The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Edible garden update: September 2009

Photo: Hanging cucumbers

Photo: Hanging cucumbers

Even though we bought a budget greenhouse that arrived in a long thin box and caused a lot of head scratching and cursing, I love this small haven. I hang out in it all year – I suppose it’s the place where I go to dream. When the seeds start to germinate everything seems possible.

Of course growing fruit and veg can be a bumpy ride. The only pests that we were not plagued with this year were aphids. This was down to an explosion of ladybirds encouraged by the June sunshine. This September we are awash with vegetables and fruit. Life seems full of bounty. It’s easy to forget the lean months after Christmas and the tears when sawfly demolished our currants and gooseberries.

Two thirds of our plot has been planted out with Autumn, Winter and Spring vegetables. Many brassicas, Swiss chard, salad and stir fry leaves. The tender leaves will go under fleece and cloches during the colder snaps. We are also going to plant Autumn sown carrots, peas, shallots as well as our old friends – garlic and broad beans. Despite increasing the kitchen garden by 50% it still took a bit of planning to fit everything in. But this is more of a bountiful hug than a squeeze.

The first few winters that we had the greenhouse I lined it with bubble wrap to insulate it and ran a small paraffin greenhouse heater during the frosts. Back then it was just to protect my pelargoniums.

Since then I haven’t bothered but I’ve located the bubble wrap in the barn and it will insulate the greenhouse again this year. Having bought such a superb old Eltex heater at the garden fete we have no excuse not to nurture tender seedlings for an early start in the Spring. We are also planning to grow pots of salad leaves, early strawberries and possibly Okra in the greenhouse too.

Last night I pulled down Growing Under Glass (Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Practical Gardening)by Kenneth A. Becket. This is an excellent tome and like all RHS publications it’s a good buy, covering fruit, vegetables, flowers, bulbs and exotics. If we keep our greenhouse to a minimum of 4.5c it moves from a ‘cold’ greenhouse to a ‘cool’ greenhouse. Suddenly we can grow more food overwinter and start our tomato and pepper seeds off much earlier for a longer cropping season. It hurts to see those hopeful yellow tomato flowers in mid September that have no chance of bearing fruit.

We’re enjoying a good harvest of cucumbers this year. Usually I stop them when they reach the apex of the greenhouse roof. This year I’m letting them scramble along and explore. They’re loving it.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Z

    I’ve looked up those warming cables on the internet – they look very good. Thanks for the tip.

    Also thank you for filling me in on Okra – sound a bit like the dreaded Asparagus Peas 🙂

    Hi Catherine

    I started off with herbs and flowers. Growing anything is fun.

    Hi Lizzie

    Your house is gorgeous. Lucky you having a greenhouse already there!

    Hi Joanna

    Wow, you’ll be able to grow so much stuff in all that space! Love the idea of using the old wood boiler for heat.

    Hello Maggie

    The heatsink slim line water butt is a great idea!

    Sowing seeds etc takes time, sometimes like you I just don’t have enough hours to give my seedlings all that they need.

    Hi GTM

    Love the idea of Dave and Delia – ours falls between the two (Delve?). I’d love another/bigger greenhouse. It’s my ‘shed’.

  2. We have 3 greenhouses here,the last one dad bought as an emergency as the wooden one we were given turned out to be far more rotten than tought so that was dismantled,saving the glass to use for the soon to be built potting shed! anyhow the emergency greenhouse turned up & we just laughed so hard….I named it Dave as in David Dickinson & his catch phrase cheap as chips! its sooooo budget its untrue,the window is hilarious,a bend piece of plastic that left as it was intended just slips down wide open!
    We jam a stick in it from the outside lol to keep it at the gap we want!
    But…. Dave has become quite special to us lol! the chillies have done brilliantly in there!& it freed up the other 2 to solely tomatoes.

    We run a small paraffin heater in the winter to start things off early,if you keep it on low its economical,the last thing we needed or wanted was a huge fuel bill for greenhouse heat :oS. It makes a huge difference,as does bubble wrap stuck on the inside with PVA glue.

    We call the other greenhouse in the kitchen garden Delila lol as shes much higher qualitly & more pleasing to the eye,but Dave has won a place in out hearts! I joked to dad it will probably stand for years & years as well!
    GTM x

  3. Maggie's Devon nature blog

    I love my greenhouse too! Great place for a coffee in Feb, even if most of the seeds I plant never get potted on. I don’t heat it, but I do have a slim-line water butt inside. On clear sunny winter days it absorbs the heat, releasing it slowly on the following, usually frosty, night. I dont know what this makeshift heatsink actually does in terms of degrees, but it seems to help even things out. Salad last march was pretty good, even if I didn’t look after the summer’s tomatos enough…

  4. We went to have a look at some double lined wooden framed polytunnels this week and then we went to measure up on the land to see what will fit in to the area we have allocated. We are going for one at 18m long and one at 15m long and both 6m wide. We have an old wood boiler (too smoky for an indoor kitchen) but should be fine in that space and it will hook up to pipes to heat both tunnels. So I am looking forward to somewhere to sit and lounge about early on next year.

  5. I’m hanging on your every words – especially the wandering cucumbers… I moved into a house recently with a greenhouse, my first, and I’m with you in finding it a place to hang out in.

  6. Catherine

    Hello, I was looking for a recipe for eggy bread and stumbled across your blog – love it! We only have a teeny tiny garden, so I’m concentrating on herbs but it’s great to read and dream.

    Rightio off to make tea – eggy bread with strawberry jam. Yum!

  7. I don’t heat my greenhouse, but have a soil warming cable in big trays (buried in compost, which I later use when potting up, and kept damp), put the seedtrays and pots on that and drape polythene above to keep the heat and humidity in. It works very well.

    Okra is easy to grow and the flowers are very pretty. They have to be picked very young or they go tough.

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