It’s been a while!

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since my last post here! Regular readers will have noted a few little changes here in the meantime, which has kept me busy for a while.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll also have noticed I’ve been busy on the plot itself.

In my last post, I mentioned that we’d started the greenhouse base. At that point, we had laid and tampered the MOT. We had yet to level out the sand or lay any of the brick pavers.

That work was completed the following week, and despite a few hiccups along the way, the end result looks superb. Fellow plot holders seem bemused at the effort I’ve gone to for a greenhouse base though!

I’ve yet to acquire a greenhouse to put on there. I’ve spent months looking at models. Many visits the DIY sheds, garden centres and specialist suppliers along the way.

Choosing a Greenhouse

The Greenhouse Base is complete

The base itself can accommodate a greenhouse up to 16ft long and 6ft wide. However, allowing for water butts at the end, I’m looking at a maximum of 14ft x 6ft.

There does seem to be a huge jump in price and decrease in options, with glass greenhouses above 10ft long. So, if I opt for glass, it’s likely to be 10×6. Polycarbonate greenhouses, however, are more affordable at larger sizes. A 6×14 model, such as the Palram Harmony, is only fractionally more expensive than a glass 6×10.

That changes if we begin looking at toughened glass instead of horticultural glass. Toughened glass, from what I can tell, tends to be single pane. While horticultural glass has smaller panes that sit on top of one another (with clips). I’m told the advantages are that a single pane is easier to install and less likely to have an algae problem. I’ve yet to see a model ‘in the flesh’ that uses horticultural glass. Unbeknown to me at the time, my previous greenhouse also had toughened glass.

In terms of pricing, toughened glass adds at least £100 on to the price of a 6×10 greenhouse. At that stage, the 14x6ft Polycarbonate model is cheaper.

One of the disadvantages of polycarbonate greenhouses is their ability (or lack thereof) to hold up to wind. I’m fortunate that my plot isn’t especially exposed. If anchored onto the base sufficiently I’m confident that won’t be an issue.

What is, however, the concern is warmth. With a glass greenhouse, they can be insulated with bubble wrap and heaters installed if desired. While I’m sure polycarbonate models can be insulated, I’m a little nervous of adding a heater to something mostly made of plastic. On the other hand, I’ve heard it said that polycarbonate itself is a better insulator, and any heating is highly unlikely to go above 20 degrees anyway.

As we’re now in June, and most seedlings are now out in the open, space is freeing up in the Polytunnels. The need for a greenhouse isn’t as immediate as it was back in April – though it certainly would have helped. It will however desperately be needed by the end of the year. So, I shall continue to research and perhaps hope for some amazing discounts to sway my decision one way or the other.

Choosing a Shed

So, while back in April the urgency was for a greenhouse – as we enter June, the urgency is for a shed! Until now, my polytunnels have acted as sheds. Throughout winter, that was fine. But, as soon as spring came around and seeds were being sown, space became a real issue. At least half my polytunnel space was taken up by things that weren’t seeds. I solved that in the short term by adding the second tunnel. But I still ran out of space far sooner than I would have liked.

So, while the greenhouse base is done and ready for a greenhouse – the shed base is only just being started. When we originally ordered materials for the greenhouse base, I included enough to also lay a base for an 8×6 shed – albeit without pavers. As it turned out, all the materials were needed for that base, leaving only a single barrow load of MOT left over. Being indecisive as I am, however, I’ve used this to my advantage.

The original intention was that the 8×6 shed would serve as a mini ‘kitchen’ and place to simply escape the rain and do some writing. Seed sowing in spring however quickly made me realise I needed something more than that. Sowing seeds in the freezing cold is no fun.

I then considered simply adding a further shed to act as a potting shed and workshop. Then I put my sensible head on and reminded myself that as of yet I have neither a single shed or a greenhouse – and perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about adding yet another structure into the equation!

So, my ‘solution’ is to bring the two ideas together – just one shed, but slightly bigger than planned. I briefly considered building this myself. I even bought a book that was supposed to show me how to do it. But, as I sat pondering the idea, I glanced up at the wonky shelf in my lounge and realised that a structural building, likely occupied by my children often, probably isn’t something I should embark on myself! That was reinforced when I priced up the materials. The DIY route wouldn’t be a great deal cheaper, and likely far more expensive when wastage is accounted for (of which I’m sure there would be plenty!).

