January at Norfolk School of Gardening - Overwintering in the Greenhouse

January at Norfolk School of Gardening - Overwintering in the Greenhouse

What's to be done in the greenhouse? Caring for overwintering plants and sowing chillies for summer.

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Well the festivities are truly over, the decorations are packed away, the Christmas tree is waiting to be shredded to be used as a mulch on acid-loving plants like camellias, blueberries and rhododendrons and the moss-based wreath is hanging in an apple tree for the birds to help themselves to the last of the berries. It has been back to work for us this week, and many of you have been in touch to book places on courses over the coming weeks and months. It seems like lots of us plan to grow more and learn new skills this year, which is a great way to start to January.

Back in the Walled Garden we thought the most optimistic way to begin the New Year was to sow some seeds. The sweet peas we sowed in the Rhino greenhouse in November are looking healthy and we have started to harvest the pak choi and salad leaves we sowed in November and December as ‘minigreens’. But now is a good time to sow chillies for summer cropping. On a November visit to RHS garden Hyde Hall in Essex we were interested to see chillies still fruiting in the huge round greenhouse. We are not sure if we will achieve such a long season without heating, but Chiltern Seeds has got a great selection and we are growing 3 different varieties which will be both decorative and pack a range of culinary punches!

We have been checking over the cuttings we took back in the autumn to make sure there is no mildew or rot damage, and we have removed dead leaves from the overwintering pelargoniums. It’s important to keep up with greenhouse ‘housework’ over the winter to minimise the spread of diseases, and to remove breeding and hiding places for pests. We have done a little watering of seedlings but also kept an eye on the weather forecast in case we need to cover plants in the greenhouse for a few days of sub-zero temperatures. No sign of that yet.

Upcoming courses with availability:

Introduction to Garden Design starts 16th January (6 week course)
Renovation Pruning 28th January
Introduction to Veg Growing 31st January
The Cutting Garden 4th February
Border Renovation 7th February
Caring for Fruit Trees 11th February
Certificate in Practical Horticulture register interest for April & September

Plant of the Week

Sempervivum tectorum or houseleek

Sempervivum tectorum

Commonly known as the houseleek, even though it is not related to the leek, this is a perennial and robust succulent which survives in the most unlikely situations. Often found growing out of crevices, in shade or in sun, the Sempervivum tectorum is literally always alive, as the Latin name suggests (semper means always, vivus, living), keeping its leaves through winter and resisting frost and drought. In Wales the houseleek was grown on the roof to protect a house from fire and lightning strikes which may be the origin of the common name. It is also known as ‘hens and chicks’, referring to the way the plant propagates, producing small lateral rosettes (chicks). There are many interesting varieties of the houseleek and they can be grown equally successfully as ground cover or in containers.

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