Non-exciting Greenhouse News

August 14, 2018

I promised you a greenhouse update, so here goes – we may not be quite in the league of my friend’s parents yet, but in the past two years the top back corner of the garden has gone from looking like this:

chicken shed

To this

pile of shed parts

To this

large pile of soil

To this



That’s because the other half is in charge of both weed strimming, and greenhouse erection and care and maintenance. This makes for poor blogging material as he largely just undramatically gets on with doing things properly: tying up the plants and supporting them, cutting out the side shoots the way the books say you should, keeping on top of the weeding. Hell, we’ve got an automatic watering system and everything.

watering system

As a result of my complete lack of involvement in the project, everything is coming along very nicely. In fact, we’re awaiting the ripening of all the tomatoes with some trepidation…

tomatoes ripening

Not to mention the tomatilloes, and several different varieties of chillies …


If I have one complaint, it’s that the current version suffers from a bug that means no sooner have I managed to dispose of one courgette in a not-too-revolting way, another one (usually bigger than the last) appears in the kitchen. Clearly it’s time to accelerate the ‘learning to love courgettes’ project. We made a start with this Madhur Jaffrey recipe which was actually quite nice (and probably would have been nicer if I’d followed the instructions and put in ground roasted cumin seeds at the end instead of whole coriander seeds instead). Turns out, most things can be tolerated, and even enjoyed, if you smother them in enough cream…

Those Who Dig in Glass Houses

November 7, 2017

The weather seems to have made a decisive shift from ‘variable’ to ‘downright bonkers’ in recent days – yesterday started with a sharp frost, then turned into a stinging cold drizzle (as a passing neighbour commented as she overtook me, “it’s wet and cold and miserable, what are you DOING?”), and then, as I reached the outskirts of Bigtown with the sun struggling to come out, the wind suddenly turned almost warm: not exactly an oven door opening, but maybe something like a tumble dryer. Today we woke to blustery wind and rain and overnight temperatures of 11 degrees, while tonight – having cycled back from the community council meeting wondering if I should have put my magical ice tyres on – it is once more officially effing bloody cold.

frosty morning

Still, whatever the weather, at the moment it doesn’t matter because our main outdoor project is effectively indoors: digging out where the greenhouse beds. The idea is to replace the current mixture of (inevitably) gravel and rather compacted clay soil with whatever will grow us lots of tomatoes and chillies. Following my usual technique I have googled various gardening sites to find one which agrees with what I was thinking of doing anyway, and decided we’ll probably go with a mixture of one third soil, one third sand and one third peat-free compost.*

greenhouse progress

So this afternoon I spent a happy few hours out of the wind and the wildly variable weather, shovelling the soil and gravel into our ever growing heap, removing an encouraging number of worms (some slightly shorter than they might have been originally, sorry worms) to safety, and remembering not to chuck the bigger stones too carelessly towards the open door…

* It appears that the whole peat vs peat-free compost question is as controversial in a gardening forum as helmets are on a cycling forum; having stumbled upon some entertainingly bonkers but very heated ‘debates’ on the subject, I decided to stick to lurking.

Out with the Old

January 8, 2017

We had one last task left over from 2016 this afternoon – finishing up at the old plot and clearing out the greenhouse.

We weren’t the only ones doing a bit of clearing up – as we approached the gate, a buzzard flew out of the walled garden and when we got in there we found out why. Just be thankful that I decided there was no tasteful way to photograph what was effectively the top third of a rabbit. Too late for most of my veg, unfortunately.

clearing out kale plants

We came away with the last leeks, a few token kale leaves and broccoli sprouts, and a bag full of chilies.

And that’s all, folks.

empty greenhouse

2017 will be all about the new veg plot, a fruit cage, and hopefully finding a replacement greenhouse. I cycle past an empty one every time I go into Bigtown which is slowly falling into decrepitude. One day I may have to stop and make them an offer…

road ahead

No reason for this photograph, except I liked it

Beating the Bounds

June 2, 2015

I’ve nothing coherent to say, after an overnight flight from Colorado to Glasgow, via Dusseldorf, a route even the passport official found highly amusing (that’s the point when I knew I was in Glasgow actually. They never crack a laugh anywhere else) but the minute I sit down I start to fall asleep so I thought I’d bung up a few photos and ramblings in the interests of keeping myself awake past 8pm…

The other half is still in the US for a week so I promised I’d send him a picture of the greenhouse, which is looking pretty good

greenhouse in June

As far as my part of the veg plot goes, however, we’d probably better draw a veil. Something has been taking ‘mangetout’ all too literally, for a start

nibbled mangetout

I gather the weather gods have been busy here while we’ve been away but a truce was called this evening, and everything was very lush and green

spring trees

And you didn’t think I’d miss out the ford… (apparently I should have seen it yesterday, when it was really raging)

