The British climate is known for anything but it’s warmth. Everybody’s always complaining about how cold and wet it is, including your plants. The plants that you can grow in the garden have to pretty robust to withstand the harsh climates so you’re fairly limited in what you can keep alive. The more exotic plants that require more heat seem pretty far out of reach but it is still possible to grow them if you know how. Rising temperatures caused by global warming are making it easier than ever to grow more interesting plants at home.
There are loads of great Mediterranean plants that you can add to your diet to encourage a much healthier lifestyle so beefing up your garden with some of these great plants will benefit you in more ways than one. You can make your garden the envy of your neighbours as well as making your culinary life more interesting. If you’re looking to spice things up in the garden a bit, here are some top tips on growing warm weather plants in the cold British climate.
Fresh tomatoes are something that people have been growing in Britain for ages but they are hard to keep alive if you don’t know how. Planting them in the garden outside is a bad move unless you’ve got an unusually hot summer on your hands. They won’t last long outside on their own. You need to put them inside a greenhouse to keep conditions warm enough to grow them. Don’t worry if you haven’t got much space, you can get 4ft wide greenhouses that will fit in a fairly small garden. You also need to be very careful about pests because they absolutely love tomatoes. You can use a tomato cage to help them grow higher and keep them away from the bulk of the insects but you’ll still get a few on there. Planting herbs around it can deter any pests from coming near them; basil and oregano are the best ones out there because insects hate the smell of them. Plant them in a perimeter around your tomato plants and they should be safe until they’ve grown you lots of juicy tomatoes.
Chili plants are another one that will have to be grown inside or in a greenhouse because they can’t handle the cold. In the house s probably your best bet because you don’t want them to be in direct sunlight all of the time, especially when they are smaller. Once you’ve seeded them and they’ve grown to around an inch or so, put them into a larger pot. They’ll need a stick to keep them upright once they get a bit taller. A great tip for maintaining the heat they need is to put four sticks around the edges of the pot and then wrap cling film around the plant. It will recreate the same effect that you get with a greenhouse and it’s also a great way to keep them alive over the winter.
Olives have traditionally been grown in hot, dry climates, but now things are heating up, you can get them going over here as well. Growing an Olive tree from seed is going to be a struggle so it’s best to get one from a garden centre somewhere. They will have greenhouses that have the right conditions to germinate the seeds and it’s a pain to try to recreate this yourself. Once it’s grown a bit, you can buy one and you should be able to keep it alive if you’re careful with it. It’s better to put it into a pot than to plant it straight into a bed because you’ll need to move it around when the winter months come. Put it in the sun and give it some liquid plant food around once a month. When winter comes, it might be worth moving it inside and reducing the amount that you water it.
When people think about growing grapes, they usually picture a vineyard in an exotic climate, not a back garden in soggy Britain, but you can successfully grow grapes over here if you’ve got the right equipment. You’ll need to plant the vines in very deep soil because the roots spread very far. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sun and is on a south facing wall. The best way to grow grapes is vertically up the wall so put some supports and attach them to the vine. Grapes
are incredibly hungry plants so top up the fertiliser every month. If you want to grow dessert grapes then it’s best to put them into a greenhouse otherwise they won’t ripen properly and they’ll taste too sharp when you harvest them.
Palm Trees are another plant that you don’t expect to see anywhere outside of a sunny beach but you can fill your garden with them too. Windmill Palms are the best variety for growing in Britain. They usually grow to around seven or eight metres but some have been known to get as tall as twenty metres. If you want to plant them from a seedling, make sure that you’re patient with them. They take a lot longer than most other plants to get going so don’t worry if you aren’t seeing much activity in the first month or so. Plant it somewhere that is sheltered from the wind because the leaves can get easily damaged and it will end up looking a bit scruffy.
Bamboo is a great plant for giving your garden a very exotic feel. It grows incredibly quickly so if you’re the impatient type then it’s perfect for you. It’s an incredibly robust plant and fairly low maintenance, so once it’s in, it won’t be going anywhere. The best varieties to go for are the ones that grow in clumps rather than the spreading types because they will take hold a lot easier. They’ll need plenty of trimming otherwise they can quickly get out of control.