The Greenhouse Fiasco: How Not to Purchase a Greenhouse

I’ve wanted a greenhouse of my own for a very long time, so when we finally bought our first house it was at the tops of my list of things that I wanted to buy (though maybe not top of Carl’s list!). I had a look around on the internet and visited a few places, and eventually decided that my best option would be to buy an ex-display greenhouse from The Greenhouse People based in Stoke-on-Trent. 

 This is my greenhouse on the internet. At the time of writing it’s for sale for £1999 and I paid £888 so I met my first objective of getting good value for money.

BUT! The deal meant that I had to go to Stoke, disassemble the greenhouse myself, transport it home, get it out of the van and reassemble it. This includes 32 individual panes of glass. My mum kindly offered to help me, but she’s 5ft 2 so it was a scary prospect!

We booked a day off, hired a van and drove to Stoke. It was not a fun day. The greenhouse wasn’t difficult to take down but it took a lot of time. Then a piece of glass exploded on us and we lost all our confidence. (I should add here that The Greenhouse People did replace this without me even asking. Despite my terrible experience I would definitely recommend them as none of it was their fault!) Thankfully a kind man who put greenhouses up all the time came to help us, or we would never have got the van back in time otherwise. 

Once we got home we had an hour to unload the van of all of the glass. It was so stressful and we were terrified of breaking another piece of glass. We managed it in the nick of time, and got the van back as the lady was putting her coat  on ready to go home. 

Fortunately we’d already prepared the base for the greenhouse. I wasn’t keen on having concrete in the garden, and paving is very expensive. I did some research and found a solution called Pro Base which is a plastic interlocking grid system. The good news with this is you can re-use it, it’s much kinder to the environment than concrete and much cheaper, working out at about £100 for the greenhouse. 



We used the weed membrane provided with the base and topped it with Cotswold Buff gravel. It was really difficult to get it level but we got there in the end. You’ve got to be so precise with a greenhouse because even if you’re a couple of millimetres out, the glass won’t fit in the greenhouse and you’ll have to start again with the build.


With our base in place we built the greenhouse. This was also really difficult. Because we’re locating the greenhouse in a corner it meant there was very little room to manoeuvre. With the exploding pane of glass fresh on our minds, we were quite scared at times and so wore safety goggles and gloves. This was the amount of space that we had to deal with:


The other problem was our base which turned out to be ever so slightly out in places, and so we had to keep readjusting in order to make the glass fit. We had already got the glass into the above tiny space before we realised the base was not level so it just added to the stress! 

We managed to get the greenhouse built doing a bit at a time over a weekend or two, and this is what we now have:


I can’t face putting the door on or the staging up just yet! 

So in conclusion I saved a lot of money getting the greenhouse this way, and got a much better greenhouse than I otherwise would have. BUT it was very stressful and took a lot of time, so I don’t think I would recommend buying a greenhouse in this way to other people!

Jen

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

It’s funny how destructive you have to be to something in order to make it better. The garden currently looks like thugs have broken in and destroyed everything in their path, the only saving grace being a few spring bulbs which are reassuring me that the space is a garden, and not a crime scene.

A few things have progressed lately. The first was the tree stumps were removed. Much as I would love for us to do everything ourselves, sometimes you just have to admit a job is too big and seek help. We had three main tree stumps and one dead tree in the garden. The fourth I was able to hack at with an axe and it disintegrated, but I think this was a particularly old stump.

As you can see they weren’t going anywhere without some serious pieces of kit! So I asked a few people for quotes which were in the £200-£300 range, a lot I thought. Eventually someone quoted me £200+VAT, and when I delved a bit deeper they said if they didn’t take the wood away they could do it for £120+VAT. That saves the best part of £100 which seemed like a winner to me. At the time I thought I could just do a couple of journeys to the tip, or chop the wood up to fit in our garden waste bin, but I’ve since bought a garden shredder so I can add the chippings to my compost heap.

As you can see, they did a good job and were done within half an hour!

But there were consequences of saving that £100!

Better get that shredder going!

The next development has been the bricks. The garden design we’ve decided to go with has curved edges, and we wanted something to edge the garden that we could curve and so bricks seemed a good choice. We ended up sourcing reclaimed bricks from a local reclamation yard where we could go and view a whole range of bricks and choose some that fitted with our garden. We ended up choosing some taken from an old pub, for 80p each, but weighing almost 3kg each. Luckily both me and Carl had taken each of our cars, so we filled them with as many as we could in the boot and foot wells, making sure we could still drive up hills!


Getting them home was one thing, getting them into the garden (bearing in mind we live in a terraced house with only an alleyway to access the garden) was another! They were very heavy, and we were absolutely exhausted afterwards, but rewardingly we were able to get an idea of how the garden might look once we’d laid them out.


