There’s a plant graveyard outside my greenhouse and it is growing.
Some of the deaths are due to the cold. I sowed a few Broad Beans in pots last Autumn, hoping to over winter them and start them in a pot in the garden for an early crop. When I got the allotment I felt faintly smug at the thought that I would be able to plant out little Broad Beans fairly early on. It was not to be. The cold got to them.
The other problem is the dreaded Botrytis. This fuzzy grey mould thrives in still humid air, the kind you find in a greenhouse. I took the decision to insulate my greenhouse with bubble wrap this year but not to keep it frost free, mainly on environmental grounds but also because of the extra cost. Although I have kept airing the greenhouse on warmer days, I water my greenhouse plants from the bottom using capillary matting, and had kept a watering can in there too in the hope that it would be slightly warmer than from the water butts. Add to that the fact that we’ve had a long damp spell, so that opening the greenhouse wasn’t really helping on the humidity front, and you have a recipe for disaster, particularly where Pelargoniums are concerned.
There is an eerie beauty to these skeletons, but skeletons they are. Poor plants, they went from a few leaves being affected – which I pulled off and removed from the greenhouse – to this, almost over night. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t cut them back before storing them for the winter. I’ve done that now, probably too late, and moved them to the planthouse in case they continue to spread the infection. I think they’ve had it though.
The devastation isn’t, fortunately, universal. Most of my perennial seedlings have survived, although Aquilegias seem to be very susceptible.
A small hydrangea collected a dose, but once I removed the infected leaves it was clear the plant was still putting on new growth, so I remain hopeful.
So what now? I am continuing to remove all the affected material, and air the greenhouse. I’ve taken all the Aquilegia seedlings out of the greenhouse and put them in the planthouse instead, and many of them are still throwing up new leaves, so who knows, some may survive. I won’t sow any more until the weather has warmed up enough for me to reinstate the automatic vent and remove some of the bubble wrap. I did think about using the dehumidifier in there to dry the air out a little but quickly realised that because of the way I water my plants this was probably going to be a waste of time. And money. I do have a small fan heater that I could put in there on a timer, which would move the air about and raise the temperature a little. I like this because it means I could start tomatoes and chillies off earlier, but am still reluctant on environmental grounds. If, in the future, we wind up living somewhere with photovoltaic cells I will happily use our self generated electricity to keep an insulated greenhouse frost free, but until then it makes no sense to me to heat a draughty glass structure just for plants. I’d rather just not try to grow tender plants that require coddling until that time.
I will miss these little beauties though. Another RIP, I hope this is the last for a while!