Using your conservatory as a greenhouse

Strawberry plant

Have you ever thought about using your conservatory as a greenhouse? After all a conservatory is really just a glorified greenhouse which is attached to the house. Grow your own fruit, salad and vegetables indoors, it will not only save you cash, but it will provide tasty organic fresh food that you have grown at home. The main advantages of using your conservatory instead of a greenhouse is that the temperature can be better regulated, also a conservatory tends to be larger than your average greenhouse. It is worth bearing in mind that a south or west facing conservatory would be best, as it would have the most sunlight. All plants have their own ideal growing temperature, so remember this when choosing which plants to grow.  

Environment is important. Conservatories can become very hot in the summer months, making the atmosphere dry, without protection plants are unlikely to survive. Adding blinds to create shading is essential. It is also important that during dry hot weather there is sufficient air circulation, leave vents open at night if the temperature is high. Keep your windows clean. Dusty, dirty windows can block essential light getting to your plants.

Choosing the right things to Grow

What to grow? Well, just about any vegetable and salad plants can be grown indoors, as well as some fruits and herbs. Tomatoes, chillies and peppers are firm favourites, as well as strawberry plants and fruit trees. In late winter, early spring, vegetables such as broad beans and mangetout can be grown. Growing fragrant herbs are always good; rosemary, mint, oregano, thyme and sage. Avoid growing basil in late winter/early spring as they require long days and maximum light to grow. Parsley and coriander may be better to grow outside due to the water they need in direct sunlight. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, even melons can be successfully grown, although these are a little more difficult. Fruit will grow well inside a conservatory only if they are kept in a light position and fed regularly with appropriate fertiliser, and in a minimum temperature of 4°c. Strawberries are an easy one to grow, with gorgeous sweet varieties to chose from such as Mara des Bois’, which produce fruit from early summer all the way through to early autumn.

Other ever-bearing varieties are Flamenco and Anais. Mignonettes are alpine strawberries; these plants produce small sweet berries during summer months. Sunny windowsills are ideal for growing tomatoes, for window boxes chose pendent varieties such as Tumbler tomatoes. For Cordon varieties, like Sweet Million tomatoes, train them up with canes or tie them up with string in the conservatory, and they will create long trusses of decorative tomatoes for months. In late winter seeds for carrots and radishes can be sown, these will produce up to 25 days of re-useable roots. Plant new potatoes, these can also be grown in buckets or thick plastic sacks. Baby salad leaves are fast growing crops, which makes them perfect for a windowsill. Sow individual varieties such as Rocket, spinach leaves and lambs lettuce in a trough of their own. Spring onions also do well in a conservatory: White Lisbon winter hardy is best sown early in unheated conditions.

The amount of food that can be grown in your conservatory is vast. It is well worth the effort just so to experience the taste difference.

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