No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Polytunnels, cold frames, greenhouses, propagators & more. How to get the best out of yours...

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Ricard with an H
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No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Ricard with an H » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:14 am

I gave up the idea of a greenhouse as far to expensive, now I'm thinking of trying to manage without a cold-frame because the one I built is unused for six months of the season and I could do with filling it with soil and using it as more growing space.

Plants in my wooden sided cold-frame still tent towards leggy-ness so I'm thinking of managing with the cloches I built. I have this idea that most of you 'Lotty' gardeners manage quite well with just cloches.

What do you think ?
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby robo » Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:50 pm

I have a greenhouse at home and a pollytunnel down the plot, we tend to use the greenhouse more for seedlings and the odd tomato plant ,problem we have is we are abroad a lot and getting it watered is nearly impossable, the pollytunnel is just the opposite there is a couple of mates who water for us when we are away as well as feeding the chickens we even had cabbage over winter in it just for the leaves
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Ricard with an H » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:11 pm

You raised a point I forgot to mention, we only need a greenhouse or polytunnel for bringing on seedlings, tender plants and for extending the season, yes we can have dry summers but never as hot and as dry as in a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Any seed I sow direct means far less work for me and they cope much better than seedlings that have a transition period in various sized pots.

There are many growers who manage with just cloche protection and netting, what I'm getting at is that I would like to simplify things for myself by doing just that and managing without even the coldframe I used to bring seedlings on for two years.

I won't grow stuff that needs more attention than I can give, I won't try to grow too early nor grow stuff that takes so long to germinate that the weeds take over.

I had a good season this year, a lot of it spent messing with pots and potting-on. I did six trips to buy compost, two bags each trip. Thats a lot of work and too much money on compost when right now I'm sowing direct and getting a good result for a lot less work.

It's time for me to consider being more patient in the spring or to use other methods to start seeds of direct.
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby oldherbaceous » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:56 pm

Afternoon Richard, i can see where you are coming from and it would indeed cut down on the potting and re-potting, but i would never be without a greenhouse. I bought my first greenhouse when i was eleven years old, "it took many weeks of saving to" only one of those wood and coorugated plastic ones that came in many, many bits and you had to put them together. As i was the man in the house, i had to work out how to put it together, what i did manage to do in the end. This lasted for three years, then got blown over in a storm and was unsalvegable. So this time i built my own one, a lot stronger and it turned out very well. Many years have passed and i now own a nice sized aluminium greenhouse, but i still remeber as clear as anything the many happy hours i spent working in those early two greenhouses. I still spend many hours in the greenhouse on wet days, potting bulbs, sowing seeds and potting on, and i still get nearly as much pleasure out of it now, as i ever did.

But of course, these i just my thoughts and memories, so i wouldn't push them onto anyone.
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Ricard with an H » Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:07 pm

Thank you for that OH.

Oh-yes, I know the benefits of having a greenhouse and I have learnt the benefits of the cold frame I built but right now, at this stage in my KG development I have to cut my gardening work-load or it'll all get too much for me so I intend to try and manage next season with as little potting work as I can.

I've been looking at pictures of allotments and have to admire the tenacity of people that grow such a variety of produce and with so many restrictions. Even water is a problem. Mostly I see cloches and netting, no greenhouses not even sheds in some photos.

I'm just managing to keep up with the annual property maintainence, repairs, painting and keeping the grounds tidy is a full time job for me at a time I no longer have a proper days work in me.

Some people think I'm odd with all the work I find to do, they caught me spraying my slate-roofs and I still have to brush all the dead algae away. I'm not odd, some people don't even see the problems that I find to repair. In their case their ignorance is bliss, I know that peeling paintwork means water getting into timbers.

I try not to digress but all this becomes part of my year, if I pay for help then I can't afford other things and my KG must-not get in the way of all the other established annual routines. Trying to cut the winter wood at a time the sowing, potting and potting-on was going on was all too much this year.
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Primrose » Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:46 pm

I think it makes sense, as we get older to try and eliminate surplus processes in the gardening year. I have never used a cold frame and only have a four shelved mini greenhouse strapped to our house wall to harden off seedlings on in early spring. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and courgettes are all sown in individual pots to eliminate the potting on process and I am slowly learning the patience of sowing later direct into the soil and using cloches to eliminate the need to harden off in cold frames. I do have a very wide bay windowsill in our lounge. Veg seedlings in pots on big trays spend their early days on there and are taken in and out onto a sunny patio to harden off or stay in the mini greenhouse as appropriate.

Mind you, I would love a proper greenhouse but just don't have the space



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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby FelixLeiter » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:02 pm

I'm pleased to hear that you're moving away from raising everything in pots and modules, Richard. When I first started out, I was apt to do this, too — I think it is a common misdirection for many beginners — but I raise only a few things this way these days. My particular favourite gardening book is The Vegetable Garden Displayed by Joy Larkcom. All the advice in there pre-supposes that the reader has no access to the means to raise plants indoors, concentrating on the hardiest and most rewarding crops and how to grow them with the minimum of outlay and fuss. In my view, this most encapsulates what allotment gardening should be all about.

