If you’d like to find something a little more exciting when you open the greenhouse door, these unusual crops will appreciate the extra heat.
Difficult to grow outside, melons enjoy the heat and humidity of the greenhouse. They are grown in the same way as cucumbers, trailing or climbing up nets, and are best planted on a mound, as they don’t like getting their stems wet.
You’ll need to prune them to encourage a good crop of fruit. Start by pinching out the growing tip to make the plant bushy, then restrict the plant to four lateral stems and pinch out their growing tips when they have six leaves. Plants fruit on sub-laterals formed on these lateral stems. You’ll also need to feed your plants and keep them very well watered once they start to flower and fruit.
Naranjilla, also known as the apricot tomato, is a cousin of tomatoes. Originating from South America, Naranjilla fruit are orange (naranjilla means “little orange” in Spanish) and the size of a small tomato. They are covered with short brittle hairs that repel insects and are easily removed by rubbing. Naranjilla are finicky plants. They don’t tolerate frost and don’t like really hot temperatures.
Therefore, best bet is to start them early in a pot in your home or a greenhouse. Once the weather is warm enough, set out the seedlings six to eight feet apart, preferably in well-composted soil in an area with some shade. With generous watering, the plants will grow into a spreading shrub up to eight feet tall. A healthy plant yields up to 150 fruit per year. Once ripe, the fruits are about two inches in diameter, with a greenish pulp.
Their taste has been described as a mix between tomatoes, apricots, and pineapple. Although occasionally eaten raw, traditionally the fruits have been used to make a refreshing summer drink or even fermented into wine.
Chili peppers make a great greenhouse crop, enjoying the extra light and heat. They’re treated in much the same way as tomatoes, you`ll be able to buy plants at your local garden centre and there’s a large range of varieties available mail order.
Peppers need to be given a feed every week once they start to flower and form fruits. And like tomatoes, they need to be kept consistently damp to perform at their best. The ‘heat’ of a chilli depends on a number of factors, including the variety you choose and the weather – so in the event that we have a long, hot summer, handle with caution!
Most peppers grown in NZ are Capsicum annum species, but if you can take the heat and don’t mind a bit of hunting around you can often find seeds and plants for some of the less well-known species, including Rocotos (or Lotocos).
Don`t have a greenhouse yet? Check out our greenhouse range on our website to get you growing! www.wintergardenz.com.