Begin a vegetable garden using a cold frame, poly-tunnel or greenhouse to extend the season, give your seedlings a good start and allow you to grow more exotic vegetables such as aubergine, sweet pepper and chilli.
In your new vegetable garden the use of some protected area to sow and bring on young seedlings is definitely needed. A cold frame or covered shelf unit would be ideal if you didn’t want to go to the expense of a poly-tunnel or greenhouse.
A south facing window works well for sowing seeds but without somewhere to move on seedlings your sill will be full in no time. Even better, use a propagator to aid germination and then move on your healthy well established seedlings to another protected area. Here are some tips to sowing seeds and establishing seedlings.
By protecting your young plants you will have a much better success rate and will be able to start the season a few weeks earlier, and a longer season will give your plants more time to develop before having to face the elements.
Even if you start your seedlings inside, and give them plenty of time to develop, they will still need protection when they first go outside. Even a slight chill in a breeze could destroy young sensitive plants; this is where a cold frame comes in.
A cold frame is just a simple south facing frame with a glass lid sloping from a higher back to a lower front, ideally hinged at the back so the lid can be lifted on a warm and sunny day.
If you have no room for a cold frame you can by an inexpensive grow house, a simple framed shelf unit with a plastic cover and door.
They work well and can be heat regulated by opening the door on warm days, and they don’t take up too much room in the garden.
Both of these tools offer protection to young plants while they get used to outdoor conditions, a process called hardening off. Here are some ideas for buying and handling young plants to begin a vegetable garden.
If you have the space and your are keen to use a poly-tunnel or greenhouse you will really improve your yields. You can also begin a vegetable garden earlier in the season and could be eating salad all year round. Plants like mangetout and potatoes will be ready very early, and to have a real treat of new potatoes in April is fantastic.
And by using growing under glass you’ll double the amount of tomatoes and could even grow melons, sweet peppers and chilli.
An 8 by12 greenhouse just for tomatoes is perfectly adequate to grow enough to have fresh all summer as well as making chutneys, soups and ketchup. The crop will easily fill a 4’ chest freezer so you can make tomato sauces all year round. You may never buy tomatoes, fresh or canned, again.
The outlay of a greenhouse can be expensive but if you are willing to dismantle someone’s unwanted greenhouse you can get them for nothing. Look on Craigslist or Freecycle. Failing getting it for free you could always check out eBay for a bargain.
Poly-tunnels are a good alternative and most garden centres sell a good variety of sizes.