Practical Suggestions For An Amateur’s Greenhouse

I strive for continuous bloom in my greenhouse for 12 months of the year, which I do have. Unlike many others I have seen, my greenhouse is working at capacity the entire year.

Amateur GreenhousePin

Like many of you, I am still working. I commute 22 miles twice a day; hence the time I spend in the greenhouse is limited, and every minute I spend there must count.

Blooming In Three Seasons

I concentrate the bloom into three specific periods, namely: 

  • The Fall and Winter show
  • Spring — when the bloom reaches its greatest crescendo
  • the Summer exhibit

Continuous bloom in a greenhouse means a degree of long-range planning to get the best results. 

It also means keeping a record of what you want to grow and a schedule of when the plants are to be started.

It has been my experience that the combination of potted and benched plants is best. The type of plants grown is largely determined by the temperature maintained in the greenhouse. 

My Cool House

Mine is known as a cool house, with a maximum night temperature in the winter at 55° degrees Fahrenheit. 

This is ideal for plants grown in pots and on benches and is more economical from the expense angle.

Fiscal Greenhouse

My fiscal greenhouse year starts in late July or early August. At this time, I sow enough snapdragon seeds to give me about 75 plants, which are later benched in the dirt and will bloom about Christmas time. 

Incidentally, secure the greenhouse or forcing variety, as the regular outdoor variety is not suited for greenhouse forcing. 

If you cannot obtain seed, perhaps you can talk your local florist into giving you some, or better yet, a few seedlings.

Ideal Time To Order Bushes

August and September are good times to order a few camellia bushes. These will, no doubt, arrive in tins and if so, leave them in the containers until after they bloom and then report them in large pots.

If you want something unusual, you can also order:

  • A dwarf Meyer lemon tree
  • A small pyracantha bush (Gruber’s firethorn)
  • A stephanotis vine (bridal bouquet)

The camellias, you will find, are fine greenhouse plants and will bloom, depending on the variety, from November until May. 

The bloom of the Meyer lemon is very fragrant, and the fruit is excellent. The pyracantha is decorative, and in the winter months, it is covered with red berries. 

The stephanotis blooms from June until late October, and the blossoms are fragrant, waxy, and white.

September For Sowing

September is the time to sow sweet peas on the benches or deep window boxes. They will pay sweet dividends from Christmas until April. 

Late August and early September is the time to arrange and set up your mum’s show, which is one of the big exhibits of the year. 

I gather many clumps of the outdoor, hardy mums from the outdoor garden and bench them in the greenhouse. 

Many others I transplant into large 8″ inches pots. The hardy mums are transplanted easily if dug wet and with a good clump of dirt. 

Hardy Mums

A few that work out well for me are:

  • Yellow Spoon 
  • Madame Chiang Kai-shek
  • Charles Nyc
  • Harbor Lights
  • Astrid

These will bloom from late September through October.

Naturally, you will want to try some of the greenhouse varieties. As with the hardy mums, I like to bench a few and pot up a few that have been outdoors all Summer. 

Greenhouse Varieties

The greenhouse varieties have large, spectacular flowers and bloom well into December.

The following varieties are especially good for the amateur: 

  • Ambassador
  • Mrs. H. E. Kidder
  • Major Bowes
  • Indianapolis Yellow
  • Marketeer
  • The Dots (pink, white, and yellow)

To build up a stock of more unusual types, I usually purchase a few potted plants from the local florists and make cuttings from these the following spring.

Planting Of Bulbs In Spring

The latter part of October or early November is the time to plant bulbs for the Spring show. 

After potting the daffodils, narcissi, and hyacinths, I prefer to set them deep in a cold frame and cover them with sand, dirt, and a foot or so of leaves. 

Water them down and forget them. In selecting the bulbs mentioned above, be sure to get those best suited for forcing.

Freesia And Dutch Iris

About October 15th, you should plant some freesia (Tecolote variety) and Dutch iris (Wedgewood and Golden Harvest). 

