James’ Greenhouse Diary – June/July Summary

With the month of June having been quiet I decided to leave my blog for the month, with the weather being so up and down constantly my fruit and veg has come along in leaps and bounds. I have been able to start cropping a lot of the produce. Throughout the month I have kept up with all my usual jobs such as watering, feeding, weeding and general checks on the plants for any problems.

My cucumber, which started really well has produced a few cucumbers which I managed to eat and there are plenty more on the way. I was really disappointed though to notice that the fruit started going yellow and shrivelling up. I spoke to my colleagues as I wasn’t sure of the reasons for this – they advised that it was due to lack of regular watering, they also advised I keep the greenhouse humid. Over the month I lost all the fruit. but the plant has now started producing more side shoots with fruit on.

As for Tomatoes, Shirley and Gardeners Delight have also been producing plenty of fruit which I have also been cropping regularly, tigerella has started producing fruit but none are quite ready to try.

I have been really disappointed with my melon plant as so far it hasn’t done anything. After talking to several people about this I learnt that due to the weather being so unpredictable, a lot of people were struggling to grow them. I have also learnt that the female flower only opens for one day, this means that to cross pollinate you have to be very quick.

The vegetables that have been planted outside in the planters have all done very well, I was able to crop my potatoes which I got a very good crop from and they also tasted great. I am also cropping the cut-and-grow lettuces as and when I need them.

Lechlade Planteria

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Healthy Gardening Dos and Don’ts…

Whatever your age, fitness level or body shape, it’s never too soon or too late to start thinking about living healthily.

When it comes to gardening, the old adage that ‘no pain, no gain’ just doesn’t stick. With a little of that care and attention that you need to pay your plants if they are to provide you with the desired product, a beautiful flower bed, or a plate of sumptuous fresh beans and new potatoes can be achieved without aching knees and a sore back.

Here is some general guidance for gardening and lifting bags of compost or digging out that really persistent weed:


• Choose a lightweight, long handled garden tool

• Wear loose, comfortable and safe clothing

• Keep your back straight while lifting the soil

• Dig up a little at a time and use your body weight to lever out the soil

• Take a break every 10 – 20 minutes

• Build greenhouse workbenches to the correct height to avoid stooping (usually 2-4” below your elbow) • Choose plants for ground cover and reduce the need for continuous weeding

• Consider raised beds if you have a chronic back problem

• Think about the position of your spine when weeding – sit on a bucket, kneel on all fours, or stand with a wide stance, straight back and your elbow propped against your leg.


• Strain, twist or reach too far in front of you.

• Take huge spadefuls

• Dig continuously

• Overload the wheelbarrow

• Stretch or squat with a bent back

• Continue to use repetitive movements if they are causing you pain, e.g stop if your shoulders hurt when using shears

• Bend too far or twist to the side when starting or using the mower. Establish a neutral wrist posture and elbow angle you can comfortably maintain, and lean your weight in as leverage to help your mower overcome its inertia and get it moving across your lawn.

• Attempt to lift and carry heavy items such as boxes or tubs, always seek assistance or use a safe mechanical aid.

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Our Guide to Keeping Tropical Fish – Part Two

Don’t forget to check out Part One!

Filtration and heating

When installing any electrical equipment, it is always best to refer to the manufacturers instructions.

General guidelines are that heaters are normally positioned in the same area as the filter outlet, at a slight angle – this allows for optimum heat diffusion. For a tropical Aquarium, the heater will need to be set between 24 °C and 28°C. Now is also a great time to pop your thermometer on or in your aquarium.

In regards to filtration, internal filters are normally positioned, at ether end of the aquarium. For the best results when using an external filter the inlet should ideally be placed at one end of the aquarium and the outlet at the opposite. Have the inlet and outlet at opposite ends giving equal circulation throughout the aquarium.

Filling your aquarium

When it comes to filling your aquarium, most fresh water tropical fish are tolerant of tap water. However this is not the case with every species of fish. So it is always worth asking instore when looking at different species of fish. Not all species of fish can be added to a new aquarium setup either, this is another point always worth asking about when in store.

Before adding tap water to your aquarium, we have to remove two compounds to make it safe for our aquariums environment. These compounds are chlorine and chloramine. The best way to remove, chlorine and chloramine is by using a dechlorinater. Aquasafe, Aquaplus and stress coat are just a few of the brands which are on the market. This is a liquid which can be added to the water and works straight away to remove chlorine and chloramine.

When it comes to filling your aquarium, most people use a bucket which has not been used with detergents. Fill the bucket using water from the cold tap and adjust the temperature with water from the kettle. This method reduces the chances of any problems occurring from using water from the central heating system. It is always best to try and match the water temperature when refilling your aquarium in the future. This reduces the chances of shocking the fish.

