I’m so glad that Helen@Patient Gardener has started
a greenhouse meme blogging about her greenhouse (I misunderstood at first, and thought she was starting a meme – sorry for any confusion!). I love having a greenhouse, but I know I could use mine better, and it would be excellent to see how other people use theirs. However, right at the moment I am badly in need of some more basic advice about siting and wind protection!
I am quite extraordinarily lucky in that I have two greenhouses to play with here. The first is a (nominally) 6′ x 6′ aluminium greenhouse we bought a few years ago. It was the largest that would fit in my previous garden, and I love it. In the past I used it for propagation until around April, when the staging got collapsed, the temporary shelving moved out, and the space filled with growbags stuffed with tomato plants. Nothing quite beats eating tomatoes straight off the vine, all warm from the sun.
When we moved here there was an area of hard standing at the back of the garage that fairly shreaked “greenhouse”. In fact, on the original version of the estate agent details there was an aluminium 6′ x 8′ greenhouse sitting there. So we put mine there and last year it was filled with tomato plants. Currently, it is in a somewhat sorry state.
Spot something missing? The recent gales resulted in several broken panes of glass, and to prevent even more damage we removed the rest of the glass and stacked it safely out of the way. Because it was sited in a really sheltered location in my previous garden, and because we were strapped for cash, I opted for the cheaper horicultural glass option. Several gardening friends had this, and had been totally happy, and so was I. Until we moved here and in my infinite wisdom I removed the two large conifers that stood in the border that lies along the boundary with the park. Why does this matter? Because now the wind can howl down the slight hill across the park from the south west, swoop around the fitness center building, dart through the trellis, and hammer at the greenhouse. It isn’t anchored down – I figured that since the previous one clearly hadn’t been, and since it seemed a sheltered garden, this wouldn’t matter. I was wrong. It matters a lot.
Luckily for me, with Spring breathing down my neck and seedlings lining up for greenhouse space already, I inherited a wooden greenhouse when we moved here.
Its big – 6′ 6″ x 8′ – and has power. Its also currently in a state of advanced chaos, not having been tidied yet from last year. I didn’t need to yet, all the seedlings were going in the other greenhouse. It was a good plan *sigh*.
The wooden greenhouse sits on a concrete plinth on the west-facing side of the garden. Its in quite a shady position, hard up against next door’s wall and the tall fence that tops it, and overshadowed by an overgrown lilac and enormous fuchsia. It actually works really well for bringing on seedlings, as there is very little direct sun so no scorching, but despite the missing roof panel, it is still light enough to mean that last year it enabled me to grow lots of healthy little plants.
Its scruffy and in need of some tlc, but it is a good make – Alton – and made of solid cedar. When I have cleared my desk of some work I will crack on and clear it out and clean it up, ready for the steady march of seedlings that will be started in the conservatory. In the mean time the first few are perched on a pile of wood I had wanted to dry out.
The wooden greenhouse badly needs some repairs – the glass in the roof at the back is slipping down because the wooden crossbeam that should be keeping it in place has rotted away, and I suspect quite a lot of the wooden structure at the back is in need of treatment for rot. Water and leaves collect in the space between the frame and the stone wall, and access is virtually impossible. In an ideal world it would be dismantled, repaired and rebuilt. In an ideal world, I would use the larger greenhouse to grow tomatoes, chillies, peppers in and use the smaller greenhouse for propagation. So in an ideal world I would swap them around, sit the aluminium one on the concrete platform, and move the larger wooden greenhouse to full sun. Which leaves me with something of a dilemma. I don’t live in an ideal world. I have very limited energy thanks to my health issues, so I don’t tackle large jobs lightly. Particularly when they take me away from “proper” gardening!
The aluminium greenhouse needs some work before it will stand up to the wind. I’ve looked in to replacing the fragile horticultural glass with toughened safety glass and bar capping, but it would cost an eye-watering amount. So horticulture glass it is. I can fasten the frame down securely, which will help, and orient it so that the south westerlies hit the roof rather than the door, and the door is out of the wind altogether. If it stands directly on the ground I can bury the anchoring legs in concrete, if we did shift it to the concrete plinth then I can screw it down to the plinth. The question is, would it be sufficiently sheltered there to withstand the gales? It would still be in the direct line of fire, so to speak.
Then there is the wooden greenhouse. If we dismantle it with the aim of repairing it and re-siting it close to where the aluminium greenhouse currently sits we could easily find that the frame is in a worse state than we had realised, and that we had to spend a lot of money on repairs. We’ll probably also have to replace some of the glass. Also, because it stands on a special base made of concrete blocks to keep the wooden frame off the ground, it needs proper concrete footings or slabs. And if we do swap the greenhouses round this year, it means I need to seriously rein in my seed sowing, and not grow any tomatoes that require a greenhouse. There is no way we could get it all done by May. I’d love to hear from anybody with experience of restoring a wooden greenhouse.
If money was no object then clearly I would pack the smaller greenhouse away for the time when the wooden greenhouse reaches the end of its life and buy myself a super strong new large greenhouse with toughened safety glass and rock steady foundations! Tempting as the winter greenhouse sales are, I need to work with what I have and make the most of it. The easier option, and the one that allows me to sow the tomato seeds I have burning a hole in my seed box, is to do some basic running repairs to the wooden greenhouse and aim to take it apart and repair it next year. In the mean time I re-orient the aluminium greenhouse so that the door is away from the wind, and anchor it down firmly, and hope that this is sufficient. Of course, I then don’t get to grow as many tender plants, I proved last year that the wooden greenhouse just doesn’t get enough direct sun to coddle chilli and pepper plants sufficiently. Does anybody know how much help a living hedge – perhaps an edible hedge – growing about 1m away from the west side of the greenhouse would be for filtering the wind?
I am thinking that if I rotated the aluminium greenhouse through 90 degrees so that the door faced the back of the garage, and moved it further out so that there is a larger area between garage and greenhouse, it would give us a nice (less squeezed) entrance to the garden and would also mean I could use that lovely south facing garage wall to grow something exciting up. Then I could screen the shed and greenhouse from the main patio with a living hedge, or trellis with climbers, to act as a bit of a windbreak. What do you think? Because I have a humungous pile of seed packets all shouting “sow me next, sow me next”and I really don’t want to spend my whole year building fence, painting fence and trellis, dismantling and repairing a greenhouse, building concrete footings. I want to be growing and planting!
In the mean time, if you have a greenhouse why don’t you
join in with Helen’s new meme check out Helen’s post about hers? And if you don’t, why not pop over to her blog anyway, and check what other people use theirs for. They probably have glass and everything!