THE first snowdrops have been and almost gone while daffodils brave the belated appearance of winter before making their colourful appearance.
Those plants secure from the cold could well be homed in a greenhouse or glasshouse manufactured by Greenfield-based Hartley Botanic.
Now, the Saddleworth company has teamed up with gardening writer Matthew Biggs to share some ways greenhouse owners can get ready for spring.
Beware late frosts
Don’t be tempted to discard all your winter insulation.
Any time from February to April (and up until early June, further north) can still bring low temperatures and frost which means tender plants will be at risk.
However, if you’ve already insulated your greenhouse with bubble wrap polythene over winter, you can remove some, if it is practical, on warmer days and reinstate it in the evenings.
Make use of the warmer, sunnier days to give your greenhouse a much-needed tidy up.
Choose warmer days to ventilate your greenhouse to reduce the risk of botrytis, or grey mould, closing the vents by mid-afternoon, before temperatures drop.
Warm your compost
Before you get stuck in with your sowing, it’s worth spending a bit of time getting your compost ready.
Larger seeds, like peas, can be grown in a peat free multipurpose compost, while smaller seeds like lettuce and tomatoes can be grown in similar seed compost.
Put your bags of peat-free compost in your greenhouse for 24 hours to warm up, or fill your pots and trays and then warm them up in a propagator.
Pre-spring planting advice
Chillies, peppers and aubergines can take a long time to grow in the UK from seed to fruiting.
If yours haven’t ripened by early to mid-autumn, then you’ve probably sown them too late.
Ideally aim to sow them in the third week of February. Failing that, mid-March is fine but the first week of April is your absolute deadline. They’ll need to be kept light, warm and at a constant temperature of 18-21C to germinate.
Late February and early March is a good time to move dormant plants like heliotrope and fuchsias up onto the benches in a warm area in your greenhouse.
Think about a nice spot in your Greenhouse, where the temperature is around a constant 10ºC.
February is also a good time to think about planting some very early potatoes.
Re-use some large compost bags, turn them inside out, roll down the sides and punch holes in the bottom for drainage.
Fill the bags with a good peat free compost and sow Swift, International Kidney (or Jersey Royals), Rocket or Belle de Fontenay, topped up by another 15cm. With regular watering, shoots will start to appear.
Once they’re around 15cm in length, roll the sleeves of the compost bag back up and fill with the same peat free compost.