Start plants early with a greenhouse

VegetablesSeed sowing will not be at its height until next month but if seedlings can be protected, a start can be made now.

A glasshouse, whether the full-sized version or a mini type, is the place to sow trays of seeds now for planting later.

For those with limited space, small upright greenhouses with lightweight framing and plastic covers are an inexpensive option.

When sowing under glass, warmth and moisture are essential.

Be cautious: at this time of the year too much moisture without sufficient warmth will cause many seeds to rot, so if in doubt, wait until conditions are warmer.

Because of overcrowding, young seedlings are often weakened and can die in the seed tray, so thinning them is advisable.

This is fiddly but worth the effort.

Rose planting should be completed soon as they will shortly be making new season's growth.

Established roses can be pruned next month, generally a better practice in colder districts than earlier pruning.

Hedges can be a useful screen to separate flowers from vegetables or hide compost heaps or other utilitarian aspects.

Consider taller-growing hebes, camellias, spiraea (bridal wreath), forsythia, roses and fuchsias for such a screen.

Because they have long growing seasons, four months or more from planting to maturity, and need constant warmth, melons are usually grown in glasshouses in southern regions.

However, some smaller-fruited rock melon varieties can be grown outdoors as they mature in a shorter time.

Look for Jenny Lind, Minnesota Midget or Tigger Moon. Plant seed under cover and transplant outdoors when the danger of frost has passed.

Alongside a glasshouse, where they soak up the warmth of the glass, is ideal.

Melons need rich soil and do better on a heap of compost to which lots of manure has been added. Keep well watered in hot weather.

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