Allowing the aquarium to mature

Once the aquarium is filled, the filter and heater then need to be turned on. The aquarium needs to be allowed to cycle for 14 days before the first fish are added. We would always recommend having the water tested before any fish are added. This is a free service which we provide, as well as recommending what to do. If the results are acceptable and safe we would then recommend slowly stocking your aquarium. Always starting off with a low number of hardy fish, depending on the size of the aquarium. Ask in store for more details.

Acceptable levels for the introduction of fish:

Ammonia (NH3) = 0ppm
Nitrite(NO2) = 0ppm
Nitrate(NO3)= less than 50ppm

There are also a number of different test kits on the market, which can be used at home. These vary in style, but all working in a similar manner, turning an indicator colour to show lever present within the water. Its always worth bearing in mind that the clarity of the water is not an indicator of the water chemistry.


The last area to look at in the overall setup is lighting. There are few aquariums which do not come including lighting now. However lighting is not essential with a fresh water set up. Lighting does help in some areas though. Natural plant growth is aided by artificial lighting, plus it allows us to view the fish which greater ease.

The ideal length of time to have your lights on for is 8 hours. This needs to be in one solid block, so the fish have a day, night cycle which is important for their health and well being. I would recommend using a timer on lighting systems, that way the fish always have the same routine. There is no reason why the lighting can’t be on when you’re in the house. The lighting does not have to match the full daylight hours. Excessive periods of lighting will lead to large volumes of algae growth.

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Our Guide to Keeping Tropical Fish – Part One

There are some really important factors, which need to be thought about before we get bogged down in details.

Who is the aquarium for?

Is it for the whole family, just the kids, the professional or maybe a gift to yourself?

Who the aquarium is for can have an effect on how you would like the tank to look. E.g. Bright and colourful for the kids. Maybe traditional and natural looking. Or alternatively cutting edge, a real talking point, but still functional.

Not only will the overall effect of the aquarium vary depending on who it is aimed at. Similarly the size of the aquarium varies as well. If the tank is being consider for children, then it might be required to fit within a limited space, such as a bedroom. So a smaller tank may be more suitable. However if the aquarium is something which the whole family intend to be evolved, a larger aquarium with cabinet may be better suited.

Once we’ve worked out who the aquarium is aimed at. We can start to think about which species of fish would be best suited. “Wait, ” I hear you cry, “we’re talking about fish already.” It’s important to bear in mind, that as well as the aquarium fitting your needs and requirements, it has to fit the needs and requirements of the fish as well. No point buying a tiny tank and then realising the fish you really want will outgrow it in a month!

There are thousands of species of fish out there, some perfect for your ideal tank and some not so perfect. The main points of consideration should be:

• Size of the fish; Fish like any animal need space to move around and carry out their natural behaviour.
• The total number of fish;

The number of litres that your aquarium holds will affect the overall number of fish which can be housed within it. For example, a 30 litre aquarium can hold 10 small fish which grow to no more than 1.5” e.g. neon tetras. This means keeping fish, which grow
larger, would result in having less individuals in the aquarium.

Of course there is one area, we’ve not looked at yet, pricing. In an ideal world money would not be the top concern. However in this world, it’s understandable, that fish keeping has to fit within your budget. In most cases it can, there are a number of different styles and ranges on the market, which cater of most budgets. This is the case for most of the equipment required for keeping fish. Hopefully one of these ranges will tick all the boxes for you and your fish.


When locating your aquarium, bear in mind that even small tanks are very heavy. So if the surface is not a purpose built stand the piece of furniture needs to be very strong and sturdy. Some manufacturers will not cover their aquariums under guarantee unless they are housed on the company’s own purpose built cabinet.

“It’s an old wife’s tale which says fish only grow to the size of the tank”.

Fish are sensitive to vibrations, so try to avoid placing your aquarium on the floor. Never site your aquarium close to or on top of speakers. Ideally try to position your aquarium away from windows and doors as this can lead to problems with temperature changes and problems with algae. Again, aquariums placed in conservatories and very close to radiators can also suffer with problems in relation to temperature change.

With all of these factors taken in to consideration and the aquarium in place, the next item to check is that the aquarium is level. Not only will this show on the water line of the aquarium if it is not, it can also lead to problems later on once the aquarium is up and running.

Installation of equipment and decor.

Once the aquarium is in place and level, it is then time to add your equipment.

Backing paper, if you are planning on using it, now is a great time to add it. It is a lot easier to install while the aquarium is empty than full. Simply cut the backing to fit your aquarium and attach to the outside, most people use tape or self adhesive tape.

Depending on the type of filtration system that has been purchased, is whether the filter will need to be installed before, or after the gravel/sand is in place. An example of this is an under gravel filter. Under gravel filters can only be used with gravel as your substrate and not sand, due to the gravel acting as the filter media, where the bacteria grows and the waste is trapped. They must be in place before the gravel is installed.

Gravel or sand, the choice is up to you, but there are some factors you need to take in to consideration.

Sand particles can lift up with the flow of water. We recommend that aquariums with sand as their substrate, have the filter or filter inlet, positioned higher within the water to prevent sand being lifted into the filter and clogging or wearing the system.

