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Ever since we moved into our flat with a garden, we've found our fingers steadily turning greener and greener. We had a try at growing our own vegetables last year, but started a little too late to get any decent results. So this year we decided to give our various plants a head-start and began planting seeds at the end of January. Obviously, it was too cold to plant the seeds outside, or even in a greenhouse, so rather than ending up with lots of pots sat on my windowsills I decided to get some propagators. Last year whilst browsing my local garden centre I happened on these Windowsill Greenhouses from Botanico, which are basically propagators that are specifically designed to sit on windowsills.
==A Greenhouse On My Windowsill?==
While not the most fancy piece of gardening equipment, the windowsill greenhouse does actually look quite attractive, especially when compared to those flimsy black seed trays you can buy. The base is a delicate shade of pale green and made of sturdy recycled (and recyclable) plastic. Measuring approximately 55cm by 15cm, the 'greenhouse' will comfortably sit on most windowsills, I can actually fit two on each of mine with plenty of room to spare. At 5cm it is deceptively deep, and even when the lid is in place there's plenty of room to give your plants a head start. As well as the base (drip tray) and lid, you are also supplied with five, six cell trays, which are again very sturdy. What I also like is the base has depressions that will firmly hold small pots in place.
Although I did use one of these last year and successfully germinated some seeds in it, I didn't have a lot of success with my plants because I didn't start sowing until May. This year I've been a lot more organised and have already started sowing, with some of those seeds already producing little shoots. The instructions that come with the greenhouse state that you can plant seeds in it up to six weeks before the 'recommended' sowing time. So I've been planting seeds where the recommended sowing time is February to March.
Of course not everything is supplied, you will still need a good quality compost, some seeds and plant labels, but once you have these, it's really easy. The cells are deceptively deep and it took a lot more compost than I imagined to fill them, but once they were filled the trays were still sturdy and didn't bend everywhere like some other cell trays I've used. After dampening the compost, planting my seeds and covering them with more compost, the lid fits firmly in place. Even once full, the greenhouse is light enough to carry from place to place meaning that I can easily move it from room to room or even outside when the weather improves.
I've planted all manner of different seeds in my 'greenhouses', from herbs to peas to cabbages and by planting them in these and then placing them on a windowsill above a radiator, I feel I've really given them a head start. I've found that the seeds germinate slightly quicker in the warm, humid atmosphere that the 'greenhouse' produces, although I do still need to dampen the compost everyday. (I find spraying the surface rather than pouring water on is the best way to keep the compost damp rather than water logged). To give you an idea of how much quicker seeds germinate in these, I planted some peas exactly a week ago, some of them in one of these and some in pots on the windowsill. I saw the first shoots in the 'greenhouse' two days ago, while the shoots in the pots only starting coming up today.
Once the seeds have germinated, you can keep the plants in the 'greenhouse' until they are about 5cm in height and then transplant them. I really like that even once the seedlings have been transplanted the 'greenhouses' are still useful. The indents inside the drip tray are great for holding pots in place while moving the plants outside during the day to harden off and then back in again at night. Even once the growing season has finished, these don't need to be thrown away as they are sturdy and durable enough to be washed and then stored until the next year (even the cell trays), as I did with the ones I bought last year.
These windowsill greenhouses are a great way of getting an early start at sowing seeds. By using these I've managed to give an extra months growing time to my herbs and vegetables, which will hopefully mean that I will be harvesting them that much earlier. I've also been able to reuse them on several occasions, I'm now using the same greenhouses that I used last year, meaning that the initial outlay of £4 is extremely good value. In fact, I think these are so good that I bought several more this year and will be reusing them as each set of seedlings are planted out. I'm therefore giving these Botanico Windowsill Greenhouses five stars out of five and recommending them to anyone who has a vegetable plot and is looking for a way to give their plants a head start without the expense of a physical greenhouse.