Wednesday, 23 September 2020

GARDEN: The Summerhouse Path & Plant Update

 After spending July up a ladder giving the pergola a fresh coat of paint, the following six weeks in August & September were busy putting in the path from the end of the patio to around the Summerhouse.

Smashing out the humps

Rubble Trouble

The raised areas of the old path were pulverised and reused as aggregate for the sub-base of the new path.

Luckily, I had previously bought the sandstone slabs (300 x 300), a few years before, so once lockdown was lifted it was off to the builder's merchant to get sand and cement.


I didn't want a particularly wide path as I wanted to maintain the area around the apple tree as large as possible for lawn.  Cats like to eat grass to help with the digestion of hair they ingest while cleaning themselves, and I took out the grass to put in the patio... There is a distinct rake to the path for the rain flow to drain into the grass area.

A month later

I'm really pleased with the finished result. The advantage of hard landscaping your garden with paths and patio areas is you no longer have to trudge through wet grass or mud whenever it rains.

The Grass will be greener on this side

The remaining area has been levelled and sown with grass seed.  Unfortunately the neighbourhood cats, of which there are many, are under the belief that I've made a communal toilet for them, so poop patrol has become a regular occurance.

Almost Zen like

There is also a long narrow, around 18 inches, wooden plant bed (not shown) to go alongside the trellis as I wanted another vegetable bed to grow more french beans.

View from inside the Summerhouse

Where's my grass?

 Plant Update

The French Dwarf Beans were a success and very easy to grow. Unfortunately with only five plants there wasn't much of a harvest but did get to eat homegrown beans three times. Next year, I shall aim for around 20-30 plants to maximise the yield.

The other plants have come along nicely but starting earlier next year is really a priority as these are still either too small or not ripe.

One of the pickings

Bell Pepper   

Chilli Peppers

The vine tomatoes, sown from seeds of a shop bought tomato, have been interesting, however I won't be growing these next year.  My neighbour has a tomato which is only a foot high and each plant is crammed with fruit - at least 50 tomatoes per bush.  I shall be planting from those.

The line of vine...


Sadly they are still green but one has finally turned red, or maybe it's just bashful...

Fried green tomatoes?

Last but not least, the pear tree which is now in its fourth year is proving its worth.  Thank you, Maria :)

A Lovely Pear

Sunday, 5 July 2020

GARDEN: The Growing Update

I can't say I haven't enjoyed my time during lockdown and the opportunity to spend so much time in the garden:  May is always the most colourful month as this is when the garden explodes with blooms.

May's Riot of Roses
There's always plenty to do (as well as chill out with a book & a glass of wine, or alfresco BBQ).  But this year so far, has been about having the time to sit down with the gardening books and learn a little about growing vegetables from seed.

This area by the side of the Summerhouse has been designated as a vegetable bed. It is a nice sunny spot and sheltered from winds. I have still to lay the paving slabs from the patio to the Summerhouse, leaving a grassy spot around the apple tree.

Bamboo canes make an excellent deterrant from the neighbourhood cats seeing it as one huge litter tray until it is planted.

Grow Me!
It is almost ten years since the pergola was put up, so another project I have been working on is filling splits in the wood, using a flexible filler, in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.  

Couldn't be done without the obligatory cup of Tea

From the back
 A month or so later, using advice on the moon cycles from my parents, the French beans go into the ground and the vine tomato seedlings into pots.
Test ground for Experiment One
I have potted up 8 x vine tomato plants with bamboo cane pyramids to grow up.  The rest of the seedlings were swapped with my next door neighbour for Chilli pepper plants.  I hope I didn't plant them too late.

I thought this was a very interesting tip from a gardening book: Tomatoes are prone to whitefly.  Paint a board or cane bright yellow and then smear it with vaseline.  The whiteflies are attracted to the yellow and will become stuck in the grease.  I will be trying this.

Climb, baby, climb!

I've heard that my French Beans may be prone to be ravaged by slugs, but read that coffee grounds are a good deterrant. 
A French Bean: Oooo La La!
Sadly I only have five of these plants but will be planting many more next year.  These are fast workers and if you look closely you'll see that they already have small beans!
Cherchez les trois
The bed as it is at the moment, the vine tomatoes are on the left but once I have finished the painting of the pergola, I'll probably move them out onto the patio so they have more space. There are also three bell peppers in pots, dotted among the bean plants.

Cat crap proof cane fence.
In the Summerhouse, I have Chilli Peppers and smaller bell pepper seedlings on the plant shelf.

Last but not least, elsewhere in the garden, it looks like it might be a good year for pears.  The pear tree is now four years old and has never had so many pears.

Conference Pears


Monday, 4 May 2020

GARDEN: Summerhouse Plant Shelf

What better way to spend the time during the Covid 19 lockdown than trying your hand at growing a few vegetables.  This is a first for me as I've never had the time before, or was always too rushed to remember things like watering and plant nurture.  Now, for multiple reasons, seems as good a time as ever.

To adapt the Summerhouse with this in mind, I decided to put up a plant shelf as somewhere for seedlings to grow as well as for my cactus and succulent collection. This was made out of surplus timber that was lying around, which is also a great way of using up materials. Larger plants can always be stood on the floor.

Great light and greenhouse temperatures.

