Monday 18 May 2020

Significant Anniversary

First strawberry picking - 5 May 2020
We picked our first strawberries on VE-Day, that is now over a week ago. Only possible, of course, because Garden Codger has a greenhouse. May I tell you how I came to have it? Three years ago, today – this very day 18 May – Mrs Codger had surgery. Just a few weeks before she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We were thankful that the surgeon, a Bulgarian, fitted her in so quickly. In retrospect, surgery was the easy bit. Then followed chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then drug therapy that continues to this day. A long tale which included a thrombosis and numerous appointments at the hospital and various clinics 

The view from the recovery ward (conservatory) after improvemen
For myself, I looked upon it as payback time, Margaret having supported me in a busy professional life along with our church planting work over many years. Very kindly, after continuous service, I was relieved of church responsibilities so I could focus on caring for my wife. In addition to the care aspect, I set about improving the  garden so that the patient had a more pleasant view from the recovery ward (also known as the conservatory!) 

What on earth has this to do with a greenhouse? Well, after the rigours of chemotherapy, I suggested that we take a holiday. Mrs Codger said, “No, I just can’t face a holiday. Buy a greenhouse instead!” So, I did! And a another link was forged in the chain that has led to the creation of this blog and charity fundraising initiative that is behind it (see here)

Excavation underway with the old plastic job in the background
A bit of greenhouse advice
Two bits of advice, actually. If you are thinking about getting a greenhouse, buy it in the winter when the prices are heavily discounted – we saved a mint. Second, consider the advice I received: go for a size bigger than you think you need. I did, and do not regret it - even though it meant sacrificing some of my growing space. Thinking about it, a third piece of advice: pay to have the pile of parts erected professionally. Mind you, I did the foundations myself – not an inconsiderable job on heavy ground like ours 

Using this one as a cold frame

Small plastic greenhouses
I often get asked about small plastic greenhouses – the sort you can get from Wilkos, Homebase and so forth. Are they any good? Yes, they are better than nothing but do not expect them to last more than a few years. I still have a small one that I use in the same way as a cold frame. I think this model is number four so I would estimate the average life is two to three years – much depends on the strength of the covering. It is even possible to obtain replacement covers. The big advantage for me was the experience I gained both in terms of growing and also the siting of the greenhouse

This controller looks after my seedlings
Heated or unheated?
This is the other question I get asked. My answer is a compromise. I start my seedlings off in homemade DIY electric propagators. This is another topic, of course. But an added benefit is the warmth they provide to the greenhouse – it is only a few degrees – but crucial, in my experience. (I will tell you how to make one – and save money in the process – at another time. And, please note, Garden Codger has absolutely zero commercial interests. The featured Elixir (see left) has worked well and the greenhouse was supplied by the The Greenhouse People)

The greenhouse year
Nothing much happens in the winter except the greenhouse shelters tender plants. I only use emergency heating which was not triggered at all last winter. Perhaps this will be a pattern for the future?

First sowings take place in late February and in March. This is where the propagators come in. Gradually, the greenhouse fills with plants. As Spring turns to summer a big change takes place. Most of the young plants move outside so the main greenhouse bed can be used for growing tomatoes. These keep us (and others!) well supplied for months. The tomato plants are removed as they finish their productive life in October and replaced by chrysanthemums that I bring in from outside. This means that Mrs Codger has flowers right up to Christmas. Remember? I said it was payback time - and I am keeping to that

A link in the chain
If you have read this far, perhaps you can see how things have fitted together. If the patient had not said “No!” to a holiday in in January 2018 Garden Codger would not be in operation now! The greenhouse is central to our growing activities. You have Mrs Codger to thank

But, having a greenhouse means they there is always work to do. And, right now, I need to get your tomato plants ready. Have you been in touch with your order? 

Incidentally, I have now set up a page that tells you all the plants that we currently supply. Look top-right and click on <PLANT NOW!>. the list will extend with time to include various advice pages. There’s more in store – fancy a dahlia? The cuttings are coming on well – we have a lovely shade of apricot

Hopefully, we will see you tomorrow – until then, I remain your friend …

… the old Garden Codger

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