Sand is not always a suitable substrate; planted aquariums generally perform better when gravel is used, as the plants find it difficult to take root and hold their position. A fine gravel is normally better suited for planted aquariums.

Solid waste will generally penetrate gravel easier than sand. It is always advised that a gravel cleaner be used to remove waste particles from a gravel substrate.

Gravel and sand both require rising before being added to the aquarium. The easiest way to do this is by placing it in a bucket (which contains no detergents) and filling the bucket with water. Stir the substrate to displace any dust particles and then drain the water off. It can be worth repeating this process a few times, to ensure the substrate is well rinsed through.

When placing the substrate into the aquarium, do so with care to ensure the aquarium does not become damaged.

Once the gravel is in place, then position your ornaments. Although ornaments are not essential, they can be added at any point, they are helpful for;

  • Hiding equipment, with in the tank such as filters, heaters etc.
  • Allowing the fish to carry out their natural behaviour e.g. hiding from threats.

Always ensure that none of your ornaments could be come displaced or fall. It may be necessary to silicon some natural rocks in place, so they are not moved out of position.

Keep an eye out next week for Part Two!

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James’ Greenhouse Diary – Week Eleven

This week I decided to take a step back and watch what was going on, with everything growing well there really hasn’t been much to do. It is important now though that I keep up with the watering as plants like the cucumber can really suffer badly, I have also been advised to keep the humidity up as this will help the plants as well. The tomatoes also have come a long way with all of them developing fruit. Hopefully soon we will be picking a lot more fruit.

My experiment with the sure start seeds also is working really well with all the carrots now come up we can see a big difference between the two different types, the sure start seeds have come along much faster developing much better carrots, the normal seeds are not that far behind but have not developed that fast and the carrots are not as big,

In the next couple of weeks I will be looking at planting plants that help deter pest such as aphids, white fly etc,.

Friday 26th May

· Next feed of Tomorite for tomatoes melon and cucumber

Lechlade Planteria

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Top tips on orchid care from the experts

ORCHIDS are easy to look after according to award-winning grower Chris Channon.

Chris, a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gold medallist, who works with one of the UK’s leading suppliers of plant nutrients, Growth Technology, said: “You just need to follow a few simple rules.

“Don’t over water. More orchids are killed by over watering than anything else, so it’s important that you leave an orchid until the roots and compost are almost dry before re-watering.

“Orchids require a quality, non ureic feed, however it’s important to water between feeds. They don’t like salt buildup in their growing medium so it’s vital to flush the medium with water before feeding again to avoid any build up”.

“In the wild orchids grow under the jungle canopy in partial shade so it’s important to keep them out of direct sunlight.”

Most orchids sold are phalaenopsis and these are the best starter orchids for the home.

Encouraging a phalaenopsis to re-flower is easy when following these guidelines:

1) The flowers eventually die and when two or three remain, cut the flower spike above the top un-flowered stem node. The resulting side stem will flower three months later for several months. This process is repeated at nodes down the stem until a node proves non-viable.

2) When a node is non-viable or the spike dies back, cut the spike off at its base just above the plant. It is particularly important at this time that a bloom feed is used to promote a new flower spike.

Re-potting, or changing the growing medium, is important in maintaining a healthy plant. This is done the spring after purchase, then every second spring. Phalaenopsis remain in the same size pot. Other types may require a larger pot. Use a bark and/or coir-based medium and avoid those containing peat/soil. Use clear orchid pots with plenty of base holes to allow good drainage and air flow through the pot. Clear pots allow sight of the root system and compost, aiding correct watering and also promoting photosynthesis within the roots.

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James’ Greenhouse Diary – Week Ten

To start this week off I did a bit of research on melon plants as I was curious to find out why it hadn’t started producing any fruit, as there was plenty of flowers but never any fruit, in my research I found that for the plant to produce fruit I would need to hand pollinate for best results. You can allow bees to pollinate for you but this doesn’t always guarantee best results. The plant develops the female flowers on its side shoots so it is key to allow these to grow and be trained.

This week also I noticed a lot of white fly on my cucumber, to deal with this I used provado ultimate bug killer, this is a systemic based insecticide used to kill most common pest. As its systemic it is designed to give plants protection for up to 6 weeks. As a prevention I have also sprayed my tomatoes and melon.
I have also picked my first cucumber this week unfortunately this was due to it being snapped off (not sure how). I decided to share it around to see what people thought, everyone really enjoyed it unfortunately though it was slightly under ripe, so it was slightly tough.

Monday 16th May

· Planted up 2nd trough as a herb garden

Tuesday 17th May

· Planted leeks
· Pinched side shoots off of tigerella

Wednesday 18th May

· Researched melon plant care
· Started training side shoots of melon

Thursday 19th may

· Planted on rest of peppers
· Picked first cucumber

Friday 20th May

· Next feed of Tomorite to Melon, Tomatoes and Cucumber.
· Sprayed with provado
· Cropped spinach

Lechlade Planteria

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