several hectares with polytunnels, a hectare being over 100,000 square feet.
Gardens, and gardeners, work on a different scale. The one big nursery tunnel was twice the size of my entire garden. I’m trying to excuse what most people would regard as a wildly indulgent amount of glasshouse and tunnel space in a modest sized garden. As it happens, we have six places where we grow plants under cover and for one week only, they are my six on saturday.
The conservatory. This is a Hartley lean to glasshouse, about 14 x 10 feet in area. It is on the north facing back wall of the house and replaced a cheap and nasty lean to, the roof of which went up and down a couple of inches in a gale. It cost me £2300, including erection, in 1994. At the time that was an eye watering amount of money for a glasshouse but with hindsight it seems like a bargain. We try to keep a bit of space in it so we can sit out with a cup of tea.
Sue’s glasshouse. This one is a 10 x 12 feet Elite. I think we grew tomatoes in it for a year or two until they were squeezed out by prickly things. It’s all prickly and succulent things these days. We used to move quite a few large ones out in summer, then back in again for winter. Every winter there was a bit less room to put things back because of growth and additions to what had stayed in. Only the big Agave in the middle and the Aeonium behind it spent summer outdoors. I need to take the glass out and get rid of the moss but I keep putting it off.
The polytunnel. This is a 10 x 15 feet structure from Ferryman Poltunnels. It’s a polytunnel, what else is there to say. I was going to move it up to my allotment but seem to have decided I’ll wait until spring. Currently I’m thinking spring 2020. I have a “thing” about Camellias. Part of that plays out in this polytunnel.
The propagation house. This one is a 6 x 10 ft Rhino. It had to be bomb proof because it is in the wind tunnel that whips around the corner of the house when it blows. This is Cornwall, it blows a lot. The benches go out in summer to make way for cucumbers and chillies. In winter all manner of stuff gets shoved back in.
The new glasshouse. This one replaced the shed and at 6 x 8 feet is the same size as was the shed. There wasn’t much in the shed above three feet from the ground, so I figured with a glasshouse I could use the space above that height for plants.
The front porch. The house faces south so the mostly glass porch does a fair job of trapping heat on a sunny day which warms the house if we leave the original front door open. It would have been a waste to fill it with wellies and umbrellas, we went for plants instead. It relieved the pressure on Sue’s glasshouse for about five seconds. The Kalanchoe is called ‘Dorothy’. It’s been flowering for months.
Add the lot up and it comes to around 545 square feet. Comes out around 10% of the garden under cover. It’s well used and I like to think we use it well, inasmuch as there’s a subtle difference between the two things. A quantity versus quality difference. When you look at a view of the whole garden the structures don’t dominate it. It does mean that even when the weather is appalling I can still potter around outside the house if not in the open air. I don’t have to be cooped up indoors for long to start getting very grumpy.
There you go then. I’m off to check out what The Propagator has been up to this week and to follow the links to all the other garden elves out in SoS land.