Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Potting on

With the greenhouse up and the pea-shingle base laid, it was time to start potting on the plants into their new home.

With many of this year's chilli seedlings still suffering from the aphid attacks I'm keeping them in quarantine until I can clean each plant one by one.

The overwintered plants from last year have been moved into Root Pouches and placed in the greenhouse. I suspect that eventually I'll need to place them on slabs as their roots will start burrowing into the shingle.

The greenhouse looking surprisingly tidy
Chilligrows waiting for their plants.
The first Quadgrow has been planted with a variety of tomatoes which, hopefully, will not only provide us with plenty of fresh fruit all through the summer but will also form the basis for many of the chilli sauces. With the acquisition of a dehydrator I'm looking forward to making my own sun-dried tomatoes for tapas and cooking.
Tomatoes in the Quadgrow. L to R Ildi, Croatian, Yellow Boy, Gardeners' Delight

Underneath the thick layer of pea shingle is a strong layer of landscape fabric so hopefully weeds will not be a problem.

The second Quadgrow will hold sweet peppers (when I've bought enough compost to fill the very generously sized pots.

Before planting up the Chilligrows I need to wash the pots and disinfect them with Jeyes Fluid to keep contamination to a minimum.  Because of my stupidity in killing a lot of my seedlings, I've had to resort to buying in a few plants to make up the shortfall.  Whilst I have nothing against buying in plants, the choice can be somewhat limited and often the plants are forced in tunnels to make them fruit early.  Whilst this looks good in the shop, the plants can suffer when relocated to the average garden.

Fortunately a local supplier, Dundry Nurseries, produces a good range of unusual varieties and, because they buy their seed from Simpsons Seeds, I was able to pick up exact replacements for the plants I'd decimated, including Black Tongued Scorpion and the Yellow 7 Pot Hab.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

If you build it, they will come...

So the greenhouse is up!  With the assistance and expert advice of my dad (veteran of half a dozen greenhouse builds) we were able to get the whole thing done in one day.  It wasn't entirely without a hitch as we did install a few parts back to front but thankfully nothing that couldn't be swiftly changed.

The expert hard at work (whilst the pupil hides behind the camera)
The greenhouse is an 8'x6' Simplicity Classic from The Greenhouse People.  Delivery was efficient and on time (and even on the bank holiday Monday).  The instructions, although not perfect, were pretty good although I would recommend reading them to the end several times as often the stage you think is missing is included later.

The triumphant builder poses with the finished article.
The greenhouse was a package that included a louvre and two vents with auto vent openers.  These seem to be working very well with minimum tinkering. Of course there hasn't been a lot of sunshine so far but the end of this week is shaping up to be sunny and warm.

The greenhouse nestled into the garden
I've been planning the layout of the greenhouse to find out how much I could fit in.  For some time now I've had the idea of including a large water tank, not for irrigation but to act as thermal mass.  The idea is that the tank absorbs excess heat during the day, helping to keep the greenhouse from overheating, and then the stored heat is released at night.  In addition, the rectangular tanks I've sourced should provide a suitable shelf/bench for storing plants. Water is very efficient as a thermal mass and has been used to good effect in Earthships and Solar Greenhouses for years and I'm intrigued to see if it could have an effect on a domestic level.

An early plan for the layout of the greenhouse using Greenhouse Sensation Chilligrow and Quadgrow planters.

However, the water tanks are quite pricy so this is a project that may have to wait a little while to be realised. For now I'll use the space for spare chillies and a few hydroponic ideas I've been toying with.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Ups and downs

So it's been a frantic couple of weeks with lots of changes. I've been working on a number of garden projects alongside the chillies with the aim of including a little bit for everyone in the family.

The first major build was the raised beds. Tucked in the corner of the garden these sleeper-built beds will grow some fresh salad crops for the kitchen as well as some marigolds to attract the beneficial insects. 

Raised beds fully planted, the peas are still in hiding, the cloches seem to be keeping the pigeons off at least.

Next up was the forest bed - a mixture of ferns, tree stumps and rocks tucked in the shade beneath the cotoneaster tree. 

Finally, and most critically, is the greenhouse build. I've just received a toughened 8'x6' greenhouse, complete with louvres and auto vents for plenty of ventilation. The concrete base has been built and the ground prepared. I've assembled the galvanised base and we'll erect and glaze it on the weekend.

Hopefully I'll have something left to put in the greenhouse. After a disastrous episode with an over concentrated soap spray (and forgetting to wash it off afterwards) I've managed to kill nearly all of the seedlings and damage most of the young plants. They've now been washed off and moved iutside to the small growhouse in a hope that the sunshine and fresh air will aid their recovery. 

The little growhouse, dragged out if retirement and housing the few remaining plants that survived the winter and the haphazard care.