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No Spring, No Greenhouse Either

Like many gardeners, I’ve been waiting on the weather to get back to normal. We’re just past the spring equinox, when the days start to be longer than nights, and officially in spring.

Well the temperatures out there are anything but spring like and half the country is covered in snow. Late snows for a day or two aren’t that unusual but this year it’s as if winter has just not ended.

You can’t easily beat nature and if the season is going to be late, well that’s what it is. Sow later, plant later and hope things catch up, which they do more often than not.

Mother Nature has really struck one at us today, though. I lay in bed listening to the wind howling and thundering and finally just had to pop into my office come spare bedroom where you can see the greenhouse from the window.

Clicked on the super LED torch and realised the greenhouse was down. Not much I could do at 1am with the storm at its peak but go back to bed and hope I’d wake to find it was all a horrible dream.

This morning it’s no dream, the greenhouse has been completely blown off its base.  I ‘d had the house on a steel base but the wind had twisted it, throwing the frame out of true and causing it to lose panes of glass.

So I’d fixed it onto treated 2×1, drilling through the base bar and wood into the concrete base and using 6″ plug bolts. Staggering out against the wind to inspect, it was apparent that one side had been pulled up, causing the front and back to bend then pulling the other side. And I thought it bomb proof.

I got the propagators up into the shed but the Vitopod top has been smashed. Hopefully the electrics are sealed or will dry out. Trying to move the 1500 x 610 sheets of glass in the wind is well nigh impossible, the wind blew me over and I thought I was going to decapitate myself.

You could say I’m fed up today.

Greenhouse

Storm destroyed my Greenhouse

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
29 comments on “No Spring, No Greenhouse Either
  1. Steve Hunter says:

    That’s awful, you must be gutted. Makes me feel lucky that we live in a nice sheltered position on the edge of a town, as much as I want a hillside getaway.

    I can’t think of a good solution apart from something with proper foundations, and brick walls up about 18 inches. More like a standalone conservatory, but I but that would cost a fortune, and may even require planning permission.

    I hope you come up with a windproof solution and have a productive year. Keep Smiling, it can only get better.

  2. Sigrun says:

    Hi John,
    I was looking for advice on shallots & got to your well developed site.
    Sorry to hear about your poor greenhouse. I live in Maybole where we hardly ever get snow but last night it was stormy AND we got snow, too.
    I hope you can find a more sheltered place for your greenhouse.
    I was trying to find out were you live – you’ve moved a lot haven’t you? Considering you’re a gardener that is very surprising. I believe you now live in Wales. I’ll get back to your site again & wish you good luck.

  3. Rachael says:

    Hi John – I’m so sorry, what a horrible shock to wake up to. I hope you can claim on insurance. Was there much growing in there?

  4. ge says:

    Hope you get it sorted soon,I lived in Wild Wales for many years but im in nice and sheltered Wirral now,i feel so lucky now.
    You may need to get a greenhouse in the shape a polly tunnel,and set it so that the prevailing winds flow over it.
    A friend of mine who lives on a windy hill in the Scotish Borders has abandoned the idea of a greenhouse and starts all his plants in the conservatory,he has an even shorter growing season than me (about 2 weeks) but most plants do catch up,he also has problems with climbing plants like runner beans,you just have to grow whats relivant to the area.

  5. John says:

    My ‘famous last words’ were that having re-done the base, the greenhouse felt more stable and we might avoid putting up a windbreak.

    I think I’ll accept I chose the wrong place for it – you really need a year or two in a place to know it well.

  6. Ann Clarke says:

    Oh John, I am so sorry about the greenhouse. I always worried about that site. Lovely position for sunshine but…….

    Do hope you get it sorted soon! xxxx Ann

    • John says:

      @Ann Clarke: Thanks Ann – hopefully I’ll be able to straighten some bits and just buy replacement parts for the really mangled ones.
      Hard to tell how much glass is broken – I really can’t tell until the wind eases off which may be Sunday.

  7. Jocelyn says:

    John just to cheer you up – have just come across the site and it is SO helpful! You have done amazing work to help all us novices. And I realised I own your book already and had enjoyed reading it page to page last year to try and prepare for starting an allotment. I am so excited to find you have a website!
    Your greenhouse efforts may be broken for now, but your brilliant help and advice is windproof! Thank you so much.

