Six on Saturday -16/11/2019

Commercial horticulture relies heavily on covered space. Uncertainty is the enemy and the weather is one big part of that which can to a degree be controlled by growing crops under glass or polythene. The nursery where I worked for 30 years had several polytunnels and three glasshouses. The biggest polytunnel was 63 feet wide and 160 ft long, 11,340 square feet of space. With the other tunnels we must have had 25,000 square feet under polythene. In relation to the horticultural industry, that’s pretty small, larger growers cover areas of several hectares with polytunnels, a hectare being over 100,000 square feet.

Gardens, and gardeners, work on a different scale. The one big nursery tunnel was twice the size of my entire garden. I’m trying to excuse what most people would regard as a wildly indulgent amount of glasshouse and tunnel space in a modest sized garden. As it happens, we have six places where we grow plants under cover and for one week only, they are my six on saturday.

The conservatory. This is a Hartley lean to glasshouse, about 14 x 10 feet in area. It is on the north facing back wall of the house and replaced a cheap and nasty lean to, the roof of which went up and down a couple of inches in a gale. It cost me £2300, including erection, in 1994. At the time that was an eye watering amount of money for a glasshouse but with hindsight it seems like a bargain. We try to keep a bit of space in it so we can sit out with a cup of tea.

Sue’s glasshouse. This one is a 10 x 12 feet Elite. I think we grew tomatoes in it for a year or two until they were squeezed out by prickly things. It’s all prickly and succulent things these days. We used to move quite a few large ones out in summer, then back in again for winter. Every winter there was a bit less room to put things back because of growth and additions to what had stayed in. Only the big Agave in the middle and the Aeonium behind it spent summer outdoors. I need to take the glass out and get rid of the moss but I keep putting it off.

The polytunnel. This is a 10 x 15 feet structure from Ferryman Poltunnels. It’s a polytunnel, what else is there to say. I was going to move it up to my allotment but seem to have decided I’ll wait until spring. Currently I’m thinking spring 2020. I have a “thing” about Camellias. Part of that plays out in this polytunnel.

The propagation house. This one is a 6 x 10 ft Rhino. It had to be bomb proof because it is in the wind tunnel that whips around the corner of the house when it blows. This is Cornwall, it blows a lot. The benches go out in summer to make way for cucumbers and chillies. In winter all manner of stuff gets shoved back in.

The new glasshouse. This one replaced the shed and at 6 x 8 feet is the same size as was the shed. There wasn’t much in the shed above three feet from the ground, so I figured with a glasshouse I could use the space above that height for plants.

The front porch. The house faces south so the mostly glass porch does a fair job of trapping heat on a sunny day which warms the house if we leave the original front door open. It would have been a waste to fill it with wellies and umbrellas, we went for plants instead. It relieved the pressure on Sue’s glasshouse for about five seconds. The Kalanchoe is called ‘Dorothy’. It’s been flowering for months.


Add the lot up and it comes to around 545 square feet. Comes out around 10% of the garden under cover. It’s well used and I like to think we use it well, inasmuch as there’s a subtle difference between the two things. A quantity versus quality difference. When you look at a view of the whole garden the structures don’t dominate it. It does mean that even when the weather is appalling I can still potter around outside the house if not in the open air. I don’t have to be cooped up indoors for long to start getting very grumpy.

There you go then. I’m off to check out what The Propagator has been up to this week and to follow the links to all the other garden elves out in SoS land.




27 thoughts on “Six on Saturday -16/11/2019

    1. Sue has just finished berating me for leaving the bags and mops in the conservatory picture. I considered my own nursery but growing stuff is the fun, easy part. Then you have to sell them, which is a whole different can of worms.


  1. I’m impressed by the amount of succulent and cacti you have …!
    However I’m jealous also of the number of different greenhouses you own .. I have one, I wish a second that would be nice …2020-2021 project??…


  2. I thought you had plenty of covered areas when I saw your garden earlier in the year! As you comment, they don’t dominate the garden. (Sue’s cactus greenhouse still looks stunning!)


  3. You can never have too much covered space. I would like a removable lid for my whole garden. Not having as much cover as you I have fleece parcels all over the garden which isn’t a good look.


    1. The problem is that I move stuff out for the summer, then fill the empty space, such as it is, with new things grown from cuttings and seeds, because empty space is wasted space and covered space is precious. Then in the autumn there’s nowhere to put half the stuff that needs to go under cover. The unvarnished truth is that it’s a good thing that some things die each year.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim – your glasshouse tour has filled me with joy. My greenhouse was a massive indulgence but like your greenhouses and polytunnel it’s well used. I have a neighbour who spent a fortune on a beautiful victorian style greenhouse and it stands empty. Not a single plant has ever been grown in there. No chance of that round yours!


  5. You demonstrate what I always find true – an empty space is soon filled by something else. I don’t see the tunnel in the photo – is it behind the tree to the left? – but the glass houses all look fairly organic to your garden’s design. You’ve got some great autumn colour in that last photo, not least the sky.


    1. The tunnel is just left of the glasshouse in the middle. It’s in two of the pictures of Sue’s cactus house too. Not only is an empty space soon filled, it fills at exactly 27.5 times the speed at which it is created. It’s a universal constant.


  6. Oh my word, what a wonderful collection. Do the greenhouses all get a spring clean at the same time? That must be fun! Looks like you are making the most of every square inch. I saw a picture of someone’s greenhouse which was so full that they had installed pulleys so they could lift trays up and down to make use of the height – the only way is up!


    1. They don’t generally get a spring clean at all. I do clean the glass when it gets dirty, ie gets algae on it, usually in autumn to get the best possible light in winter, sometimes again late winter when I start to sow seeds, again to maximise the light.


  7. I really enjoyed this post and through the photos got to have a glimpse of how things are heated. Do you heat the poly tunnel? I liked the idea of having benches in the greenhouse for winter – that’s one for me to investigate. I’m putting a few more things in my greenhouse this winter as the potting ‘shed’ is full, and a second storey would be very useful.


    1. Polythene is transparent to infra red unlike glass which traps it, so heating polytunnels is not really practical. I leaves both ends open too. It keeps things dry, which can harden them up such that they withstand cold better.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Because I dislike greenhouses in home gardens (here), some of the plants that I bring up from Southern California become houseplants.We use greenhouses at work only because they are necessary. They do happen to be nice to work in when the weather is rainy.

    Liked by 1 person

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