Insulating the greenhouse

As winter is well and truly on its way now, we’ve decided to insulate the greenhouse. This should keep the place warmer, help keep the frost out, and hopefully reduce the fuel bill when the weather is cold enough to dust off our trusty heater. It should also let us grow a few things over the winter that would struggle to survive outside.

Last year I put a small plastic greenhouse inside the big one, and this was great for starting off some early crops. This year I also want to have a go at growing some winter salads and early potatoes in containers, so decided to insulate the entire greenhouse.

Searching online, I found that the best material is bubble wrap. Apparently you can get specialist stuff which is ideal for the job as it’s UV protected. I only found out this little gem of information after I’d already bought a massive roll of packaging bubble wrap. Deciding to give this a go as we already had it, myself and the other half waltzed off down to the greenhouse at the weekend, to tackle the job in hand.

The first thing to do was to have a good old tidy up, so we harvested the last of the tomatoes and removed the plants. The green tomatoes are now between sheets of newspaper in the conservatory to ripen up. Next up we sorted out the pots and temporarily moved the plants on the staging outside, to give ourselves a clear area to work in.

After a fair bit of ‘to me’ ‘to you-ing’ we’d soon lined the inside of the greenhouse with bubble wrap. As ours is wooden, it fixed onto the frame easily with drawing pins (bubbles towards the glass). If yours is aluminium, special plastic fixings are available from most garden centres.

Now the insulation is up, and especially when we’re using our paraffin heater, the greenhouse will naturally produce more condensation. This could potentially be a problem as too much humidity can be a breeding ground for fungal infections. To get around this, we’ll open the door on clear, sunny days to ventilate the place, and keep the pots and plants inside on the dry side.

The last task of the day was to cut off the tops of the now empty grow bags. I planted a crop of winter peas in one a couple of weeks ago, and these are merrily pushing through the soil as we speak. Into the others went some mixed salad leaves, some spring onion seeds and some radish. With any luck we’ll be harvesting salad well into the winter.

The Hinckley Times 8 November 2012

The Hinckley Times 8 November 2012


For me, there’s not much that can rival a good cauliflower cheese. A healthy vegetable, dripping with a sauce so calorific it could power your street lights: what’s not to like?

So this year, I decided to have a go at growing some. Back in March, a tray of ‘Organic Goodman’ was sowed, and the seedlings appeared in no time at all. Out into the big wide garden they went, and I had a little bit of a smug moment as I surveyed my brassica patch. Oh yes indeedy, Brussels, purple sprouting broccolli, not one but three types of cabbage, and the piece de resistance… a row of caulis. I chucked in some fish and bone meal whilst planting, and was careful to firm them all in well: apparently brassicas don’t like to be blown about too much. It makes them insecure and upset.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the patch on my regular slug and caterpillar hunt, when my attention was drawn to the cauliflowers. Blow me down… they were only producing white heads. Amazed that I had some vegetables actually behaving and doing what it said in the book, I investigated further to see how best to tend to them.

Out came the gardening book, and I read to keep the heads white, they shouldn’t be exposed to sunlight.  I dutifully pulled up all the leaves to the top of the crown and secured them with string. Quite excited now, I looked forward to the day when the family asked eagerly, “What’s for dinner?” and I could nod sagely towards the garden, answering, “Cauliflower. Not cabbage”.

Leaving the trussed up caulis to do their stuff, I left them well alone. Imagine my surprise when I gently peeled back a couple of the leaves for a sneak peek last week.

diseased cauliflower

Something’s definitely ‘up’ with my caulis

Either something was eating them, or they had some sort of disease. Either way, they weren’t the firm, white heads I was anticipating. They were moth-bitten and scrawny; some no more than wizened black stumps –  and no amount of cheese sauce was going to magic them into a tasty side dish. Disappointed, I rootled round on the t’interweb, but drew a blank. Plenty of guesswork going on, but no definitive answer – I’m still none the wiser as to what killed them. The Mystery of the Cadaverous Cauli: that’s one in the eye for the Famous Five!

There was nothing for it – the whole row had to go. Not wanting to risk putting something disease-ridden in the compost bin, I gave them a decent send off in the household rubbish. I can’t bring myself to tell the family just yet…


I love the headlines the people at The Hinckley Times make up

A brand new vegetable plot

A while back we dismantled the trampoline as it wasn’t being used any more, and gave it away to some friends who would get much more enjoyment out of it.

We were still left with a massive pile of rubbish that I tried a couple of times to have a bonfire with, but with limited success. Happy to say though, that ‘The Great Fire’ finally took place last weekend, leaving the patch relatively clear for me to do something with.

First job was to get rid of the bits that didn’t burn – the brown bin men are going to LOVE me this week!

Clearing the patch

At the back of the patch was a ridge of clay which we dumped there when we dug out the pond. I had two options – either turn this into a rockery of some kind, or break it up. I decided on the latter, and merrily set to work chopping up the clay and spreading it out. I came across some massive roots from the tree that we used to have, so OH nipped out for a mighty axe, and they were soon history.

Finally I could get my rotovator out and have a whiz round with it.

An action shot

I discovered ‘aerobics for chickens’ too.  Any worms I came across got thrown onto the mesh roof of the run.  All three stood underneath it, and jumped up in a Ninja-type manner, trying to reach it. Eventually the worm dropped through the holes, and one lucky chicken would pick it up and scarper before the others could catch it.

