Gardening under cover

Garden Life

Tips from Sarah the Gardener

 For a keen gardener, the thought of not being able to garden all year round can be frustrating. There is a case for growing the right plants in the right season and there are plenty of plants that don’t mind being grown out in the garden over the winter and for some, a frost can even sweeten them up. So, the garden needn’t lie empty and unused over the cool season, however the keenest gardeners like to push boundaries, and try to get ‘a jump on the growing season’.

While in many circumstances, ‘getting a jump on the growing season’ isn’t the best practice, as starting too early can end up with plants too big, bound in pots waiting to go out into a garden that isn’t ready for it. Plants planted too early are easily overtaken in growth and health by plants planted at the right time.

However, the window for starting seeds is wide and for some plants it can be over several months that enables a successful outcome from sowing seeds. So while there is no hurry, a seed sown sooner rather than later, but in the right window of time, will have a longer growing season and at the end of the day this can mean an extended harvest or an opportunity to get in a second crop later in the season.

Spring can be a fickle season and some years it can be cold, wet and miserable for an extended period, and in a rare situation it is the perfect season we all hope for from the depths of winter. The best way to have control over the season, in terms of creating the right conditions for sowing seeds is to grow them indoors and undercover. Early on in the gardening journey of the keen gardener, a few seeds sown in spring on a windowsill, quickly becomes untenable with every windowsill and surface in the house that remotely receives a hint of light becomes occupied with seed trays and tiny seedlings that represent the hopes of an entire harvest. From this point, acquiring a greenhouse of some kind is the next logical progression.

There are many options available at varying budgets, so there is something for everyone willing to extend the growing season.


Growing on a windowsill is a good option, if you have the space. Just make sure you turn your seedlings often to ensure they don’t reach off towards the light. A mirror tucked behind the seedlings can also help to increase the light as it reflects it back across the seed tray.


This is a cover that can be placed directly on the soil in the garden which will warm the soil, retain moisture, nurture seeds and protect seedlings from the elements. They can be as simple a large plastic juice bottle with the bottom cut off, or as fancy as a glass dome made specifically for the job. You can also have a cloche for an entire row of garden from hoops and plastic film that can be something homemade or picked up from your local garden centre.

Mini Greenhouse

These are a great entry level greenhouse, that can be just a couple of shelves or big enough to walk into. They generally have a metal structure with a plastic cover with zips for doorways. There are a few points to note with these. They need to be positioned out of the wind and anchored down either by screwing to a fence or wall or by weighting the whole thing down with bricks or milk jugs filled with water and tied to the structure. They are extremely light, and the slightest gust of wind will whip them into the air like a kite, taking your seedlings with it. The results of this are not pretty!

Cold Frames

These are a more permanent structure, but on the small side with solid walls and a clear roof. The are great for over wintering plants, starting seeds and are handy in the hardening off process.


This is like a row cloche but on a grander scale. A series of large hoops wrapped in a strong plastic film, creates a controlled environment that means growing can be done pretty much all year round. The only thing limiting the size of a poly tunnel is the space you have and your budget. You can buy a polytunnel kitset or whip up something of your own making.


These are generally aluminium framed structures with polycarbonate panels to let the light in. They are an affordable form of greenhouse, however, bear in mind this makes the whole structure quite light, and therefore these kinds of greenhouse can be susceptible to damage from storms. With this kind of greenhouse, quality counts so if you do your research you will have a wonderful time potting about in the warmth they provide.


A glasshouse is a very strong permanent structure made with actual glass, although ensure it is safety glass that is used, and a sturdy aluminium or wooden structure holding it all together. This makes them more robust against a storm. As it is a permanent feature in the garden, there are varieties that are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

Geodesic Biodome

If you are looking for something special and don’t mind the cost, a dome is a wonderful feature for your garden that can provide year round growing even in the depths of winter.
Whatever your budget and however much space you have available, moving from windowsills to some form of undercover gardening will enrich your gardening experience and make it possible to nurture plants in weather conditions that wouldn’t ordinarily be possible.
Geodesic Biodome