April In The Greenhouse

The greenhouse soil has worked hard in the summer heat, and needs a bit of love before planting the next lot of crops out.

Create space

Lettuce seedlings planted beneath pruned tomatoes in the the greenhouse

As long as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines are still producing and not in the way, leave them in for handy little harvests.

Free up space at their base, by pruning off older lower foliage – they need the extra light and airflow anyway on these shorter, cooler days. Pluck off all the yellow, ratty, pest-y or diseased leaves and any leaves that are shading flowers and fruits. In this way create space for new seedlings/ sowings.

If space is at a premium, you can cut tomatoes off at the base, leaving the nourishing roots behind in the soil, and hang the plants upside down in the greenhouse or on a porch where they’ll continue to ripen. Another alternative is to use the unripe fruits in green tomato pickles, sauces et al. There will at some point be fried green tomatoes on the menu – my fav.

Bring back the moisture!

If soils dry (and chances are that it is), you’ll need to rehydrate it to get the microbes back.

Soils that are really dry may take a few soaks to get properly moist. Water until puddles show, then rest it for a few hours or over night and repeat until your soil test shows you its perfectly moist.

If soils beyond dry – it will repel water and liquid will run right off the top. In this case crack the hydrophobic surface by making shallow drills with your finger every ten centimetres or so along the bed. Water the drills a few times, resting between each, before watering the whole bed. As the water pathways re open and clay particles swell, the soil will start accepting water again.

Feed it up

Nothing beats a fresh layer of compost. Spread it on as thickly as possible – atleast 2cm in a greenhouse.

If you don’t have enough, no worries just tag team it with other sources of fertility.

  • A spade of compost for each new plant + crimson clover (nitrogen fixing greencrop) and phacelia (greencrop) seed sprinkled on the uncomposted bits between.
  • Scrounge all the sources of fertility you have to hand – rotten manure, homemade compost, bokashi, worm castings, the wormy soil beneath the firewood pile or beneath fallen leaves – mix it altogether and spread it on. I call this cheats compost and its as good as the real thing.
  • A spade of compost for each seedling and trench foodscraps or bokashi or seaweed between plants.

Boost the microbes

Soak the prepared soil with something to stir the soil life into action. This little pre plant booster is so very good, especially if your soils dried out. Use whatever you have to hand.

I love my biological brews, other options are worm wees, activated compost tea, liquid comfrey or a mixture of the three.
Or molasses and whole milk – which as simple as it sounds, is awesome. And easy. Dissolve 1T molasses in warm water and stir it into a 50/50 ish mix of water and organic, whole milk. Add molasses to any liquid feeds to inspire the biology.

Plant + Sow

Bean seedlings in a plug tray ready to be transplanted

There’s heaps of cool things you can plant in the autumn greenhouse. It depends on what you want to eat and what the temperature is at yours. Its super handy for quick leafys like lettuce, bok choy, gai lan or spinach if you need them. For sure they’ll grow outside, but not as fast as they will inside in the warmth. Dwarf beans are another excellent option at this time of year.

I’m planting out salads, basil, celery and beetroot. I’ll hopefully get some spuds going in buckets sometime soon. Celery, because going under cover prevents rust. Basil is a punt worth taking – if it suddenly gets too cold and comes to nothing, ah well! I’ve grouped all these crops together near the entry, so that the rest of the house can be given over to the chooks in a month or so time.

I’ve tossed a mustard, buckwheat, daikon and phacelia greencrop in any gaps beneath the finishing summer crops and am giving up on weeding – the chickens will take care of that for me later. Which is a relief, as April is such a busy time! If you are chickenless and weed burden is high, simply grab your Niwashi shark and slash the weeds at the base and lay them back down as mulch.

Comments

  1. Carol Robson says

    Hi Kath
    I have a big pile of dead grass thanks to grass grub. I don’t want to throw it away. It would be okay as a mulch in my glasshouse or do you think it might still harbour more grubs that will eat my roots that I have growing in there now?

    Really love all the information you put on this site. Thank you!

    • Hey Carol, I highly doubt there’ll any grub in the dead grass – it lives and feeds on roots then transforms into a shiny brown beetle that nibbles plants – so you’ll be safe as to use it.

  2. Danielle Hart says

    Hey Kath,
    I’m interested to try the molasses and milk thing. Just wondering roughly how much of the 50/50 water/milk would you put with 1T molasses?

    • Ah fun! I go for 1 T blackstrap unsulphured molasses with a 50/50 raw milk water mixture in a watering can so thats about 9litres all up. This is super flexible – worth trying it and seeing how your plants like it.

  3. Lynda Rose Cartmell says

    Hi Kath,
    I have 3 free standing planter boxes in my Greenhouse which have been growing crops for 2 years now. I have used Daltons Garden Mix when I filled them. I feel it is time to maybe plant a Green crop and give the soil a rest. Is this the right time of the year and what Green Crop would you suggest?
    Many thanks for your time and hope you enjoy your “Coffee” .
    Kind regards,
    Lynda Cartmell

    • Hi Lynda
      Yes you can do a greencrop at anytime of year – right now is perfect for a rest for winter and as per the article above I’ve suggested a greencrop of phacelia mustard and buckwheat. You could also add lupin to that if you wanted. Cheers Kath