We had marked out the design with string and lollipop sticks, which I think is an important step as it allows you to get a feel for the space and how different tweaks to the design might work. Carl has since started to lay the bricks out properly. I did start this but Carl is much more precise and patient than me, and did a much neater job! We’ve widened the bed on the right so the beds are symmetrical and taken the turf up where the curve starts (who knew taking turf up was so hard?!). Then Carl dug a trough along the edge of the grass for the bricks, and wedged them in place with earth. They might move a little bit, but I think this this is preferable than using lots of concrete near the plants.

I’m really pleased with how they’ve turned out, I think the look really smart. It’s hard work and takes a while to do, but hopefully it will look really good once it’s finished. Beyond the start of the garden we intend to have a winding path with deep beds and a bench to sit amongst the flowers, which will lead to a gravelled area with a raised bed by the greenhouse and shed. But that’s probably a while away yet!

Jen

Design Time

I went to the RHS Tatton Flower Show last year and was really taken by one garden in particular which really captured my imagination. This is that garden:

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At the time we knew (well hoped!) we were buying the house we now own and I thought this was such a lovely design that we could use for inspiration for our own garden. There are a few things that I particularly like about it:

  • The raised beds are beautiful and the gravel edge next to the paving gives a really polished finish. I’m keen to grow lots of fruit and vegetables so I think a raised bed is a must.
  • Adding the mirrors makes the garden look twice as big, and the style of the mirrors gives the illusion that they are windows to a secret garden.
  • I love the traditional accents, particularly the potting bench and cold frame, which combined with the brick walls it leads to a really charming space.

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So when it came to doing a design for our own garden, these ideas seemed like a good place to start. At this point I should point out I have never designed a garden before. My mum let me have one border as a child which was my ‘smelly garden’ but that is the limit of my gardening design experience, so I need all the inspiration I can get!

Aside from the external ideas there were some other factors to consider within the garden. Our garden isn’t massive but it is bigger than the show garden which gave us some more space to play with.

  • I’ve always dreamt of having a greenhouse. We have an existing garden shed which we want to keep, so next to that (which is a space that also benefits from a good amount of sun) seemed like a good position for one.
  • Both myself and Carl would like a lawn to some degree. It doesn’t need to be big, but there is nothing nicer than lying on grass on a lovely sunny day.
  • The garden needs to have some floral borders and we’re keen to get as much wildlife into the garden as possible, so want the plants to accommodate bees, birds, other insects and maybe even some pond life.

So with all that in mind, I drew a design! I’m not the best artist (or even an artist at all) but one thing I did make sure was to measure everything accurately. I found on paper the garden was much longer and thinner than I’d thought stood in it, and I know that made a difference to how I laid out the space. This was the design I came up with:

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I apologise for the faint pencil! The basic idea was to have two borders edging a lawn that would come together to form an archway with a path running through deep borders. This would open out onto a paved area with raised beds and then the shed and greenhouse would be at the bottom. The shed would be moved forward slightly to allow us to plant a tree behind it, to give us a little more privacy where we are currently slightly overlooked.

But then we changed our minds a bit. The main reason being that the above design is very symmetrical and relied on an old brick bed being taken out. Although this bed is a bit tired, it’s quite charming and it seemed a shame to lose it, so we have now decided to go with a more asymmetrical and curved design that brings the bed in as a feature. In my next post I will go into a bit more detail about the new design and why it seemed the right thing to do.

Jen

Welcome to The Garden

Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Jen and I live in Cheshire. I just bought my first house with my boyfriend Carl and finally have realised my dream of having a garden, so I thought it might be nice to document what I do with the it over the coming year. I’ve got an awful lot to learn, but am keen so we’ll see how far that gets me!

This is our garden:

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It’s about 5mx15m and walled all the way around with a patio area next to the house. We live in a Victorian house so the wall surrounding the garden backs out onto the old alleyway. I don’t think the previous owners of the house were too into their gardening, the borders have lost their definition and the grass is thin in places but it’s a good blank canvas to work from.

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The left hand border, looking a bit scruffy!

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The right hand border, with our first addition to the garden: bird boxes!

At first glance the soil seems quite good, and we face South-East which gives us sun for most of the day. I’m hoping this combined with the walls will give us a micro-climate and we can grow some lovely fruit and veg. We have an apple and a pear tree which are well established so I’m hopeful fruit trees should do well.

One problem we’re going to have to face though is the tree stumps, we’ve got lots! This is the worst offender:

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We also have a dead tree and at least three or four other stumps to deal with, I think we might have to get the professionals in to deal with those! For the time being though the first thing I need is a plan, so will sort that for next time.

Jen