The Kitchen Garden & My Vintage Greenhouse

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

The previous owner had a small vegetable garden here with a small poly tunnel, and despite the fact it was already sheltered and with really good soil I decided to move the vegetable garden to the other side of the large hedge. A hedge that was already providing a really decent wind break.

The original garden

The new vegetable garden has horrific soil and whilst I've added animal manure and compost it still isn't fantastic, this is going to be a slow process of improvement. There were large willows planted to section off the original vegetable garden from the rest of the field it was in (just to the left of the image above). I moved them and placed them along the boundary of the field and the new garden (image below). They are growing but still the wind break effect is not as good as the old one yet. So some may question the point of moving the veg garden. I'm not second guessing myself or the decision, its flipping lovely, and it promises to be epic as time goes on!

The new garden was placed here.

Let me show you some of the progression of this space....

2016 - First we built the cabin, which was used initially as the dog kennel. This meant that the dogs could be kept away from the electrician and kitchen fitters while our house was gutted... and we did have 9 I think at this point. This is Lucy who was helping me scrape the rushes out of the soil. I felt at the time that even the No Dig method would be defeated by these, the clumps were too big and it was very difficult to even cover them as some bases of the clumps were nearly 1 foot tall. The whole paddock had them in initially, all I did to start was put a strimmer across the whole area to make getting in there and laying it all out a lot easier. Once the rushes were scrapped off - some will disagree with this but it's what I did, I used cardboard and lots and lots of fresh bedding from the animals housing. Firstly again people will tell you NOT to use fresh manure as it robs the soil of nitrogen and burns fresh plant growth. However, I had nowhere else to put it where it could stay and rot down, secondly I wasn't going to be planting in it for a good few years. Third.... the fresh raw bedding has rotted and killed off lots of other weeds left in the soil including the field grass. Several years later the soil is getting better. This is a brand new cultivation and I will be doing no dig and adding well rotted animal muck from now on.

I started by creating a layout, 6 beds arranged side by side with a central area clear for a greenhouse in the middle and three along the fence line for fruit growing. The greenhouse survived only a month like that (below) until a good strong wind blew the frame down. Thankfully I hadn't put the glass in.

We started edging the beds with stones (I like definition in a garden but be mindful they can give bugs and slugs places to hide). The paths were intended to stay grass as the area is simply too big to think about covering the paths.

The Kitchen Garden at The Blue Cottage

Early 2018 - The large willows were relocated to the south boundary of the field, we basically dug a dip and dropped them in. Simple! Willow roots really well into any moist soil and apparently even when its planted with a digger! They will provide hedging material and in time a wind break for the garden.

I had decided against putting the greenhouse back up so decided I was going to erect the smaller poly tunnel, from the previous veg garden, to the same location. The frame was erected, and a small path inside dug out. I planned to grow tomatoes inside with an area underneath for quick crops.

Then storm Emma hit and when the roof came off the cabin it was nicely relocated upside down on the first hoop of the poly tunnel, I watched it fly whilst on the phone to Steven. I was at the time shouting over the wind "ANY IDEA HOW TO KEEP THE CABIN ROOF FROM BOUNCING?" Before he could respond with any actual idea I shouted again "NEVERMIND!! ITS JUST COME OFF". Thankfully, and like the greenhouse it wasn't finished, I hadn't put any plastic on it! Bit of a theme developing here.... Perhaps the universe was in a rather non subtle way telling me these first two ideas were rubbish. Oh and the roof coming off was nothing to do with my DIY skills. The general construction method was not ideal for this location and the gusts hit 104mph, then a hinge snapped on the doors and that was it, it was lost. Since then Ive added my own additions and construction adjustments and all is well.

April/June 2018 - The roof sat like an unturned turtle for about 2 months. I just couldn't bare to start to deal with it. It hadn't been up long... and now I was needing to start all over again. I resounded to the necessary job by just grabbing the drill one clear sunny day and off I went, starting without thinking. If I had carried on thinking about how much work was needed to fix the cabin I may never have started. Once it was all taken apart the kitchen garden was cleared of debris and then was on hold again again whilst I re-built the cabin. The cabin was finished late 2018.

Spring/Summer 2019 - I was offered windows (early 2018) which were being taken out of the large house on the lane by the new owners, so from that I was inspired to create my own greenhouse from these. I settled on a design and by summer the greenhouse decking was coming along. It was accommodating the slope from left to right, and now bridging over the dip I had dug out for the poly tunnel! I seriously thought it was going to take another year to get the money together to build the frame or to be able to afford to roof it.

Spring 2019 - I struggled to keep the grass mown!

Natural pest control

Early summer 2019 - Polytunnel plastic up and veg beds ready for planting. I used only 5 out of the 7 I was making.

Finally, real growing.

So back to the greenhouse - still at this point a long way off being built. I'd seen others on Pin interest (a useful resource for those loving or needing some inspiration for any project). I bought all the bits, the hinges, the doors, sourced the lights and collected anything I thought might fit in, or on it. It has taken 2 years to amass it all. The roofing I fell very lucky with. A chap not far away was selling 16 sheets of plastic roofing, 3 mtr long for a total price of £90!!! I drove to his place leaving a dust trail, and had to contain my excitement as I loaded it up... You don't really want to reveal your true crazy side to most people, they just won't understand believe me.

My inspiration....

What I built late summer 2019.

I started to work out the building of the greenhouse at the door, the patio doors cost me £10, the glass however was £127, but worth it. I laid all the windows out around the greenhouse so that I could see what I had and importantly if I had enough.

The veranda at the front was a must for me. I want to create a garden with a beautiful centre piece which can invoke the idea of sitting and relaxing, and maybe I might actually be able to find the time to do that. The chairs were free! All because I told people what I was wanting for this project and someone had two which were going to the tip. So if you have a project yourself planned tell people what you need, more eyes and ears to the ground as it were and you never know what might get given.

The walkway around and wooden structure is there to allow me to grow plants up the sides. I won't be growing huge things that would otherwise affect the light inside the greenhouse, and they certainly will not be growing up over the top. However the exposed position of the greenhouse and totally clear roof will let in more than enough light for any plants I want to grow inside.

Inside I keep all my succulents that need the light but not the wet.

Over the years and taking into account all the wood and screws including fittings and fixtures I can estimate (I didn't keep a record) that the greenhouse has cost under £850. That I think is an excellent use of materials and some good old up-cycling. The work bench inside was made from the American oak unit taken apart from my neighbours kitchen. Up-cycling is what gives your creations their unique look and creative flair.

Some may notice the vintage log burner at the back, I bought it because I like it. I will source the flue and it will pop out the back. Being where we are we don't really get exposed to frost and very cold temperatures. But should that weather come over I will have the opportunity to put the fire on, it should on burning slowly, retain enough heat overnight be able to keep the temperature above freezing inside the greenhouse. And when its not in use it looks nice. Design for me is just as important to me as functionality.

I hope if any of you are planning your own creations this year please share them, I love a bit of DIY and creative up cycling.

For me this year, I've some weeding to get to once the rain stops, plus sourcing some well rotted animal manure. I need more than my little farm can produce at the moment and I need to start a fresh to get me going for this year.

The garden is about 1/2 an acre and the current growing space is 164 sq metres.

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