The Land Rover Owners Wife

Gardening Club: We’ve got a greenhouse …..

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School polytunnel greenhouse (1)…… actually we had three but I’ll get to that in a moment. Part of the lottery grant we received in 2011, was for the building of a plastic bottle greenhouse which were all the rage at the time but by the time the polytunnel raised beds, shed and fruit trees had been installed, there really wasn’t any room for the greenhouse.

Mind you as we now had a substantial polytunnel, the need for a greenhouse wasn’t very urgent and so we applied for and got change of use for that portion of the grant, which enabled the school to purchase the things we did need for the garden and which hadn’t been included, such as insect netting, propagators, pots, seeds, organic soil enrichers, compost and various basic garden items essential to the success of a vegetable plot.

Two years on and while we hadn’t missed the benefits a greenhouse could bring, I had been looking into possibilities for some sort of indoor cloche, for use in the polytunnel during the really cold early spring weeks.

Then the day after the children broke up for the summer break, the Head Teacher called me to say that, at the very back of the school garage which she and another staff member were clearing out, they had come across what looked like a little plastic greenhouse and could I use it in the garden?

The sweet corn and courgette bed is looking pretty too, especially with the male flowers appearing on the corn stalks.

The sweet corn and courgette bed is looking pretty too, especially with the male flowers appearing on the corn stalks.

Bit of a silly question to ask a gardener really because although there really wasn’t room for a full size glazed, polycarbonate panelled or recycled bottle greenhouse, I was confident I could squeeze a small ‘blow away’ greenhouse in somewhere and after some thought I knew just where it could go …….

……. between the end of the staging and the back wall of the polytunnel. This was the answer to the indoor cloche problem.

My thinking was that next spring, with the greenhouse set up inside the polytunnel, I would be able to keep the propagators and young plants, zipped up, snug and warm effectively double insulated by the greenhouse and polytunnel covers. Furthermore, if I lined the shelves and the back and sides of the frame with bubble wrap, which is easy/cheap enough to get hold off, this would be another layer of insulation. Sorted.

Now all I had to do was work out how to build the thing – the instructions were long gone.

I love the way the beans fbridged the gap between them and the tomatoes

I love the way the beans have bridged the gap between them and the tomatoes

Actually, my first task was to clear the four incredibly heavy black bin bags which were filled with compost and had been stored in the corner I was planning to use. We had been given a tonne of loose compost by a local supplier early last year. It is a very rich compost, ideal for soil enrichment and so I had used some on the beds last year and this was the last few bags.

I barrowed it up to the beds, one bag at a time and used two of them on the potatoes, used some to top up the wooden box containers and then tipped the remaining 1.5 bags onto what is currently my favourite bed – the bean pyramid and tomato, raised bed. The beans have managed, unsupported, to cross the gap between their pyramid and the tomatoes, and have effectively made a ‘rope’ bridge. I think it looks really pretty.

Compost dealt with, I then turned my attention back to the construction of the greenhouse. There did seem to be an awful lot of poles and shelving for one small greenhouse but further inspection revealed not one but three plastic covers! Thankfully, as it turned out, putting one together was kind of self explanatory, although I wasn’t sure how tall it would need to be for the cover.

School polytunnel greenhouse (2)Erring on the side of caution, I have initially built in two shelves, one at the bottom with a nice tall gap to the other shelf but I could also slot a shelf into the top section as well, or rebuild the frame using more of the shorter tube lengths, to allow another shelf to be fitted halfway up the bottom space. I may well do this early next year to accommodate seed propagators but, if the weather turns cool this year, before the chilli have ripened on their plants, then the greenhouse is now set up to house them.

Once I was happy with the height and layout of the frame, I grabbed one of the greenhouse covers and started to fit it one. Sadly, it soon became apparent that several large holes had been nibbled into the plastic and, if that wasn’t bad enough the zip was broken! Frustrated I removed it and grabbed the second one, checking it thoroughly before even attempting to fit it which was a wise thing to do as it too had been chewed!

I was now a little concerned that I might just be left with three sets of staging and hardly dared look at the third cover but I immediately realised that this was a much better quality cover than the other two and, although it does have some small holes and there is an area, at the back, where the plastic has parted company with seam, I think this can be repaired ….. using duct tape. It is certainly adequate for our needs I reckon, especially if I use the bubble wrap and, as it is inside and not in danger of facing the stress of strong winds, I don’t think the minor damage will impact on its’ effectiveness.

School polytunnel greenhouse (2)Of course with poles and shelves for three greenhouses, I still had a large number of both to store, once I’d completed the greenhouse itself. In addition to this, there was also a three shelf set of metal staging that I wanted to use.

By moving the greenhouse along to the centre of the back wall, facing out towards the door, I was able to create enough room in the corner for both the staging which I immediately used to store some of the Clubs gardening equipment on and the black bin we store the canes and plant sticks in.

Then I had an idea. If I used some of the left over poles and shelves, I could build some more staging for the space at the front of the polytunnel, in which there were currently half a dozen bean plants and some strawberry runners we’d ‘caught’ in pots.

Excellent!

Unfortunately, some of the plastic frame pieces were broken and some of the tubes were damaged and so I sorted through my collection and pulled out the best of the bunch. I had enough to create a staging section with two shelves but I have brought three more of the metal poles home with me. They each have one end squashed flatish and so won’t now fit into the holes in the plastic frame supports but I hoped that Mud would have a tool or something to recreate the rounded end.

Much tidier at the front as well now

Much tidier at the front as well now

True to the ingenuity of a Land Rover Owner, he took our metal wine bottle stopper out of the drawer and used it to force the squashed edges apart, crating nicely rounded tube endings again. I will now be able to create a third shelf at the very top of the staging. He’s a star that man …. some times.

I was pretty satisfied with how my visit to the polytunnel went and was more than happy with the end result, however, I hate waste and wasn’t happy to be putting the other two covers into the school bins but they really were beyond salvage. Thankfully, I think I will be able to use the remaining metal tubes and plastic frame supports as netting supports next year and the polytunnel is looking much tidier now – don’t you think?

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2 thoughts on “Gardening Club: We’ve got a greenhouse …..

  1. How wonderful! I love your Hate Waste attitude – me too. I was thrilled to hear today that our Y3s and Y4s are learning about the environment and have been busy making a Worm Farm, Compost and planting up raised beds (small ones but it’s a start)! So important for children to know where their food comes from :0)

    • Oh wow! A new mum at school (her child just joined out year 2 before the summer) has mentioned setting up a wormery at school and she has a host of plans for getting the kids to make things for the garden using recycled materials and for vertical planting. It’s such a relief to have a fresh pair of eyes, as it were, and a fresh set of ideas.

      I sometimes wish for smaller beds, just more of them, at school because though the ones we have are lovely, strong and interesting shapes, they are so big that the children can’t actually reach the middle of some of them (even I struggle and I’m 5’10”) and I don’t think Health and Safety would be too happy with the idea of children climbing onto 1foot high beds you know :).

      Are you going to be involved with the garden at all? It’s be great to see some pictures.

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