Handy as a drinks ledge too!
Having managed to procure some Dwarf French Beans in this time of seed scarcity, I was surprised to see them germinate so quickly. In all, about seven days and the first is breaking through the soil.

There's something lurking just below the surface  
Somewhat as an experiment, I scooped some seeds out of one of the more expensive variety of vine tomatoes, dried them on a paper towel and then sowed them a few days later.  I am absolutely overjoyed to see so much activity in such short time.  To date, I have around a dozen seedlings.

Vivacious vine tomatoes - no holding back
Due to the explosion of vine tomatoes seedlings, my next venture were the seeds of an almost spent Bell Pepper that was lurking in the fridge. I'd read that the more riper the pepper the better chances of success. I am still waiting to see if they germinate, and if they do prove fruitful it goes to show that you need not look any further than your kitchen to find things to grow.
My trusted companion, the Pepper kitty, didn't seem so impressed.  I think she would have preferred if I'd invested my time and energy in chickens.

Look into my eyes...Chickens

Sunday, 22 September 2019

GARDEN: The Garden Summerhouse Project ~ Part 6 ~ Finishing

Plenty of Light
Bifold doors
Partially open
Fully open
A year later, and the Summerhouse is finished - well almost, as the path still needs to be paved and the outside area, landscaped, levelled and grassed.  

I love the design.  A shed or cabin would have been too dark inside as the light mainly comes in from the side.  This perfect solution of part greenhouse, part shed, is ideal as a studio. The shelves were made from salvage wood & inexpensive IKEA wood brackets.  In order not to drill into, or put any pressure on the timber structure a rail has been mounted across the back wall and everything is hung there on butcher's hooks.    The lighting, a combination of a work pendant light and festoons, are all solar.

Best of all, the bifold doors open out fully so you can still experience the garden, the fresh air, the birdsong, the sunshine, and the mosquito bites.  The great outdoors.

Half greenhouse, half shed
Hung by hooks

The succulents & cacti love it!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

GARDEN: The Garden Summerhouse Project ~ Part 5 ~ The Build

As outside projects go, this one was frustrating.  What should have been a straight forward two day build stretched out into several weeks due to the bank holiday showers and then the general change in weather.  Ironic, after the excellent and consistent sunny summer.

These pictures were taken over several weeks as the summerhouse went up in stages:-

Three part floor.

The foundation was pre-made in three parts that just needed to be joined.

Up it goes

The next stage was screwing the panels to the floor and to each other. The panels are made of Redwood tongue & groove.  The windows are made from Liteglaze acrylic sheet which is 8 times stronger than glass and is covered with protective covering which can be peeled off.

Four walls and the door opening
All that lifting, crouching, bending, holding was quite strenuous on the back so out came the inversion table. You hook your ankles to it and flip yourself over until you are hanging like a bat. It releases all the tension in your vertebrae of the spine.

Without a roof
The apex is now up and if you look closely you'll see that the bi-fold doors are hung but pinned back.  A main part of the attraction to this particular summerhouse design was the front opens out and lets in a lot of air and light.  I very much wanted to retain the fact of being outdoors.  It's also not very clear in the photograph but the front sides panels are also transparent. 

On goes the roof and roofing felt.
The plywood roof at only 9mm felt a bit flimsy, but did suprisingly manage to take my weight (with the use of addition support) in order for me to felt the roof.

Finished roof
An industrial camera tri-pod stacked with wood was also used to support the roof while I was on it.

Shutting up shop
This is the finish build before painting, with the bi-fold doors closed.  The white dots are wood filler on the knots and some of the indents made with the nail gun during construction.

There is still a great deal of work to be done with installing door handles & locks, the guttering, roof facias, and several coats of paint to protect it from the elements during winter.   More to follow in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

GARDEN: The Garden Summerhouse Project ~ Part 4 ~ The Big Day

Today is the big day that the Summerhouse was delivered.

After 18 months of planning; cutting a shed; moving a shed; mixing countless bags of sand and cement to concrete a sub base; then buying another shed; the replacing and repairing the boundarys; and finally laying slabs to level the foundation, we finally got there.

Recapping in pictures what has been going on:-

The second shed in situ between the trees.
Laying the slabs
Using the slabs to level the base.  Note the rebar mesh that was against the fence has now been sandwiched between to keep it all together.  The foundation dimensions were 16 feet across by 12 feet deep.  Things were made a lot easier with the hire of a concrete mixer and the luck of having good weather so the job was completed in about three days.

Looking like a dance floor
A little bit of tree surgery was required as the three birches have a tendency to shed a fair amount of leaf fall (see first picture).  I can already foresee the sweeping of the Summerhouse roof happening at the end of every Autumn.  While I was tempting to have the trees chopped down, the other alternative was to lessen the load by removing as many branches as possible.  It was also with the intention of sweeping any debris to the side to decompose, that earth trenches were left at either side.

Thinning the Birches
Finally ready to build.

 I still have a few plans: I have several boxes of white tiles from the previous owner in the shed that could be smashed up to make a Barcelona-like broken tile mosaic trim for the front of the base.  The Summerhouse has partial glass sides so I'd like to reposition that large trellis panel and plant and train a honeysuckle so that there is something nice to look out on instead of the fence panels.

In the next few days the Summerhouse will go up.  Watch this space!