Rather than being stuck indoors over winter, why not turn your greenhouse into an attractive, productive retreat?
Pottering under cover in this halfway house between indoors and out is a great way to stave off any winter blues and to exercise your green fingers – and the more time you spend in your greenhouse this winter, the more plants you’ll want to add.
Keep busy with our seven projects for a winter greenhouse, below.
Plant up an evergreen pot
Grown under cover these vibrant and spicily fragrant small-flowered cyclamen generally stay healthy and flower for longer. Team with hardy ferns, we used Polystichum polyblepharum, and dwarf late-winter or early-spring bulbs. Allow the cyclamen to go dormant in spring and start them off again in summer.
Deep-pink cyclamen in a terracotta planter with fern and ivy
Tidy up pelargoniums
Pelargoniums will waft their rich fragrances into the air as you brush past. In mild parts of the UK, they can cope in an unheated greenhouse, but on frosty nights wrap them in a double layer of fleece. In colder areas, give them a little heat to keep frost at bay. Water only sparingly and tidy up any dead leaves and shoots.
Moving a potted pelargonium into a greenhouse
Harvest winter salads
Move hardy salads into the greenhouse for leafy pickings through to spring. Plant salad plugs into large containers or trays – a depth of 15cm is enough for hardy lettuces, cut-and-come-again salad mixes, mizuna, rocket, land cress, lamb’s lettuce and pak choi.
Harvesting winter salads growing in a greenhouse pot
Grow your own lemons
Glossy-leaved, aromatic citrus plants will give your greenhouse the air of a small orangery. Lemons are tough plants and can withstand temperatures down to freezing, but they tend to stop growing below 10°C and won’t produce flowers or set fruit while their roots are inactive. Stop feeding at low temperatures and water carefully, allowing the surface to dry out in between.
Lemon trees growing in large pots in a greenhouse
Create a sempervivum pot
Plant houseleeks (sempervivum) in a shallow bowl of gritty compost and top with shingle. You can then move this outdoors over summer.
A variety of sempervivums planted together in a shallow terracotta pot with shingle topping
Pick fresh herbs
Bring pots of rosemary, sage and thyme under glass for better quality pickings, especially in cold, wet regions. Bay trees also prefer shelter from cold, drying winds. Mint will give fresh pickings indoors if potted up in autumn, but it needs warmth to keep growing all winter. Pot up some parsley, if your outdoor crop tends to get frosted, and marjoram will stay green for longer under glass.
Sage and mint foliage
Get ahead with beans
Broad beans will get off to a good start over winter and the earliest batches are less likely to suffer from black bean aphids. Direct sow hardy varieties outside during November, then sow under glass in pots, trays or modules from December to February. Once the pots are filled with roots, stand them outside in daytime to harden off, then plant out in March.
Sowing broad beans in individual-plug seed trays
Free mint plants
Root cuttings can be taken from mint in winter. Remove a creeping rhizome from a mint plant, then cut into sections 3-5cm long – each should contain at least one ‘joint’. Lay out horizontally in a compost-filled shallot pot or tray, cover with compost, water, then leave in the greenhouse to grow.