Tuesday, 26 May 2009


After what seems to have been a few weeks of continual rain since the greenhouse arrived we finally got three days of glorious sun over the bank holiday giving us the perfect chance to put our building skills to the test.

In many ways it was far far easier to build than we expected, in fact erecting the actual greenhouse frame and putting the glass on could have been done in a single afternoon really. What took the time was building the foundations and, oddly enough, building the door.

As you can see from the pics in the previous post we'd already got the area of the garden it was to be built on all marked out so the next thing to do was dig a trench for the foundations. We didn't go too deep, about 10cm seemed to be enough, although the garden is on a slight slope which meant we needed to dig a bit deeper at the far end.

Then we filled the trench with concrete and levelled it all off with the aid of a long plank of wood and a spirit level. Written down like that it sounds like a simple job but it actually took an age as mixing concrete by hand is small wheelbarrow loads isn't as easy or quick as it sounds! It didn't help that I underestimated how much concrete mix we'd need. Twice. Meaning two extra trips to Homebase to pick up additional supplies. D'oh.

When funds allow we'd like to run a power cable from the house into the greenhouse so we can put in a heater/fan. With that in mind I had the bright idea of sinking a couple of bits of tubing into the foundations so we don't have to drill holes into the greenhouse base to get the cable inside when we get round to doing it. You can seem them on the side nearest the fence, hopefully they'll come in very handy at some point.

Once the concrete was dry (we left it for 24 hours, it probably should have been a little more in an ideal world but we wanted to finish it all in the three day bank holiday) it was time to get to work with the greenhouse itself. First off we build the base and put it in position making sure it was level as well as perfectly square. Then we started building the four sides of the main structure under the watchful gaze of our parrot Monty who kept an eye on us while he enjoying the warm weather.

As I mentioned earlier it was all remarkably easy to put together once we got started and it wasn't too long before we had the sides all up and attached to the base as well as each other. Suddenly it was looking very greenhouse like.

The roof was next and proved just as easy to add, although we did have a little crisis when the central beam slipped as we were bolting it in place catching Melanie on the hand leaving a nasty bruise and sliced finger. A big plaster and some TLC later and it was time to start putting the glass in place. Again this was nice and easy, simply a case of laying the pane of glass in place and clipping it down with the supplied wire clips. Despite being easy enough to fit the sheer number of clips needed did leave us with very sore hands by the time we'd finished, not a job we want to do again in a hurry.

The door was the last thing to build and proved to be the worst part of the entire process because the supplied screws were simply impossible to get into the metal door frame. After over an hour of huffing and puffing I'd only managed to get 4 of the 16 in place. So, with the light fading and a growing sense of frustration, I poured a beer gave up for the night.

Monday morning and call to my parents enlisted the help of my Dad who, as all Dad's seem to, owns a seemingly endless supply of different sized screws. A quick rummage through his box of delights and we found a selection of slightly shorter screws with stronger heads that did the job in about ten minutes. With Dads help we completed the job by getting the door onto its runners and added some silicone sealant in strategic places to keep things a bit more waterproof then we were finally finished.

Well, almost finished, a quick trip to the garden centre later and we had some bags of compost and edging to build the 'L' shaped bed inside the greenhouse we're going to grow in. Once this was built we finally planted our many (slightly leggy) tomato plants as well as the cucumbers, peppers, chills and melons we had growing in the house and stood back to admire all our hard work.

Next weekend we're going to put some paving slabs down to create a proper floor and then there's the entrance area outside the door where I want to put a step in and make it look nice and tidy so we're still not quite finished, but it's up and operational now which is the main thing and we're pretty chuffed with how it's worked out.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Greenhouse arrived...

We came home yesterday to find the lovely people from ‘The Greenhouse People’ had delivered our greenhouse just as they said they would. As you can see there's a lot of glass and a couple of boxes full of all the bits and bobs needed to build it. And a cat, not that she was part of the delivery...

Over the weekend we started clearing the ground ready for building the foundations next weekend. I've lived here for almost 8 years now and the garden hasn't really changed much in terms of layout since I moved in so it was weird to embark on such a drastic change. Here's a before pic followed by one showing our progress so far.

Up at the plot we managed to get some work done Saturday morning. Nothing too drastic, got a second sowing of peas and mange tout in the ground and we also planted out the first batch of sweet corn seedlings which were in danger of getting pot bound at home. We also sneaked another load of asparagus in (Jersey Knight from the fantastically helpful Victoriana Nursery) which he hadn't really planned but you can never have too much of a good thing.
Most things seem to be growing well, the chard, kohl rabbi, turnips and Swede we planted a couple of weeks ago are all showing above ground. The courgettes are looking a little fragile though, I'm thinking they've perhaps found it a bit cold so I'll keep an eye in case I need to sow some more sharpish.

We also pulled our our first proper batch of radishes which made a nice addition to our salad sarnies at lunchtime.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

What a difference a week makes

A combination of rain, a horrible cold ('man flu' if you prefer...) and a day out at the Tewksbury Food and Drink Festival on Sunday had kept us away from the plot for over a week by the time Bank Holiday Monday rolled round. Thankfully the dull dreary weather didn’t stop us finally managing to get up there for a couple of hours. While we'd been away it seemed that everything had got busy growing, including the weeds, and the plot looked suddenly far more alive than it had the week before.

The first row of peas had all appeared along with the mange tout. All the early spuds have appeared above the mounds of soil I earthed them up with last week and we even had a few of the main crop ones showing their faces as well. The onions and shallots had gone from being small shoots to about 4 inches tall which made the massive quantity of them we'd planted even more apparent.

All the salad crops seemed to be coming on well too; we even had our first harvest of sorts when we thinned out the row of radishes taking home the baby shoots to add to a salad. The first two rows of carrots are still a little threadbare but the ones that have germinated are now all getting their first true leaves which are making the rows look a little better.

The downside of all this growth is that suddenly the weeds have appeared. In a bid to keep on top of things we spent most of our time on this visit hoeing the entire plot, picking out the bigger weeds and leaving the rest to (hopefully) die now they've been uprooted. The onion bed was the worst, probably because they were one of the first things planted and the soil hadn't been disturbed since. With any luck I'll get chance this week to go up and do a second, more thorough, hand weed through them to stop it from getting bad again.

As you can see, it wasn't all weeding. We also managed to plant the three courgette plant we're growing this year (not making the same mistake as last year and growing six...) as well as a marrow, pumpkin and winter squash that had been in the cold frame at home. I've planted the courgettes closer together than I did last year as despite obviously spreading out they didn't seem to need all the space I'd given them, we'll see if they still grow ok a bit closer this year.

We also got a phone call while we were up there from our greenhouse supplier saying that they'd be delivering ours on the 11th, next Monday, which was about two weeks earlier than we were expecting meaning clearing the bit of garden we're going to build it in is suddenly top of the list of jobs for the weekend.