Growing your own food in a greenhouse

Apr 19, 2012 at 2:00 a.m. ET

With food prices sky rocketing and more and more people aware of their carbon footprint, many are opting to grow their own food in a greenhouse or back garden to achieve a more sustainable and self sufficient way of living. If you fancy a go, here are our top five tips to growing food in a greenhouse.

Fruit and veggies in greenhouse

Buy a decent greenhouse

If you are serious about growing your own food, make sure you invest in a good quality glass greenhouse. Many cheaper, plastic models have come onto to the market recently, and while they can serve a purpose for growing small amounts of seeds and herbs, they generally blow away or fall apart within a few months — especially with the weather the U.K. can experience, even in the summertime. A 6-foot by 4-foot good quality, toughened glass green house will set you back between £300.00 to £500.00 and you can expect it to last for about ten years.

Plan your greenhouse layout in advance

With so little space to play with (compared to the usual fields vegetables grow in), you need to plan your patch very carefully. If you plan to be organic and not use any pesticides or chemicals, which is usually the general idea when growing food at home, you will need to lay out your plants and seeds in a certain way to deter nasty pests from attempting to eat your juicy produce. A garden centre advisor will be able to tell you all this in detail, but as a simple guide, onions and leeks planted next to carrots deter carrot fly, and to attract friendly bugs, plant buddleia, achillea and flowering herbs such as dill, rosemary and lavender throughout your greenhouse. These will attract pest-eating ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies.

Get the advice of a good garden centre

As mentioned above, a garden centre advisor is worth his weight in gold when it comes to starting you on your self-sufficient quest. They will advise you on the best vegetables, herbs and fruit to grow in the soil you have in your garden and will know which ones are most suitable for you in the beginning, depending on how much time you have to devote to your greenhouse, your previous gardening experience and what you would like to achieve in the long run. Always take a sample of your soil along with you so they have something to go on.

Don’t forget your compost

Compost in one of the most important aspects of your greenhouse garden. You need good quality, organic compost and should buy one that compliments your existing soil. The two main types of compost are peat-free and peat-based. It is considered by some to be unethical to take peat from fields to supply you in your compost, so if you want to be environmentally friendly, peat-free is the way to go. Technology now means that peat-free is as good as peat-base, but go to your local garden centre to find your perfect match.

Watch for weeds

Along with garden pests, weeds are your worst enemy. If you don’t keep on top of them they will grow at an uncontrollable rate and rather than removing a few green bits, you will be excavating your whole greenhouse. There are some things you can do to prevent them from growing in the first place, such as laying a 1 to 2-inch thick newspaper on top of the soil and then covering with about the same amount of soil or mulch. The general rule is the thicker the paper, the less weeds that will appear.

More on growing your own food

How to grow your own herbs
Benefits of growing your own food
The top five easiest flowers to grow

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