Sian Napier

25 Jan 2024 13:48

Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop

Greenhouse Placement

Winter is a time when we crack on with all the jobs in the garden, that can be carried out when it is too cold and wet to get into the borders. This is an excellent time to prune back trees. Next to the greenhouse is a Mulberry tree, that if left to its own devices, would grow very large and take a lot of light from the garden. Before the greenhouse went in, I removed several of its branches, to allow plenty of space between the tree and the greenhouse. Ideally, we wouldn’t want to position a greenhouse so near to a tree for several reasons.  One, its leaves would cause too much shade during the growing season. Two, long branches could cause damage to the greenhouse during high winds and three, any fallen leaves can stain wooden greenhouses. But space was a bit limited in the garden.


Pruning the Mulberry Tree

I have always cut back the mulberry tree every third year, to control its size. Now the greenhouse is in I will need to do it more frequently. I use a pruning method called pollarding, where all the smaller stems and branches are removed to form a main framework of larger branches. The new growth will happily sprout from the main stems in late spring. This work is carried out in winter when the tree is dormant.  When the tree is not actively growing and the leaves have fallen, it is much easier to see the structure of the tree, making pruning a simpler task. Winter pruning reduces the amount of sap that is lost, which is better for the health of the tree and the pests and diseases that may attack a tree through open cuts tend to be dormant at this time of year.


Greenhouse Jobs

Once the tree was pruned, I turned my attention to the greenhouse. I’m still enjoying spending time in the greenhouse, simply pottering about and the heating is holding up well, despite some frosty nights. What I have noticed is a build up of green algae on the north side of the greenhouse roof, which I need to wash off, before it becomes unsightly and cuts out the light.

There are quite a few products out there which are recommended for the job, but I opted for a bucket of soapy water and a bit of elbow grease. Harry my son was roped in to hold the ladder, for health and safety purposes. Due to the height of the roof, I bought a long handled soft, rubber brush, it has bristles on one side for scrubbing and a blade on the reverse for removing excess water.

This worked well, especially when we realized that Harry could reach quite a long way up the roof without having to climb the ladder. The algae took a bit of scrubbing but was soon gone, the only problem now, is that I can see that the inside of the glass needs a good clean too, so I know what I’ll be doing at the weekend.


Planning the Upcoming Season

All this washing and preparation for this year’s growing season had me thinking ahead of what I want to grow this year and I thought it would be a nice idea to visit my local garden nursery for a little bit of retail therapy.

All the Christmas decorations have been replaced with row upon row of seeds packets, for every different fruit and vegetable you can think of. I was like a kid in a sweet shop.

Last year I grew five different types of tomato variety but the only one I can remember was money maker, which is a very reliable, heavy cropping tomato. It is a variety often described as sweet but not very exciting, which can produce up to two hundred fruits in a season. I also grew a rather disappointing beef tomato, which I wouldn’t want to grow this year.

I now realise that I should have kept a record of all the crops I grew, to include the germination rate, how vigorous they were, the number of fruits they produced, disease resistance and most importantly the taste. I will do that this year.



So far, I have three types of tomato, one called Shirley, which is a tasty, high yield tomato. A cherry tomato called Sungold, which is sweet and adds a nice bright orange colour to salads. The last variety I have purchased is an Italian Pomodoro, Principe Borghese, which is a variety which is packed with flavour and is good for sun drying, sauces and salads. I will choose two more varieties next time I visit the nursery, but I would like to try some heritage tomatoes too.

I did manage to remember the cucumbers I grew last year which were a fantastic variety called Passandra F1. They were great cucumbers with a lovely taste, and I was picking one a day throughout July and August, though the germination rate was low, and I will be hoping to improve on that this year. I also have two types of courgettes and a climbing French bean.


Getting Started

I am really looking forward to planting these seeds out in February and March and really hope we don’t have a long cold spring like last year. Hopefully the heating in the greenhouse will help with that and I’m thinking of investing in a propagator too. With lots more vegetables and cut flower seeds to buy, there is a lot to look forward to.

I must remember to write it all down!

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.

Get to know Sian Napier