Anyway,  a quick rake over and another couple of laps with the rotavator, and it was all looking rather good.

I then planted up a load of brassicas I’d started off in the greenhouse earlier in the year. We now have brussels, cauliflowers, and three types of cabbages growing in there.

My family are all cock-a-hoop…. they thought they’d seen the last of cabbage…

Taking the pea…

I planted my overwintering peas (Douce Provence) in guttering, under cover in September. I know I was early, but if you recall, September was a really wintery, cold month, and I just thought that they would never rumble me. – plus the fact that I’m too impatient for my own good and want results NOW!

Along came October and it was the real deal ‘Indian Summer’ we get promised every year. I, for one, was actually on Skeg Vegas beach in my cozzie on the 1st October, but let’s not dwell too much on that thought.

Yesterday, I trotted off down the garden to see if the peas needed a water, threw back the cloche with a flourish, and I have to say, I could not believe my eyes.  There is only a blooming pea pod on there – what’s that all about? Now I have a tense winter of tending to said peas, which for all I know, may have ‘pea’-ked too early.

Have these pea-ked too early?

A backup plan swiftly came into play. I’ve sown a tray of peas in the greenhouse. If they all take, we’ll be having shares in Bird’s Eye!


Releasing my inner ‘nerd’

I think I may have done it this time. I will wear my ‘nerd’ crown with no shame…

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll be aware that I’m a slight fan of the Wilkinson’s end of season seed sale. I rush in at the end of summer, battling past all who cross my path, and exit the shop with packet upon packet of seeds; some of which I’ve never eaten/fancied/tried…. but they were CHEAP!

Hence, I’d amassed a mighty array of seeds in the potting shed. There was no order to my collection – my purchases were all rattling around in a drawer together. I hadn’t a clue what was in there, so last year a lot of time was spent idly flicking through the packets and planting stuff randomly. Maybe that would explain why my beetroot never reached their full potential… perhaps they were a couple of months late going in.

So, in a bid to be more organised, I have compiled a spreadsheet of all my seeds. Yes, you heard that correctly… a seed database, no less! I got a bit carried away with the detail, but now I can see at a glance what I have, how big it grows, when to plant it, whether it’s a vegetable or a flower – I’ve even colour coded what vegetable bed it goes in, and everything’s in alphabetical order!

This year will not be a case of ‘shove it in and hope it grows’ – oh no… I’ll be gardening with the precision of a military operation.

How I have changed…

This is only part of the spreadsheet. It goes on further, but I couldn't get it all on the screen shot

Minestrone soup – about 20p a portion

A quick rummage around in the fridge yesterday produced some veg that needed using up. Too much to throw away, but too little to make a meal, I decided to make soup. The finished result was tasty, cheap and nutritious, and I think i’m finally getting the hang of the soup maker!

I used:

2 carrots, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small courgette, diced
5 cabbage leaves picked straight from the garden and chopped finely
a handful of brussels that had grown loose – finely chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
approx 10 sticks of spaghetti, broken into pieces

I fried the onion in the bottom of  the soup maker, then added all the rest of the veg, stock cube and bits of spaghetti. I then filled the jug up to 1400ml, and let it work its magic. (Brought to the boil, then simmered for about 20 mins).

End product… delish!

G Day is finally here

After all the hard work landscaping the garden (alright, not by me, personally – I had help!), and all the saving up pennies throughout the summer, my new greenhouse arrived today – complete with automatic openers and finials. Yes, you heard right… finials!

Two friendly chaps from ‘oop north’ arrived at 8.30 prompt this morning and after I made them a brew, they quickly set to work.

Just over an hour later, ta-da! there it was. The eaves are higher than normal, and even higher in mine as it’s on top of sleepers, and one chap asked if I had a very tall husband (he could plainly see that there were no ‘long ‘n’ lanky genes’ in my makeup!). I replied, “no, but I hope to grow a very tall cucumber next year.”

I thought I would share the story ‘From bombsite to lovelyness’ in pictures…

The bombsite at the start

The wasteland. The chicken coop used to be here until we made them a mansion at the bottom of the garden. The shrubs were tired, so we decided to whip them all out. One look at the stubborn dogwood though, and we decided we needed help!

The area is cleared

One day later, our ‘man what can’ had worked like a trooper…

Greenhouse base and raised bed in place

New fence panel in, raised bed in place and greenhouse base down. Oh, and concrete edgers ready for the gravel.

All ready for the greenhouse!

Gravel path – check… greenhouse ordered – check… credit card groaned – check!

Finally - the greenhouse... note the finials!

I now need to have good look through my seeds and ‘Greenhouse Expert’ book to see what I can do in there between now and spring… Exciting times indeedy!

Greenhouse base is down

The garden is really coming along now, and with any luck it will be ‘fait accomplis’ by the end of the week.

Our man’s coming back tomorrow, but so far he’s got the greenhouse base down, edging stones in and raised bed constructed.

He was hoping for some help from the other half with getting the new gravel board and fence panel in, but as he was out at work, we had to resort to the real muscle… me!

After much ‘to me, to you-ing’, and me grunting at the top of the slightly wobbly ladder, they slid in with relative ease. I had a manly war wound in the shape of a bruise on my wrist, but apart from that, all is good 🙂

Progress so far – from this:

to this:

He’s back tomorrow, and I just have a row of cabbages to rehome….