Ford in June

Now I just have to manage a whole week on my own. That should be interesting

The Little Chilli that Might

May 2, 2015

chilli plants

One use we’ve decided to put our greenhouse to is growing chillies – not the fearsomely hot ones (I hope) but some of the sweeter, milder ones. Several varieties of seeds were ordered, and they all germinated very nicely, except for the serrano chillies which didn’t come up at all and then, naturally, became the one variety we absolutely had to have. A quick consultation with Professor Google suggested soaking the seeds in warm water overnight, so we split the remaining seeds into two batches and soaked one lot, and planted them all, lovingly spraying them with a mist of water and keeping them warm on the shelf over the Rayburn. Finally, just as we were ready to give up, one sole serrano chilli seedling emerged (out of the unsoaked seeds, if anyone’s interested), looking rather weedy compared to its robuster relatives.

All was going fairly well, the bigger chilli seedlings had been pricked out into individual modules and were ready to be transferred up to the greenhouse, when disaster struck: our sole precious serrano seedling had got knocked and was looking pretty broken.

broken chilli seedling

After all the effort we’d gone to to germinate it, we couldn’t quite give up on it, so we left it on the kitchen windowsill and the next morning it still wasn’t actually dead yet, and the morning after that it was looking a bit perkier, and after a few days it seemed to be straightening itself out somewhat, although it’s never going to win any prizes, other than for perseverance in the face of adversity, which I’m 100% certain isn’t a category in the village show, although I said that about comedy vegetables last year.

serrano chilli seedling

Not dead yet

The first of its cousins have now been planted out in the greenhouse and are looking pretty good, which is something of a relief as my gardening pal in the village keeps threatening to come up and visit my veg plot. They might just serve to distract him from the state of the rest of my beds, which are suffering from a certain ‘just in time’ management approach to preparation and planting at the moment which is threatening to tip over into ‘just too late’ in some areas (it helps if you remember to actually plant your fennel…). Although, in my defence, we’ve got a yellow warning of snow tonight, which makes planting out my spring onions feel less than urgent… and the fact that I’ve already planted out my salad leaves feel positively foolish.

A Rainy Sunday Morning…

March 29, 2015

.. and the other half rendering the kitchen temporarily uninhabitable by making banana bread;* what to do?

greenhouse in March


planted seed trays

A bit of seed planting

notebook with planting plan

A bit of light plot-plotting

Never has the sound of rain on the roof sounded sweeter.

* I love the stuff, especially his chocolate-chip version, but I can’t stand the smell of bananas, especially overripe ones, until they’ve been safely transformed.

A Voyage of Discovery

February 25, 2015

There has been far too much Gadding About going on in recent weeks, which is fun and everything, but tends to involve too much in the way of getting up early and coming back late and not enough in the way of pottering. Today was still busy in that I had things to get done, but I didn’t have to actually be anywhere and the day was suddenly mild so the garden – and more particularly the greenhouse – called.

greenhouse interior

I feel a bit at sea with the greenhouse. I’ve never had one before and while the mediterranean climate part is nice to visit, it’s a bit daunting having something that – unlike the rest of the garden – doesn’t water itself. I’ve also realised that my normal outdoor garden habit of dumping a load of manure on the beds and letting the worms do the work over winter won’t work if there’s no worms. There’s also the worry of it getting an infestation of the sort of thing they’re always issuing Dire Warnings about on Gardeners’ Question Time, like vine weevils). Fortunately, my gardening pal from the village stopped by with his seed potato order for Potato Day and has given me the benefit of his wisdom (I think he’s a bit scunnered that I’ve got my hands on a greenhouse twice the size of his for free out of pure dumb luck but I think he realises his laurels at the village show are fairly safe so hopefully his advice is still sound).

plants hardening off

Anyway, today was spent testing both my pal’s advice to dig in plenty of organic matter, and the handiwork of my hernia surgeon, by hefting barrowloads of compost about, and giving my Project Random Perennial plants a little holiday of a day trip to South West Scotland in the drizzle so they can start the long road towards hardening off.

As an aside, I’ve discovered the archive of podcasts of the Life Scientific in recent weeks, meaning I can head up into the garden for an hour or so whenever it’s convenient without having to dovetail with the listenable bits of the Radio 4 schedule and can do my pottering while eavesdropping in on a fascinating and agreeable conversation between two very clever people. This has been an eye opener (and not least because the producers seem to have found a 50:50 ratio of male and female scientists to interview without making a huge fuss about it). It has reminded me of what I used to find fascinating about my old job, before we had an infestation of consultants, a pest almost as ineradicable as vine weevil. Not that I did any actual science, but I did get to talk to a lot of clever people that did and then build things for them that helped them do it better. Obviously a job as simple and as satisfying as that was never going to last in today’s enlightened times – where are the boxes to be ticked? How can progress be measured and managed? – but it was pretty damn good while it did.