Learning how to cultivate in the greenhouse is about failing and focussing on the successes
Liv and Mads are in their first greenhouse season. They get help from their friends Frederik and Nanna, but in addition, the greenhouse is also where the four hang out. Especially when the dew falls, and it gets too cold to sit outside by the fire.
Text and photos: Nanna Stærmose
Liv and Mads are experiencing their first greenhouse season, and so far only about half of the germinated seeds have turned into something. There is a lot of learning in what goes wrong, says Frederik Skovgaard, who helps his friends learn how to grow in the greenhouse.
You take a dream and transplant it, and maybe some of it becomes something. This is exactly what Liv Martine Niemann Hansen (29 years) and Mads Niemann Hansen (30 years) have done in their new Orangery from Juliana. The house was set up last fall, hence this year is their first greenhouse season.
"I am really surprised at how cool I think it is to grow my own vegetables, but something I would do differently next year, is to skip the germination process and just buy plants ready for transplanting," says Liv.
Her husband Mads feels just the opposite. He likes to put a seed in some soil and watch it sprout.
“I think it is something very special that I am involved in the whole process. I actually get a pretty close relationship with these plants, as look after and irrigate them every day,” he says.
Liv and Mads have created the Danish profile ”Projekt Bækkelund” on Instagram, where they tell their more than 50,000 followers about life on the yellow-winged farm. Although both Liv and Mads care about food – Mads because of his work as a chef and Liv because of passion for cakes that led to her winning the Danish Big Baking Contest in 2015, they are novices when it comes to growing tomatoes, squash, and peppers themselves. But they have friends they can call.
In the greenhouse there are tomatoes are planted in growbags. Two tomatoes per bag are the advice, as the tomatoes get big. Between the tomatoes, basil has been planted - it is said to give flavour to the tomatoes and keep pests away.
Young people getting their hands dirty
The friend's name is Frederik Skovgaard (27 years), and he lives with his girlfriend Nanna Nørholm (30 years) nearby. Frederik and Nanna do not yet have a greenhouse themselves but they grow outdoor and share their experiences on their Danish Instagram profile “Udkansk”, where they both narrate about cultivating the soil, but also about what it is like to settle in the outskirts of Denmark when you are a young couple.
Nanna is a veterinarian and Frederik study teaching, and when he is not reading about didactic methods, he reads literature about cultivation, gardening and nature.
“I am from a family where we have always practised both cultivating the soil and nature a lot - especially my grandmother taught me a lot. She was insanely good at cultivating the garden,” he says.
“You really like to go in-depth with things and understand pH values and biological processes,” says Nanna.
“I have become a bit nerdy,” he says, while the other three nod affirmatively.
In the greenhouse Liv grows edible flowers, which she uses on her cakes.
In one end of the greenhouse, Mads has built a shelf from a walnut tree. The shelf rests on shelf brackets from Juliana. It is a nice way to give the greenhouse a personal touch.
We are sitting in the greenhouse, where we are sheltered from the west wind. Along the sides are raised beds with i.e., squash, corn and lettuce, and a couple of capillary boxes with tomatoes.
They have just started to sprout, so everyone is crossing their fingers that they will grow big and yield.
"One of the things that can be challenging is the transition from germination to transplanting," says Frederik.
He explains that it is especially about the big temperature difference and that it is important not putting the small sprouts outside in the greenhouse too soon. But then again, it differs from plant to plant.
“Pepper, chilli, and cucumber, for example, are very heat-demanding, so they should not be put outside too soon. Whereas tomatoes may be put in the greenhouse in mid-May.”
In one corner Liv and Mads have planted a vine. The idea is for it to grow big and create shadow in the greenhouse.
If you know nothing, then just go for it
For beginners in the greenhouse, Frederik's recommendation is to just go for it and then make your own experiences, but he still advises on which crops he will recommend to beginners, and that is for example tomatoes.
“The tomato is a grateful plant - it is important that you transplant it a little deep into the ground so that the roots take root properly. Tomato roots tend to shoot out to the sides, but it is important that they shoot downwards.”
In the capillary boxes are a few small tomatoes. They do not look like much this May day, but they will, says Frederik.
"Tomatoes grow fast and take up a lot of space - that's why I also recommend putting only two plants in one growbag."
The tomatoes are not germinated - they were bought as small plants in the nearest nursery, and then transplanted. That was what made Liv reconsider germinating.
"If you can buy a small tomato plant for 3 pounds and avoid all that hassle with the germination, where you cannot be sure if they will come up from the ground at all, then I like easy solution more," she says.
The others laugh - the friend knows this and knows that she is more for quick solutions that give a quick return than slow processes that require patience. Fortunately, there is room for everything in the greenhouse.
Nanna gives her friend a loving pat on the shoulder and smiles.
"You can get a few tomato plants from me next year."
There are plenty of herbs in the greenhouse
Frederik’s tips for growing herbs
Herbs are wonderful in most cooking and there is nothing better than picking your own. They are relatively easy to grow, but there is still a difference in how much water and heat they need.
Herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano need a lot of sun and are therefore good to have in the greenhouse. They may dry out before irrigated, otherwise they easily rot or look sad.
To give them a soil resembling their original soil from nature around the Mediterranean, you can use good potting soil (preferably without sphagnum if possible) and then mix in sand/gravel or similar, to make the soil more porous and well-drained.
If, on the other hand, you are growing mint, clover, basil, lemon balm, lemon verbena, they like more moist soil.
Depending on the weather and the year, then mid-May/1st of June is when you transplant if the night temperature is not below 10 degrees.
Follow Liv and Mads on:
It is a Danish profile where they post their life at the farm, and in the greenhouse and garden.
Follow Nanna and Frederik on:
It is a Danish profile where they post their life in rural Denmark, gardenlife, homemade cremes etc.
Frederik’s tips to cultivating tomatoes
A nice beginner’s tomato is Gardner’s Delight. It is a strong sort, and it is easy to grow.
You get optimum growth by snipping off the side shoots in the leaf corner, so the plant can focus on growing taller and make clusters instead of leaves.
To prevent the skin from splitting, keep the soil evenly moist so that the tomatoes develop properly. If the soil dries out, the skin on the tomatoes is tightened and the moment you irrigate the tomatoes again, the skin of the tomatoes will burst as it is no longer elastic due to drying out.
An optimal tomato plant has 4-5 large clusters - if it does, Frederik recommends that you cut off the top shoot to make the plant concentrate on ripening the tomatoes that are there, instead of having to use energy for more growth.
Facts about Liv and Mads’ greenhouse
163.6 square feet
An outstanding greenhouse, that with its bay and double doors is a unique outdoor space.
Read more about the greenhouse here.
Om Nanna Stærmose
Nanna is the Danish writer of many of the articles in the Greenhouse Forum.
Nanna visits happy greenhouse owners and tells their stories about basic cultivation, but also those stories that are more oblique.
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