I like planting the freesia in 4″ inches flats and the iris in 8″ inches berry boxes. If you have the space, you can plant the iris right on the benches and be sure to keep them wet continuously. 

Both the freesia and iris should be shaded and kept cool until they sprout, and both like lots of water. 

The freesia will bloom in early January and the iris shortly after that. The freesia is most fragrant, and the irises are simply beautiful.

If you have geraniums in your outdoor garden, late September is a good time to make cuttings for next year. 

Be sure to make enough for your outdoor garden and an ample supply for the Summer show in the greenhouse. 

Last year I made 000 cuttings, and when you figure a good geranium plant sells from 75 cents to $1.00 in these parts, I had a good investment and plenty of bloom.

Buying Potted Plants In December

December is when I like to buy a few potted plants from the florists, such as cyclamen, Christmas begonias, dwarf begonias, a poinsettia or two, or other potted plants in season. 

You will find the cyclamen and begonias will bloom well into April. This is a good time to sow a few annuals for your greenhouses, such as nasturtiums, sweet alyssum, calendula, and dwarf marigolds, which all add to the bloom. 

Azalea Plants

During November, December, and January, you can buy a few azalea plants that will add to your Spring exhibit. 

These do especially well in a greenhouse where it is wool and humid, and they are easily kept from year to year. 

If you are alert, you can find many fine azalea plants that your friends discard after they bloom in the house.

Spring Show: Outstanding Exhibit of Plants

I now have a collection of about 25, and these put on an outstanding exhibit from November until May.

February 15th is when the curtain rises for the first act of the big Spring show. From January 1st, you have gradually moved in a few pots of daffodils and tulips from the cold frames, and you are now having your first bloom.

Other Varieties for Spring

This is augmented by the freesias, which are now in all their glory, the Dutch iris is beginning to bloom, and the azaleas present a solid bank of mixed color. 

Some camellia bushes are filled with large, waxy blossoms, and the lemon tree has both blossoms and ripe fruit. 

The cyclamen and begonias in banging pots are very colorful. The Amaryllis is beginning to bloom, as well as some of the double petunias planted earlier. 

Last Bursts Of Faster Lilies

The last burst of bloom in the Spring shows the Faster lilies. The greenhouse is ablaze with color, saturated with fragrance, and a sight to behold. 

You are proud of it all, and your neighbors enjoy it with you. The Spring show is in all its glory from the middle of February to the latter part of March.

Preparing For The Summer Show

March and April are busy months, for, at this time, you are sowing your flower and vegetable seeds for the outdoor garden and preparing the greenhouse for the Summer exhibit. 

The geraniums are beginning to bloom and need shifting to larger pots. The gloxinia and tuberous begonias are started and moved to 8″ inches pots. 

The sun is high, and as warm weather approaches, the greenhouse should be shaded (I like the sea green shade). 

Fancy-Leaved Caladiums

At one end of the house are several pots of fancy-leaved caladiums, which are very colorful all Summer long. 

On one side are the gloxinia, tuberous begonias, and perhaps a few pots of fuchsia. All these blooming periods are from June 15th to September 15th. The balance of the house is filled with colorful geraniums.

General Greenhouse Maintenance

In closing, I would like to make a few suggestions for general greenhouse maintenance that may save you a few headaches:

  • Fumigate or spray regularly to prevent insects and pests.
  • Keep a clean, neat greenhouse at all times, which means clean, healthy plants.
  • Wash out dirty pots before using them a second time.
  • Get in your winter supply of dirt, peat, sand, and leaf mold before freezing weather.
  • Be sure to look into the automatic ventilation equipment now available. This saves you a lot of worries and your wife a lot of work.
  • Keep an accurate record of your planting dates, blooming dates, and general results.
  • Water intelligently. Do not sprinkle. Soak plants well and then let them dry out before watering again. Water and fertilize sparingly during the Winter months.
  • Avoid storing and wintering your neighbors’ house plants.

44659 by Frank S. Coffin