My tomatoes in the home greenhouse are now straining to get into the wide open spaces of the greenhouse on the plot. Usually I get them out before they are quite so big as they are now, but things never run quite as smoothly as hoped for in the garden.
Long term plans never quite work out, too many factors between work and weather but things seem to be coming on track again.
Preparing the Greenhouse
First job was to replace a broken pane of glass in the big greenhouse. Although we re-built the second hand greenhouse in the only logical way it could go up, it’s never been quite right. This section should have 2′ by 18″ panes of glass but it actually needs 18 12″ wide glass. I think the old pane being a bit narrow allowed the frame to flex in the wind, straining and breaking it eventually.
If it had just been me re-building, then I would understand it being a bit off. The greenhouse raising was a joint effort between Larry and Gianni with me as assistant. They know what they’re doing. In fact, if it was just me building it would still be a pile of glass and aluminium. I’d have never figured it out at all.
I wrote up my experiences of building the greenhouse, which you might find useful if you’re buying a second hand greenhouse – Building a Greenhouse
After getting a sheet cut to size – how do the glaziers make cutting glass look so easy? – it only took a couple of minutes to fix it up.
The next job was to put the stakes up for the tomatoes. Last year they were in the left hand bed, this year the right hand. Swapping over avoids, to some extent, soil sickness where the nutrients in the proportions required by the crop are exhausted and disease build up.
In this border last year I had peppers and a cucumber. At the end of this year I should really dig out the top six inches or so and replace with fresh compost. I could probably get away with another year but that’s best practice. Added a goodly amount of fish, blood & bone as a base fertilizer although I’ll be feeding throughout the season anyway.
I like growing directly into a border more than pots or growbags. Apart from anything else, it is far less sensitive to irregular watering. Missing a day with a growbag can be enough to ruin the crop but borders have more of a reserve.
I get two staggered rows in the border, spaced to allow 18″ between plants. The back border only allows them to grow to about 5 feet high but the front row allows about 7 feet.
The bamboo stakes went in and then were tied with wire to the sides and back for stability. I’m now ready to plant out in there and will give them a bit of extra nitrogen to get them running. When the trusses are forming we’ll move over to normal tomato feed.
Onto the second greenhouse where the bench I built was looking a bit sorry. When I built it, I screwed and doweled the horizontal supports to the upright legs and it was rock solid. Now it rocks from side to side and I know it’s going to end in tears if I don’t do something.
Now engineering is not my skill. Some men (and women) will happily strip engines down, fix brakes and such like. To me, it’s like dyslexia. Nothing makes sense. I stand there with a manual to work out where to put the oil in and get it wrong!
One of the wonderful things about an allotment is that there are loads of people with different skills and most of them are willing to help you. Paul from plot 9 is an engineer who really knows his stuff and also has the magical ability to explain things without making you feel stupid. I’ve met engineers in the past who look down their nose at you with utter contempt because you don’t know where the sprocket fits or what it does.
Anyway, I asked Paul what I could do to stop the side to side swaying of the bench and why it was happening. He explained why the joints were going, how they were acting as hinges and the lever length of the cross beams was putting force onto them. Also that softwood has give and this was exacerbating the problem
The cure was to put some angled struts at 45 degrees between the horizontals and legs. He even explained why this would work. When it tries to sway one way it puts compression onto one strut and tension onto the other and vice versa for the other way.
So, two bits of wood cut and nailed to the back and a rock solid bench was returned to the greenhouse and I acquired an understanding of something. Result! Cleared up and returned home just before 9pm.