Category Archives: Greenhouse

Willow cottage gardeners are pleased to annouce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This rainy weather has been upsetting the greenhouse. We are finding that this year growth seems to be slow and spindly. Despite this we are pleased to announce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This is a plum variety called Roma. We are very proud parents and hope to have many more to follow this one.

The greenhouse looks very different to this time last year.

I feel that I am still waiting for it to grow. The tomato plants are covered in flowers but look very ‘thin’ despite a weekly feed. Any suggestions from fellow gardeners on why this is?

Maybe it is these ‘organic’ grow bags, or the cool temperatures or something else.

I am sad to say that my cucumbers died. They were looking so good and then they were attacked by black fly. I thought I would spray them with some soap mix. I must have mixed it up too strong as the next day they were past recovery. I have managed to source a couple more plants that I will put in and watch what happens. It is sad to see empty grow bag space…

Her x

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It’s tomato time! Bring on the Nutscene twine and grow bags.

Our tomato plants have been growing so well in the conservatory, where they have been recovering from their sickness, that the time had come to plant them in the newly fixed greenhouse. The weather has been changeable, again, this week so the greenhouse is still full of all the plants I had wanted to plant out. There was nothing else for it – everything would just have to budge along and make room!  If I left the tomatoes to grow any taller they would topple over.

We have tried lots of different methods for growing tomatoes in the greenhouse and have settled on using twine to support the vines.

This year I used Nutscene twine that Hubby bought me for my birthday. He tells me he followed a link on My Tiny Plot blog site as an advert caught his eye when browsing and he thought I would like it. He was right, I did!

I tie the twine around the bottom of the grow bag and knot firmly.

Then I tie it again at the top of the greenhouse to a piece of garden wire running along the whole length of our greenhouse. You can also see all the little plants hardening off outside in this picture.

Next,  I cut little crosses in the supposedly organic  grow bags and plant in the tomato plants. Ta da….

The tomato plants grow happily up the twine. I just occasionally encourage them but wrapping them around the string.

Now, you may be wondering why the grow bags on the end have black pots on them – they are there to provide some extra growing space. I cut the bottom out of a medium plant pot and insert it into the grow bag.

I fill the pot with some extra compost and plant straight into them.

These particular tomatoes are a vigorous grafted strain that I picked up from our local garden centre. I thought I would give them a try and see how they do as they were reduced – I have mentioned before about my weakness for discounted plants!

I don’t think I would pay £3.99 per plant for these  but at 50p each I thought they were worth a punt.

I remember which plant is which by using a permanent marker to write on the grow bags.

So what did I end up planting?

3 x Cherry Conchita (grafted)

3 x Sun Cherry

3 x Gardeners Delight

2 x Harlequin

2 x Harbinger

2 x Pomodoro

1 x Beef steak (grafted)

1 x Sungold (yellow variety)

We still have room for a couple more tomato varieties, a few cucumbers and a a gherkin.

I hope our tomato plants like their new home and grow well for us this year. I am already optimistically looking forward to huge abundant crops of tomatoes. On holiday last year, we were so inspired by a wonderful 92-year-old Italian man who tended his field of tomato plants lovingly each day.  I was thinking of him today when I was planting up my grow bags. I know we cannot compare with his small holding but who knows, one day we may get close.

Her x

All this hardening off is very hard work!

The time has come when all my little seedlings are growing up and getting ready to leave the cosy comfort of the greenhouse. Well, actually, they are partly being evicted as I want the room for my tomato plants.  The weather is still cool but as we head into May it is gradually warming up. As my little seedlings have been used to the greenhouse environment I need to acclimatise them to the outdoor conditions.  In practise this means taking them outdoors in the daytime and back again at night for a few days. This is easier said then done as I have quite a few trays of seedlings. It seems to take the whole family about 15 mins of passing, tripping over seed trays and arranging to get them all out in the morning, and then we repeat this process again at night.

I know all the benefits of hardening off but part of me wants to just plant them out and see what happens. I feel like a neglectful parent even admitting that, but I am frustrated by the fetching and carrying every morning and night!

You may wonder why I have hostas in the greenhouse. Well, they are all growing in pots. Early spring I put them in to give them a good start. After hardening off I use the bushy little plants to fill any gaps in the flower borders, the pots just slip in and are unseen from a distance.  Then next year I bring them back to the greenhouse and start again. I have a rogue duck that escapes the orchard and enjoys spending time in the flower borders. I think she does a great job of de-slugging the garden so I can manage to grow beautiful silky hostas every year.

Well, I had better go and recruit the family for the moving plant palaver!

Her x

Greenhouse fixed….grow, grow, grow little plants

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts about our cucumber/tomato conundrum that the greenhouse needed fixing if we wanted to get up to the right temperatures for successful tomato and cucumber growing. Well, after about two years of loitering in the jobs list and a lot of huffing and puffing in between the rain today, I’m pleased to report that our greenhouse now, at last, has its full complement of glass.

Our greenhouse is one of those aluminium things that wasn’t so much a flat-pack kit when it arrived, more a  massive meccano set – with the added peril of sheets of glass to boot. We went for a biggie because we thought we’d get maximum use out of it and, over the years, we surely have. It took the best part of two days to put together – with a couple of breakages thrown in – but it looked terrific once finished.

Over the years it has survived snowfall and buffeting from the winds and has given us a lot of greenhouse fruit and veg, as well as getting the allotment patch off to a healthy start. But two years ago we had a big storm and, when we closed up the windows, forgot to hook the handle over the latch. I say we, I mean Her. I say forgot, I mean couldn’t reach (a design fault we noted).