So, having looked at various options and prices, I’m creating a base for a 12×6 shed. While I have some big ideas for the interior, the basic idea is to ‘separate’ the interior into 3 areas. A 1m wide ‘kitchen’ in the middle, relaxation/writing space to the right, and potting / storage area to the left. The left and right areas will be around 1.2m x 1.7m. Not huge by any means, but I’m confident/hopeful it will be enough. Hopefully, those hours watching ‘Tiny House’ programmes will pay off and I’ll be able to incorporate some clever elements that maximise the space available.

The intention is to have the shed in place and do the interior work throughout the autumn/winter period when there’s less to do outside and the weather doesn’t dictate what I can or can’t do.

Shed Base

For the base itself, I’ve cleared an area 2m wide and 4.8m long. This is a bigger footprint than the shed will be, but I’m allowing space for water butts too. The base itself consists of some hardcore – various bits of rubble I’ve dug out of the plot over the last few months – the remaining MOT and some sand. These will be levelled out as best I can.

On top of this, I’ve purchased a ‘grid’ based system which is then filled with stones or pebbles. I’ve opted for this for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s something I should be able to confidently do myself. Paving slabs are just too cumbersome and heavy for my fragile frame. As much as the help I received to do the greenhouse base was appreciated (well, in fairness he basically did everything!), I’m well aware that it turned out to be much more work than I think he bargained for when we did our ‘skills swap bartering’. So, being able to accomplish this myself is important.

Secondly, for the last two years, I’ve been promising to rework our garden at home. Many years ago, long before I found my green fingers, we laid tonnes of stone on both the front and back gardens. It looked nice, and low maintenance, at the time – but is a far cry from what appeals now. Now that I have a ‘need’ for that stone, I can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ (pardon the pun!).

I’m told this system will provide a foundation that at least equals if not exceeds, what could be achieved with paving slabs and concrete. Obviously allowing for the fact I already have the stone, it’s also a fraction of the cost.

I’m yet undecided, but I may also add some ‘ adjustable risers’ to the flooring joists of the shed itself too. These would allow me to achieve a perfectly level shed if for some reason I don’t get the base itself perfectly level. However, they would also add a bit of ground clearance. Allowing air to pass under the shed floor, I’m told, will keep it in good shape. It also lessens the risk of the floor getting wet. Given the history of flooding on this plot, an important consideration. While I’m hopeful that I’ve solved the drainage issues – at least partially – I suspect that extra ground clearance would give me some peace of mind.

I already have the grid system ready to go and have started bagging up the stone. So I’m hopeful of getting the base done fairly soon in any event.

The growing season picks up

On the plot itself, all beds are now in place and lots of planting has been done. Outside we have Red Onions, First Early and Maincrop Potatoes, Garlic, Sunflowers, Strawberries, Beetroot, ‘Popcorn’, Sweetcorn, Achocha, various Pumpkin and Courgettes, Cucumber, Brussels Sprouts and Soya Beans.

The Grafted Apple Trees are growing well

Some comfrey roots I purchased earlier in the year are finally starting to show growth too. I’d almost given up on those – last time I bought some, on my first plot, they grew to a foot tall within weeks. These, however, are only an inch or two high so far, and I’ve had them for almost two months.

The three Apple Trees I grafted back in February have all taken too. I didn’t have high hopes for two of them, but all three are now showing good growth. I plan to leave them in the pots until the end of the year, at which point I’ll plant them in their final position.

There are 6 tomato plants in the ground within one polytunnel. One solitary plant outside for now, and half a dozen or so still in pots. Various other seedlings are ready, or almost ready, for planting out now too. Not least of all the Asparagus, which I grew from seed in spring.

Some direct sowing will be done in the coming weeks too – beans, peas and a few other things. I should have every bed planted with ‘something’ this year.

I’m hopeful that having both a shed and greenhouse in place for next season will allow me to make the most of this plot. While I’m happy with what I’ve achieved on this plot since last winter, realistically I know I could be growing at least triple as much with the space I have. If I had enough space to get the seeds started!

Category: Allotment
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Creating a Greenhouse Base with Brick Pavers

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