Welcome to the Greenhouse: Part 1

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Grape Inheritance

When we moved into our house, it came with a big garden and a big greenhouse. This greenhouse looked old and had a very impressive grape growing in it. As I’ve never had a garden before and mostly killed anything that was green and living, the thought of having our own garden was both thrilling and terrifying! It took us several years to finally do something with both garden and greenhouse and it wasn’t until my brilliant dad got rid of the grape vine (by now it was so big the leaves were stuck like little stickers to the glass of both walls and roof of the enclosed space it lived in), as all the poor thing did was produce lots of fruit that went mouldy because we didn’t do anything with it. One Christmas when my parents were over for a holiday visit, my fantastic dad chopped the whole thing down! He dug it out, chopped it up (beautiful wood by the way – all gnarly and twisted) until it was all gone.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I began growing my own vegetables. My in-laws did it, my best friend did it and I was intrigued and excited to try my, now with slightly greener hands at growing, own produce. I was given some seeds from my parents and it was a random mix of radishes, broccoli, aubergine and some other things I can’t remember. I started with a growing bag in the greenhouse and a cherry tomato cut in half (which produced very well) and I build two raised beds just in front of the greenhouse for radishes, Dutch endive (not chicory!) and some other stuff. It was fun and a huge learning curve for me. I knew what I did wrong and what went well. Like sowing way too many calendula and nasturtium seeds – safe to say it took over!


Fast forward to January 2020

Upon inspecting the greenhouse ahead of the new growing season I saw that the jasmin, ivy and rosehip had merged with the frame of the greenhouse. I initially thought it would be enough to remove as much as possible to save the greenhouse but it wasn’t. Apart from the plant growth and invasion of green, the glass of the greenhouse had suffered too over the many years of standing. Large chunks to whole panes of glass missing and smaller pieces leaving gaps everywhere – not ideal to keep the heat in in summer! – meant it wasn’t safe to continue using it.

With all these problems to both frame and glass we decided to get a new greenhouse instead of trying to fix this old thing. We went with the Simplicity 8x10ft from The Greenhouse People. This one would be the same size as the old one with one big difference, this new one would have toughened glass as opposed to horticultural glass. This meant having single sheets of glass rather than having 3 or 4 glass panes to make up the same size. Toughened glass, as it says in the name, is tougher and less fragile as its counterpart. I chose this version (even though it’s more expensive) because it doesn’t have that overlapping glass that gets dirty and is not as easy to clean and for the most obvious reason, it doesn’t break as easily. I also think it just looks nicer with cleaner lines.

So with all that in mind we went ahead and ordered it at the end of January. It would be delivered in a week in March when i would have a week off from work. Perfect! That meant we could prep the site, cut away all the jasmine, ivy & rosehip, breakdown the old greenhouse, level the floor and build the new one. All before I had to go back to work. Or so we thought.


Lockdown Skill Unlocked: Bricklaying

Taking everything down and out seemed a much bigger job than we initially anticipated. To top things off, once the old greenhouse was gone and started lifting the slabs, the little brick wall holding the outer side up just fell apart. That happened right in the first week of lockdown. No shops were open (understandably!) and I desperately needed sand and cement! I had a broken brick wall, a flat packed greenhouse in the hallway and lounge and no way of sorting any of it! In the meantime I started cleaning the old brick in advance to when I could rebuild that brick wall. Luckily a local shop that sells cement etc. reopened with home delivery. We placed an order of 9 bags of sand, 3 bags of cement, 6 bags of compost, some buckets, and a trowel.

I am pleased to say that to this day my brick wall is still standing (I’m probably jinxing it now by typing this) despite it’s my first time bricklaying. The wall isn’t perfect, or particularly straight, but its standing and it holds well. Putting in the old paving slabs was a tough job, they’re so heavy! And with the husband working from home I could only really have him help in the weekends. Again we got that job done, with much cursing and swearing – heavy and hard to handle – they’re not level, not really which kinda sucks since the floor base of any greenhouse needs to be level! I ended filling up the gaps under the frame with concrete and it seems ok.

We put the greenhouse up in two days time. It’s a big job but manageable and the instructions were fairly straightforward. The glass fitting on the second day was the hardest as you’re working with sticky foam tape on the metal and single glass panes that are fairly large and therefore heavy. It didn’t go without a fair amount of muttering and grumbling at each other, but, we got it done. Just as the sun was setting.

On to the fun bits in part two!