  8. Margaret Bradley says:

    Dear John,

    I too lay in bed listening to the howling, battering, wind and rain and decided that it was too awful to venture out but thought that in the morning my little 6′ x 4′ plastic framed greenhouse would be miles away. I had tied the guy ropes to a couple of tree stumps and an apple tree on our 1 in 4 slope of a plot. However, there it was the next day! No damage done but the door of my potting shed was nowhere to be seen. I was so happy because I had spent a whole day planting my seed trays and potting new lavender and rosemary bushes ready for our 140′ of allotment garden/ski slope/mud run. The Cornish wind must have taken pity on my little efforts.

  9. Kathy says:

    What a horrible thing to happen. I do hope most of it can be salvaged so that you can get something together in time for this season

    Kathy x

  10. Rud says:

    Hi John – sorry to learn of your greenhouse misfortune. If you decide to re-build, I would suggest a small but effective modification to your structural design strength, which I put in place some 30 years ago when I faced the same problem a yourself – a wrecked greenhouse due to living in a windy Scottish location. I made sure the base was well bolted down on wood and kerb stones then made myself two waist height work benches which ran the whole length of either side of the central pathway. The benches were made from second hand heavy duty angle iron, picked up for a song from a junk yard. I bolted together the metal strips to form two rectangles with legs and cross members, which were then bolted to the sides of the greenhouse aluminium uprights. The two work benches give complete rigidity to the sides of the greenhouse and stops the wind from bending or twisting the structure thereby crushing it. The work benches were overlaid with a slatted wooden frame for potting etc and since there were 2 for each side they lift off nicely to allow tomatoes to be grown floor to ceiling, leaving the angle iron in place at all times to protect the greenhouse. So 30+ years later, I still have a greenhouse and all that I have had to replace is 3 broken panes of glass with perspex.
    Hope this helps.

    • John says:

      @Rud: Thanks Rud, that sounds a good idea.
      Just waiting for the weather to improve a bit and then I’ll see what’s what in detail.
      Too slippy for carrying sheets of glass about on the ice and snow even though the wind is down.
      Hate the fact my office (the spare bedroom) overlooks the wreckage. Pretty depressing. A neighbour called today and told me about building a shed only to see it blown to bits 3 hours after completion.

  11. Duncan Robinson says:

    John,
    I would suggest using ‘Dexion’ to reinforce your next greenhouse; there is a company in Bolton that supplies it (just do a google). I had problems with a westerley wind blowing the glass out of my 8 x 10 greenhouse, but since I reinforced the frame inside using ‘Dexion’ I have had little trouble. You just saw it to size and then use the standard square headed greenhouse bolts and nuts that fit down inside the metal grooves of the frame. One horizonatlly each side of door about half way up the height of the house, then another one horizontally across the ‘gable’ end again about half way up will strenghten the greenhouse no end. Loads of people on our allotments at Stakehill in Middleton, just north east of Manchester use this method and we are in the foothills of the Pennines! Sorry about your greenhouse – it looks like a nightmare John.

  12. Growster... says:

    John,

    Somehow, I couldn’t find your post on this disaster! Poor you, so, albeit a bit late, I hope that you’ve managed to retrieve the frame and – some – of the glass, and can build again!

    I’ve got to rebuild ours completely, not for the foul weather like you’ve had to put up with, just that it’s 16 years old, and unfortunately despite some brave ideas at reinforcing it at the base, it’s going by Whitsun!

    More glass anyone…

    Kind regards,

    Growster.

  13. Peter says:

    John

    Sorry to hear about your greenhouse. Your photo gave me a particular shudder, since we live atop a hill in what seems to be the windiest part of Bedfordshire, so I am amazed my secondhand (99p on eBay) greenhouse and polytunnel are still standing. They sit on a new veg plot carved out of a field, and so it will be some years before my newly planted hedge offers much in the way of a wind break.

    Good luck for re-building!

    Peter

  14. Mike Holmes says:

    You picture reminds me of an accident we had a couple of years ago. My neighbour decided to have a fire next the boundary hedge and set fire to my sheds in which we had several cwt of bees wax and about a dozen plastic buckets of honey. In addition there was a lifetime collection of plastic pots, literally 100’s of them. The fire got so hot that it actually melted the aluminium of the greenhouses. There was not much left by the time the Fire Brigade got to it (100yards from the road). In all £21,000 worth of damage. That part of our garden looked as if a plane had crashed there. Even worse one of the sheds had an asbestos roof which put affine dust everywhere and required special removal. His insurance paid up,
    Mike

  15. Alec Fry says:

    John,
    I was so sorry to learn of this disaster. I constructed my Halls greenhouse over Easter (freezing weather, split fingers, not a pleasant experience). I followed their advice to secure the corners of the base into 60cm deep plugs of concrete, and then clamp each upright to this base. I just hope that will secure it adequately. We had our own near-disaster when the cat ran full-pelt into the new, clean glass and took out eight square feet of it. Cat fortunately unscathed, just another of its lives gone!
    Kind regards,
    Alec.

