Monthly Archives: April 2011

The great greenhouse contrivance

The greenhouse kit was delivered to the allotment gates – and then the fun started!  I roped in an old friend to help with the assembly, but even though I’d assembled the base and bolted it to the concrete footings beforehand, it took the two of us six hours or so to get to the position shown above.

Another six hour stint a few days later got the thing almost finished.  It’s surprising how much time is wasted peeling backing film off the polycarbonate panels (finding the edge with fat fingers!) and how many dead ends are encountered as a result of gaps in the instructions. However, just in time, we got it done before we left for a May bank holiday break.

Patio planting

We’ve done some flower planting on the patio, to both  beautify the shed and make it a pleasant place to relax after exertions. With large deep indigo flowers, Clematis Daniel Deronda has gone in the border with brilliant blue Lithodora and Aubretia.  In the wicker planters in front of the shed we’ve planted blue Phlox Emerald Cushion, Honeysuckle (white/yellow Halliana), and sown seeds of Night-Scented Stocks and Nasturtium.

Both the petals and the flowers of nasturtiums are edible and can be added to salads.  Personally, I’ve never eaten them, but I’m told they taste quite peppery and hot, a bit like watercress (which I like). Seeds should be sown 1.5cm deep in pots or rows.  Seedlings should be thinned or transplanted to 20cm apart. They need a sunny site and it#s best to avoid very fertile soil to prevent excess leaves with few flowers.  Flowers should be picked just after they open fully. Keep picking and remove seed heads to encourage more flowers. Young leaves are also edible.

Now for the greenhouse…

Beneath the brambles and bindweed we discovered the footings for a greenhouse (above) – quite a large one, too.  Although we had been given the frame of a smaller greenhouse (6 ft by 8ft), after some thought we decided to utilise this 12 ft by 8 ft base and invest in a new greenhouse.

After a battle with sizeable bramble roots, the footings have been dug out, ready for the arrival of the greenhouse kit.  Another big decision was whether it should be a greenhouse with glass or a polycarbonate panes.  There are arguments on both sides, the most important being about light transmission, breakage, resistance to wind damage and the cost of replacement panels. With improvements in manufacturing techniques, some of the disadvantages of polycarbonate have been overcome: they have excellent heat retaining properties and perform at least as well as glass for light transmission, although they do deteriorate with age.

From the outside a greenhouse with polycarbonate panels can look opaque, but when I was invited into one on a neighbouring plot I discovered that when you are inside things are very different – plenty of light gets in.  Polycarbonate now has a light transmission of around 85%, which is nearly as good glass.

The wind factor is a worrying one, though.  The allotments are exposed, with strong winds coming in off the river.  I’ll bolt the greenhouse to the concrete base, but there’s still the worry of polycarbonate panels blowing out and disappearing in a gale.

In the end we decided on polycarbonate, finding a 12 by 8 greenhouse at a very good price on the Internet.

Digging and first plantings

A spell of good weather has spurred us on to making progress on the plot.  In the last fortnight used patio flags were sourced from a yard in Birkenhead, and the new patio laid in front of the shed.  Then, it was on with the digging, working on the section that will accommodate the potatoes and beans.  To speed things up, we decided to plant this section without making deep beds – instead, we’ll return to this area in the autumn, re-laying and straightening  the central path at the same time.

Yesterday and today the sky has been clear blue and the temperature has reached 21C (70F).  The potato patch dug over, most of the seed potatoes went in.  This is what we’ve planted so far:

  • Potatoes: 2 rows of Pink Fir in deep bed wit 1 row of Kestrel (earlies); 2 rows of Maris Peer in ground, plus some Pink Fir (they’re salad potatoes).
  • Onions: 1 row of Centurion so far
  • Broad Bean: 2 rows of Hyssop
  • Kale: Cavalo Nero
  • Garlic: 2 rows
  • Peas: 1 row Misty
  • Salad: Rocket and Mixed Lettuce

We’ve been given a 6′ X 8′ greenhouse frame, so the next task will be to dig out the bramble roots and other weeds from the existing brick base, and get the frame erected and glazed in time to plant tomato plants.

Levelling the area in front of the patio resulted in clearing the ground to the side, allowing for some improvements to be made there.  A water tank collects rainwater from the gutter, the storage chest from home has been moved here, and we’ve bought a wheelbarrow (fed up of having to wait for one of the collective ones to become available).