West Dean Gardens Supervisor Sarah Wain shares top tips on greenhouse growing

West Dean Garden Greenhouses

West Dean Gardens has undergone a major transformation since 1987. Gardens manager Jim Buckland and Gardens Supervisor Sarah Wain have carried out a complete restoration and development of the gardens, bringing the historic temperament of the nineteenth century into the twenty-first century.

As a valued partner of Alitex, Sarah Wain has continuously been involved with many of our events and over the years, has taken several groups of our customers on tours of the walled garden at West Dean, and its many greenhouses.

Following our latest 'Grow Day' at the beginning of October, where Sarah shared her extensive knowledge of glasshouses and advised our clients on ideal growing conditions, we thought we'd share some of the highlights for greenhouse growing below.


Humid Glasshouses - If your greenhouse is home to tropical varieties of plants, watering is key to increase humidity and keep the environment at optimum temperature. Sarah advises that watering the surrounding floors can aid dampness and humidity that many tropical plants thrive in.

Mains Water vs Rain Water - When propagating and watering your seedlings, it's best to water them with mains water as rain water can contain fungus and bacteria that may cause complications for your plants. However, later on when plants are harder it's advisable to use rain water, making it a sustainable means of gardening.

Watering Times - We all have our own method of watering but the most beneficial time to water your greenhouse plants is early in the morning. This makes water available to the plants throughout the day. If it's a particularly hot day, watering again just after midday will revive those plants that struggle in hotter temperatures.

Growing in Winter

West Dean Coldframes
At West Dean the ground contain large 'pit houses' which are low set glasshouses. Traditionally a structure that protects against weather conditions, these greenhouses provide the perfect environment for growing plants over the winter as the low sloping glass decreases the distance between the light and the plants.

The traditional timber cold frames stand alone in the walled garden. They currently house plants that will need hardening off over the winter whilst also providing the perfect environment for winter greens including: Lambs Lettuce, Endive, Coriander and Pak Choi.

The expansive run of cold frames at West Dean are really something to behold. Similarly to the pit houses, cold frames offer more light and less distance from seedling to glass, allowing for optimum growing.

3 Tips to prevent plant bacteria and to keep your greenhouse clean

The importance of keeping your greenhouse clean can be the difference between thriving plants or a greenhouse filled with unwelcomed visitors.

  1. Cleaning your tools and work space - if you are note in the habit of keeping your greenhouse tidy, now is the time to start. By cleaning debris, washing tools, pots and benches with soapy water or disinfectant can decrease your chances of harbouring harmful bacteria.
  2. Biological control - some pests such as Whitefly can be taken care of by introducing a predator, for example an Encarsia Wasp, to paralyse the nymph of the Whitefly.
  3. You must water in the morning - if you water at night the moisture in the leaves becomes a breeding ground for fungal disease.
Tags: sarah wain, cold frames, Winter Growing, greenhouse gardening, Greeenhouse environments, west dean gardens