  16. Julie says:

    Hi John, sorry about the greenhouse. It gets pretty disheartening I know when these things happen but I know you will prevail! One of my smaller greenhouses has the perspex ‘glass’ which had been blown all over the street and I had virtually just the frame sitting there after high winds. Annoying but strangely amusing really as various neighbours kept knocking on my door bringing bits of my greenhouse perspex back which was very kind of them 🙂 Onwards and upwards…!

    All the best… Julie

  17. Joanna says:

    Dear John, I have only just learned about your greenhouse, so sorry, you must miss it like anything, no words of advice just hope to you will be able to rebuild as I can’t imagine how to do without one. There is one which is shattered on our allotment but luckily ours has survived.
    Cheers Joanna

  18. jok says:

    oh John, I have just read your newsletter which led me to this post. The pictures seem devastating. my heart goes out to your suddenly diminished expectations for the greenhouse this year.
    I like you – and many others – have been awaiting the start of spring. even here in sorry 3 miles from RHS Wisley the ground is still completely frozen. like you beginning to wonder if it will ever be warm enough to plant anything out there again.

    I have decided that come the third week of April I am just going to get on with seeds indoors and crops under fleece (nailed down!) who knows having set myself the deadline I may beat it. fingers crossed.
    God bless Jo

  19. Jeff Emerson says:

    Hi John , sorry about the greenhouse . Got a few grey hairs myself worrying about the effect of the gales on my plot. I have three greenhouses and a shed huddled together at one end of my plot , but apart from one cracked glass panel and one missing perspex panel ,which I still havnt found ( its probably miles away by now) which has now been replaced by some tripple polycarbonate and silicone sealant , I’m well. Keep smiling.

  20. colin brooks says:

    hi john.
    just catching up on your post and came across your greenhouse what a mess feel sorry for you. i had a polycarb greenhouse which flew in high winds last year, i had to put it on the south side of my workshop now which has helped as it’s protected from the winds. hope you get it sorted for this year.

  21. Barry says:

    Hi John
    Sorry to hear about the greenhouse ,I think you were told some bad information ,that is not the strongest greenhouse for your situation.If you can not repair yours take a look at the Rhino premium greenhouse they are more money then yours ,but as the saying goes you only get what you pay for ,I am not gloating mate ,I feel real sorry for you .

    regards Barry

  22. Judith says:

    Hi John,
    I was just thinking of forwarding your newsletter to some new allotmenteers, to encourage them. It must be the worst weather to start cultivating for the first time. I was devastated for you. I had a similar thing happen to a much smaller aluminium greenhouse, in what I thought was a sheltered garden, in those 1987 gales. My husband tried replacing the glass with triple wall plastic, but it wasn’t very sucessful, attached to the frame with cable ties, and not waterproof.
    I am reminded of the peach house at Myddleton gardens, Enfield. When they were restoring it they wondered why the roof was low, till they discovered the floor had been filled in and that the first 2 or 3 feet were sunk into the ground. This provides extra warmth and shelter of course. I have since heard of others like this. A nissan hut shape roof might be worth considering too, it will take the wind. Uncle Humphrey’s allotment regulations only allow sheds to be 3.5 foot high, so, enterprisingly, as he wanted to stand up in his shed, he has buried that too. It is warm enough to keep overwintering plants frost free. Hope this is a useful suggestion.

  23. Jo Eva says:

    Sorry to read of your greenhouse event – it happened to us here over 20 years ago and we are still picking bits of broken glass out of the garden. Just being encouraging!

  24. clive allard says:

    HI JOHN

    SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR GREENHOUSE, I HOPE YOU GET IT SORTED

    OUT SOON. SEEM TO BE GETTING LEFT BEHIND WITH MY PLOT THIS YEAR

    WHAT WITH BROKEN ANKLE LAST MAY AND TWISTING MY KNEE IN FEB IN THE SNOW. HAY HO. BEST WISHES CLIVE.

  25. Bob Eldridge says:

    John, that is really bad luck. My best wishes to you.
    Bob

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