The top corner project – part 4 – 18/11/2020

When I removed the tunnel from the garden it was because it was a bit of a blot on the landscape. Sue and I have always acknowledged as much but it was just so useful that we were prepared to put up with it. Like much else, that all changed when we started to seriously consider opening the garden under the NGS. We both agreed it had to go. It has now been gone for nearly two months and it’s becoming hard to remember how it was when it was still there.

Since then I’ve built a wall to retain the bank and put a fence along the top of it but the big space where the tunnel used to be remains almost untouched. I’m not going to say we had a row about it, but we were not as one with how we saw it being developed. Sue wanted another glasshouse and I didn’t. I didn’t want to put a greenhouse in the middle of the first big new space we’ve had in decades because it seemed to me that even if it wasn’t very big, it would take over the whole area. By the time I’d put paths in to get access to the ground left around it, there wouldn’t be much soil left to plant into. So we’ve had a few weeks of something like a silent standoff.

That though is precisely why I think it’s a good idea to do one phase of a project then walk away for a bit. We couldn’t really envisage how big a space we would have, or how sunny it would be, or what views out to the rest of the garden there might be. Now we know it is much easier to properly consider the next stage.

My brain never really switches off and my thoughts kept coming back to what to do until PING!, the lightbulb moment duly arrived. How feasible would it be to simply(!) extend the existing glasshouse?

It’s an Elite Supreme that I put up to replace an earlier polytunnel nearlyo twenty years ago. Elite still make the Supreme and haven’t changed the size of it. I figured that I couldn’t just take down the end wall, add three more bays and put the end wall back. The strength of the structure comes from the unjointed ridge and gutter and I would have been creating a weak spot in the length of the glasshouse. It would also be difficult to remove the end wall without the rest of the structure collapsing.

What seemed like a better approach was to put up a complete new glasshouse right up against the end of the existing structure with no glass at the back of it, then to take out the central two bays of glass in the existing glasshouse to make a doorway through. I could put a strip of polycarbonate sheeting between the two structures so there was no gap. That would give me an 18 foot glasshouse with a door at both ends.

The existing house is 12 x 10 feet, to be increased to 18 x 10 feet. Goodbye Dahlia patch, hello even more cacti and succulents.

Chewing it over still further, I’m inclined to put the new structure with the door facing the existing glasshouse, but not hang the doors. It has never been an issue having a door only at one end, I can’t see another three bays changing that. I could build it entirely independently of the existing glasshouse, leave the doors off and the end wall unglazed. Then I bridge the gap with polycarbonate before removing the glass from the end wall of the existing glasshouse so I can get into the new bit. Not having a door at the back means I can still take the gutter water across the back too.

I got in touch with Elite, who referred me to their dealership network to sort out what I’d need. I went to our nearest dealer and to be honest, they were completely clueless. Furthermore, their prices were more than 10% higher than the first internet price I found. I’ve asked their advice, it’ll be interesting to hear what they say. I still think it’s the way to go, I just need to get the details sorted.

Red line = glass and glazing bar removed to make doorway. Blue = structural bar which will have the middle section removed. Will the walls fall out and the roof come down? Green = new bar which will hopefully do the job of the missing blue bar.

I always find it pretty terrifying to launch into these schemes that are going to cost a lot of money and involve a lot of work, when I’m not really sure it’s going to work out. In some ways it would be easier to get someone in to do it, then if it goes wrong, which hopefully is a lot less likely, they get to fix it. At the very least it would be good to have a sensible discussion with someone who knows what they’re talking about. There are several different ways I could get to where I want to be and there are lots of little details like understanding which bits of structure need to stay or be replaced in some way to maintain the strength of the whole thing. There’s that nagging feeling it could all go horribly wrong.

Still, there’s a 20-22 week wait for delivery, so I have plenty of time to think about it and cancel if I change my mind.

9 thoughts on “The top corner project – part 4 – 18/11/2020

  1. Just a thought. Why not simply erect a second glasshouse in the space and keep it separate? Do they actually need to be connected? Or is it just a want? Same space, each have a door. No worries about collapsing.

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    1. I have to admit you made me stop and think about a free standing glasshouse at the back of the existing one, which wasn’t an option I’d considered before. I was seeing a freestanding glasshouse well away from it and a lot of narrowish strips all around it which I couldn’t do much with. I heard today that Elite will put together a proper extension kit, which would at least mean it wasn’t a lash-up. So I now have two clear alternatives.

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      1. Costs is always a tricky one. Every structure comes with different things as standard and different strengths of structure. I think I have a fairly simple choice between an extension which will be relatively cheap and give me the most greenhouse space for the least loss of garden space, against a higher priced freestanding glasshouse, the advantages of which are not obvious. I can perhaps partition a single big house and put the things that need heat in one end.

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  2. I can see your train of thought, and already have some good ideas. With your experience, I think you are the person to build this, as you know that you are prepared to reach out and get advice/help. You probably need to find just the right structural engineer type person at Elite to discuss your plans with. I am sure when they realise who a good selling point this will be with your open garden, blog, talks etc, they will ensure you end up very happy. In my experience the right solution takes time. Just think how much pleasure Sue will will get from having her collection in this larger greenhouse. There will also no doubt be good sessions deciding what to plant in the cleared area, and that wall that you have just built ought to be a feature in itself with planting to suit.

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