Sian Napier

10 Nov 2023 09:49

Happy Birthday to the Greenhouse.


I can’t believe that we’ve had the greenhouse for a year, the time has passed so quickly. We’ve enjoyed bumper crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, chillis and peppers. The tomatoes and cucumbers have been a staple of summer salads with added olive oil, mint, and basil. It has been amazing just to walk out into the greenhouse to pick an almost endless supply. Not to mention raising courgettes, herbs, and vegetables for the garden. The flowers that were sown back in March for the cut flower bed have been beautiful and I’ve been cutting flowers for the house for months now.

To celebrate the anniversary of the greenhouse’s arrival, we planned a little celebration supper to be enjoyed in the greenhouse, hopefully using as much home grown produce as possible. But first a serious amount of housekeeping is required. We have just come back from a holiday in France and whilst we’ve been away, Harry our youngest son has done a fabulous job of watering the tomatoes. He has not, however, picked any of the ripe tomatoes. We find ourselves inundated with over ripe, squishy, and sometimes rotting tomatoes. These rotting tomatoes have unfortunately attracted hundreds of flies which have swarmed around the greenhouse. It also seems that every spider within a five-mile radius has set up residence, making cobwebs all over everything.  This is great for catching flies, but having dead and dying flies all over the place is not the sort of environment I want to eat my dinner in.


Greenhouse Jobs

First job was to open every door, vent, and window to allow any of the little blighters to escape if they had the sense to do so…which they often don’t. I have employed the use of a child’s fishing net to catch and release any bees and butterflies that get trapped.

The second job was to pick all the ripe fruit for the kitchen and compost anything that was past its best. The chickens do love a ripe cherry tomato and it’s quite amusing to watch them chasing each other about with a tomato in their beaks.

The next job was removing all the cobwebs and washing any fly poo off the glass and wooden greenhouse frame. Using a pressure washer and a long soft brush worked a treat and the greenhouse soon dried out in the warm sun. Unfortunately, nothing can be done behind the raised tomato bed without damaging the plants, so the cobwebs and dead flies will have to wait until this year’s crop is over. 


Spiders and Flying Insects

I’m not the only person complaining about the number of spiders this year, lots of my gardening clients have found that there are increased numbers. Apparently, it’s due to favourable weather conditions. I just scoop them up and throw them out of the window or door so that they can return when I’m not looking.

The greenhouse is nice and clean, but there do seem to be more flying insects than usual. Insects such as bumblebees are beneficial in the greenhouse as they pollinate the flower trusses so that fruit can form. Some large commercial greenhouse growers are known to put hives in their greenhouses, for this purpose.

I think that the dropped tomatoes have supplied the flies with an abundant food source, which has allowed them to multiply. So obviously good greenhouse hygiene is very important in preventing them, and removing any rotting organic material as quickly as possible will help.

Secondly, keeping the greenhouse well ventilated, so that flies and other insects can leave is very important.

I didn’t want to use any Insecticides in the greenhouse, that’s the last thing I want on my tomatoes. I have installed some sticky traps, which have been effective. I was advised to use a bait trap, which is hung as high up in the greenhouse as possible, there is a good reason for this, as the bait which is dissolved in water smells of cow muck. This was incredibly effective and trapped loads of flies very quickly.

Another option I wanted to try was carnivorous plants. I already had one trumpet plant, (Sarracenia Smoori), which was doing very nicely. I visited my local garden center to buy some more, only to find that due to unusually high fly numbers they had totally sold out. The internet saved the day, and I now have three of these plants happily digesting the trapped flies. These plants need to be kept moist as they come from the tropics and only irrigate with collected rainwater as tap water will kill them.


A little Celebration Supper

With the greenhouse all clean and cobweb free, and fly numbers reduced, we’re ready to plan supper. The solar lights are working a treat and lots of candles are lit. For a starter, we have a mozzarella salad with our own cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil. For main course home main pasta, and tomato sauce with slow braised beef ragu. And for dessert lemon meringue pie, using our own eggs but sadly no lemons yet. (maybe next year). All washed down with a few glasses of wine.

It was a lovely evening. And this has got me thinking of ways that we could expand the use of the greenhouse as a space in which to unwind, especially as the weather starts to cool.

Om Sian Napier

Sian Napier is a freelance garden designer and gardener with over 15 years professional horticultural experience to build beautiful garden spaces for her clients using plants to create movement, texture and all year season colour and interest.

Follow her journey of living with a Gabriel Ash Greenhouse and learn about different aspects of growing through the seasons.

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