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What to grow under glass

Seeds for growing under glass
Seeds for growing under glass

My choice of edibles and ornamentals this season

You can really expand your range of plants by growing them under glass and you don’t need a fancy greenhouse costing thousands.

Don’t be put off by thinking warmer climate crops are more difficult to grow – as long as you meet their requirements, they’ll pay you back.

Make sure the area you’re going to use has as much sun as possible – south or west-facing.

All of the varieties below need a heated propagator and very good light after germination (I usually sow most in February, chillies in January).

Hardening off plants
Shabby-looking lean-to for hardening off plants

Grow from seed or plug plants

If you don’t have the facilities, wait until spring and buy cheap plug plants from your garden centre – they’ve done the tricky work for you.

When it comes to growing under glass, take it literally:

  • A sunny windowsill
  • Conservatory (how many houses do you see with them actually with plants in them?)
  • Tomato grow house (you can get these for £20 or under)
  • Be creative – I’ve grown plants under an old shower screen used as a lean-to outside and made all sorts of structures out of Perspex, piping, bubble wrap – anything I have to hand.
Perennial plug plants
Perennial plugs in the greenhouse

Grow them in pots

This is my choice for the year. They’re all edibles, picked up wherever I go, apart from the Coleus, which are a happy reminder of a holiday in Madeira, where they use them as bedding.

I’ve included the seed company at the end but not the price, as you can get most from multiple suppliers. Anything marked TRIAL has been supplied to me by a seed company – the others I’ve bought myself.

All are suitable for growing in pots, the bigger the better.

Exotic novelties

I always end up buying seeds for unusual plants, which more than often fail. Hey, it’s the excitement…

  • Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana), can reach 180cm, orange fruit in ‘Chinese lantern’ calyces. Ripe when they have changed from green to golden brown and can be stored whole for months). Can be grown on a sunny patio. Eat in jams, puddings or raw, Les Doigts Verts
  • Coleus Rainbow Mixture, (not unusual but they are for me to grow – the first time since I was 12), Fioral 
  • Cucamelon, the Mexican gherkin, looks like a mini watermelon, tastes like cucumber with a hint of lime. Suitable for a sheltered sunny spot outside in warmer climates – how to grow them here), Thompson & Morgan
  • Maracuja Mix (Mixed passion fruit), I have no clue who produced these seeds but they’re from Portugal! Probably more for the flowers than fruit but fingers crossed.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion seed sown, January 7
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion seed sown, January 7

Peppers, chillies and aubergines

The super hot chillies are for my stepson Ali, who is obsessed with ridiculous heat (more about them here). I’ve added peppers and aubergines for the first time for ages.

  • Aubergine Ophelia F1a decorative baby-fruited variety with glossy, dark purple fruits of 50-60g each. Can go on a sunny, sheltered patio, Plant World Seeds
  • Chilli Razzamatazz, rainbow colours, dwarf, medium hot, Mr Fothergill’s TRIAL
  • Chilli Biquino Red, hot but smoky flavour, Johnsons TRIAL
  • Chilli Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, (more about this here), Plant World Seeds
  • Pepper Almapaprika, heritage variety, the original paprika pepper, with a mild peppery taste, thick fleshy and crunchy skin. Round and red, fruits start off a pale cream, Rob Smith Range, Dobies
Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings fill the big propagator, end of March

Tomatoes

An odd selection this year, all new to me – two heritage beefsteak varieties, and a small yellow pear-shaped tomato. I’m also trying tomatillos for the first time, as they were highly recommended by a friend.

  • Tomatillo Large Purple/Green, these tomato relatives carry their fruit in a papery husk. Use for salsas, chutneys and in pasta sauces. They’ll store for several weeks if stored in their husks. It has yellow skin overlaid with a purple blush. You need two plants to get fruit but that should be plenty. Suitable for outside too, The Real Seed Catalogue.
  • Tomato Noire de Crimee, heritage Russian variety Crimean Black, a cordon beefsteak type with red/brown skin and massive 250g fruits, Les Doigts Verts
  • Tomato Orange Queen, heritage cordon variety, with orange/yellow round fruits weighing, 120-180g, good for cooler climates, Les Doigts Verts
  • Tomato Yellow Pear Shaped, heritage variety, the golden-yellow fruits have a really sweet juicy flavour. Slightly bigger than a conventional cherry tomato, 20g fruits, Casa Cesar Santos
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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