If it's the cost that's stopping you acquiring a greenhouse, it is possible to obtain a greenhouse for free. Take a look at a giving-stuff-away-to-a-good-home site such as Freecycle and you may find one listed there. The usual deal is that you dismantle and take it away yourself, which isn't anything like as difficult nor time-consuming as you might think. Me, I wouldn't be without a greenhouse these days. When the weather's too bad to be gardening outdoors, that's where you'll find me.
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Westi » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:17 pm

Hi Richard

I have an 8 X 6 greenhouse at home but I don't use it to it's full potential for growing. I do grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers & melon in 4 big canvas/ plastic pots - like the potato bags for growing but wider & shallower. They were a bargain find at one of those outlet shops & had them 3 yrs now. I think I paid about £3 for 2.

I start my seedlings off inside in the back room as can't heat the greenhouse (although I am really good at covering everything in soot when I did try the paraffin heater)! :D What it is great for with the appropriate insulation is storing crops & pots & other bits & bobs - oh & breeding spiders! :o

If we ever get the house finished I'll be able to access the garage but for now the greenhouse is my only space.

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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby peter » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:29 pm

Dad used to hsve a seed row of each type of brassics, leeks and wallflowers, these were forked up, shaken clean (often with the assistance of a bucket of water).
Wrapped in a few damp sheets of newspaper and carried to the planting out area, where a watering can helped settle them into a wet trowel hole and then soak/puddle them firm.

The seed rows were in the best and finest soil, often a brick cold frame 8'x4', 3' high at the front with a 2' rise to the back. Effectively in ground sowing as the soil was 2' above ground at the front. :)

So perhaps a firmly attached cold frame on one of your beds, but detachable to allow later crop plantings?
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Ricard with an H » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:14 pm

OH-hell, how to respond individually to those very helpful posts in this thread would be do-able but mind-numbing to read so I'll try to encapsulate everything into one post.

I'm not frail but I do tire very quickly and whilst the two hip replacements I have give me a massive range of movement they very quickly get sore. Add to that all the other creaks I'm sure you-all know about and I have to get most of my work done in the first four hours before I wither.

Firstly I do remember back 60 years when my brother used to grow a whole range of crops to support us during rationing and he would trade vegetables for eggs and even meat. He managed without a greenhouse, cold-frame or even plastic covers presumably by careful planting.

Like Westi I also start my seeds off indoors in an attic room above our garage store that has two Velux windows, I have to move these seedlings outside very quickly because they get leggy. In the past they went into the cold-frame but they still got leggy. In future I intend bringing-on the plants I can't sow direct by placing them under the long cloches I built last year. At least one more is in the pipeline.

And just to remind you, here are two photos. One is of one half of my cold-frame that I need to dragoon into service for general planting, the other is of the cloches I built early in the year. They did perform very well under high winds and one performed extra-well with fleece over the top.
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Elaine » Sun Aug 10, 2014 12:56 pm

Hello Richard. I think you are doing very well, all things considered. :wink:
Those cloches look brilliant. Whatever works for you, is the way you have to go and you seem to be achieving that. I love reading about your horticultural adventures!

I'm extremely fortunate to have two greenhouses on the allotment, and a cold frame which works very well indeed. One of the greenhouses, 10x8, we bought second hand for £100, included all glazing, staging, paved path, paraffin heater and other odds and sods. The 6x8 one, was given to us by a lady who wanted rid of it. My husband built the cold frame onto the side of the 10x8, so it benefits from both light and protection.
I had problems with raising seeds, as the allotment isn't close by where we live and it was a nuisance going down there every night just to check on the seedlings. Bringing them on in our house often resulted in leggy, not-very-happy plants which didn't do well.

I've always lusted after a greenhouse in our postage stamp sized back garden but it wasn't feasible.....until we were offered yet another free 8x6 greenhouse. My husband altered it to a 6x4 ....which wasn't as easy as it sounds! I'm thrilled to bits with it. It has made life so much easier...and like everyone else, I can potter for hours in a greenhouse. :)

We are now in our early and mid sixties and not quite as fit as we were, so are trying to make everything as simple as possible for when we are less able.
I wish you well!
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Re: No greenhouse or cold-frame ?

Postby Ricard with an H » Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:04 pm

Thank you again.

A great benefit to me is that I have many skills though I'm creaking like an old barn door. I'm most probably ten years older than one of you pair so you'll appreciate I don't have a decent days work in me.

If I did well it's down to you lot, if I didn't do well it's probably because I didn't ask the right questions at the right time.

Those mini poly tunnels are to become my new cold frames and placed in sheltered sunny spots.
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