In the morning, the wind had got underneath one of the windows and flipped it completely over the top of the greenhouse, smashing the glass in the window itself – but luckily not the glass on the other side. The aluminium frame was completely bent out of shape – hence why it’s a job that has been loitering in the jobs list for nearly two years now.

Last year’s weather didn’t seem so bad – but this year, apart from the lovely March sun we had (remember that?) it’s been cold and wet, and the need to bump up the temperatures is all too apparent when you look at our poorly greenhouse tomatoes, though thankfully on the mend after a bit of TLC.

Last week Grampy, our go-to chap on anything vaguely mechanical, spent a few hours removing the shards of glass that have been dangling perilously out of the frame for the last two years. He also removed the frame, which is no easy task given that it has to slide the length of the greenhouse – all whilst hanging off the top of a stepladder, leaning over the greenhouse itself.

After that I needed to bend it back into shape so I could measure it up.  I did look at the large DIY store we bought it from, but they don’t do replacement pieces… grrr. Happily the good folk of Chipping Sodbury Glass sorted us out with some new glass.

So, once re-assembled, it was just the task of sliding the frame back into place. I say just, I mean about 30 minutes atop the stepladder pushing and pulling, all the time worrying about slipping or dropping something onto the glass, causing more destruction. After much tugging, the window frame nestled back in place. I had looked at the thermometer in the greenhouse before starting, and it was already sliding towards the zero mark – so the little plantlets are really going to start feeling the benefit.

Who knows…might even be time to plant out the baby tomatoes over the May bank holiday.

Him

Tomato plant first aid – mother knows best.

A few weeks ago, I posted about my poorly tomato plants (thank you for all the helpful comments). They looked so miserable with their yellow droopy leaves and I had made various attempts to revive them to no avail.

Poorly plants…

Then…my mother visited.  After looking at my poorly plants she declared that she was not surprised as it was far too cold at night in my greenhouse and they would be happier living in the conservatory for a few more weeks.  I took note, as soon as she had left, naturally, and moved all 27 of the tomato plants up to the house.

A few weeks later they are looking much better. They have lovely, green new growth and they are getting very tall.

Tomatoes looking much healthier. Still a few yellow lower leaves but all top growth green and healthy.

In fact, they are now worrying me how well they are growing. I will need to put them out in a grow bag very soon. What do I do if it is still too cold in the greenhouse? I didn’t think it was too cold for them before but they have definitely improved with a warmer environment. I think maybe it was just too cold at night and too hot in the day, so the variation in temperature was huge.

The low temperature in our greenhouse has been partly due to a missing piece of glass. Last winter,  a gust of wind blew the window open, flipping it over the top, and smashed the window pane; we just hadn’t got round to fixing it.  I am pleased to report that I have been today to a glass supplier with the measurements and got a replacement piece for the window. I now just need Hubby to fix it. I hope this happens sooner rather than later as the thought of homing all 27 of my tomato vines in the house much longer is daunting.

Her x

Here’s my homemade water butt to help with hosepipe ban

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages now, but the threat of a hosepipe ban finally got my butt in gear (sorry) to sort out another water butt for our garden. We have one already – we bought it about ten years ago now – but we have space for another and, given the pending drought and the fact that it’s just a good thing to do anyway,  it seems to make sense to get another.

Then I looked at the price. I couldn’t believe how expensive a plastic drum with a little tap is….and that’s just the small ones. And then it’s another £15 for a plastic stand to put it on. Yikes! My thriftiness gene simply couldn’t cope with all this – which is when I started exploring the homemade alternatives.

Firstly, I managed to get my hands on a second-hand plastic drum from a local junk shop.

Plastic barrel

Plastic barrel I picked up from junk store

Handy, but not a freak as it looks just like this one on ebay.   Then I picked up a little tap (also on ebay) for the bargain price of £1.65 plus postage. I had a 22mm drill bit which was a little larger than I would have liked, but small enough that it shouldn’t leak once fitted. After employing the smallest one in the family as holder-in-chief and wriggling inside to tighten the nut, it was a very speedy job done. Some old broken bricks are standing in for the plastic stand; a bit rickety but they should do the job. And here’s the finished article, for a cut price £15.

Homemade water butt

Homemade water butt

It’s already filling up nicely, thanks to a few downpours this week, though I wish I’d had a few more brinks to raise it up a bit. Ho-hum! Happy watering ahead!

Him

Tin-bath salad pickings – long may they last!

There are splashes of green all over the greenhouse, showing that the seeds are germinating and the seedlings are growing fast. The weather has been dreary over the weekend but the previous warm weather has given everything a good boost.

Before you ask…yes, they are courgette plants and yes, there are over 20! Usually my seeds don’t germinate but this year they all of them did, and I was passed a few by my dad. I am planning on gift wrapping them as presents!

Looking the other way you get a full view of what we have growing. At this rate the floor space is running out.

We ate our first salad pickings this weekend. They made up the basis for a lovely goat cheese and parma ham salad. We are growing a salad mix – rocket, spinach and lettuce – from a giveaway a few years ago. If you use a magnifying glass you can spot the spring onions growing, not big enough to pick yet but showing signs of being tasty.

They have been happily growing in the old tin bath; great for warming the plants and boosting the growth.

Harvested salad…

Supplemented with chives and a little basil…

Delicious!

I have already started off some new lettuce plants to replace these and to put outside when the weather is a little warmer. I am growing Tom Thumb and Baby Gem again. I like these varieties as I find harvesting these mini lettuces easy, they don’t need much washing and a couple can be used up completely in one meal without having to keep leftover wilted bits in the fridge.

Already  looking forward to the next picking!

Her x