We may have a greenhouse problem…

One thing few people know about us is that we are obsessed by greenhouses! Small ones, large ones, green ones, wooden ones - we simply can’t resist them.

Most women adore handbags, shoes and jewellery but us? It’s the shape, fabric of the structure and colour of these amazing buildings that draw us to them. If it’s a disease, we’ve definitely caught it!

This year has been nothing unusual. A friend unwittingly mentioned they were looking to grow tomatoes in the spring and a greenhouse would therefore be required. Music to our ears! How naïve to mention it to us and, like bees to honey, we immediately started to search ‘the net’.

We knew we should look for a smart one to stand proudly in their neatly lawned garden. This was not therefore going to be just any greenhouse. No. This had to be a special ‘stand out from the crowd’ kind of structure to be shown off in the neighbourhood.

We found it advertised on a social media platform – an absolute beauty! A subtle powder green aluminium frame. Second hand? Yes. But immaculate.

Contact was quickly made and we bought it. Within a week (and armed with our shopping bag of essential tools) we went to examine our latest purchase.

Ready with the WD40, all nuts were quickly lubricated. Out came the step ladder and the battle commenced - to the obvious amusement of the onlooking owner.

We know how this all works and are always very careful with the dismantling of structures. We also know why so many people can’t do it.

Sorting second hand greenhouses is like working on a 3D jigsaw and re-erecting them is worse - like a jigsaw but with no picture!

Firstly, the glass is removed from both lengthy sides and stacked carefully away from our working area. Then a rest and a cuppa.

Next, we remove the panes in the back section, swiftly followed by the glass in the door. We then remove the whole door frame, followed by the glass in the building from the front section. All fastenings are saved in the trusty takeaway box and we are half done.

Great British Life: Julia hard at work building our friend Simon's greenhouseJulia hard at work building our friend Simon's greenhouse (Image: The Potty Plotters)

Next? The roof. This is where our differences in our heights and hand sizes really pay off. One of us clambers up the stepladder whilst the other stands firm and grapples with clips. Done! We tackle the frame and… more tea!

Out with our rachets and spanners and, in a methodical manner, we attack the apex rail on the roof line, swiftly followed by the rear frame.

The front is next and then the sides. Finally, we unscrew the base rail. Finished! The whole frame and glass now stacked neatly around the garden ready for transportation to its next destination.

At its new home, the beautiful greenhouse is lovingly scrubbed before being re-erected. A green gleaming example of garden glamour!

How we caught this ‘greenhouse infection’ remains a mystery to us but, importantly, is there a cure?

Great British Life: Beetroot seedlingsBeetroot seedlings (Image: The Potty Plotters)

Beautiful beetroot

If there is one vegetable we adore growing on the allotment, it’s got to be beetroot. Accepting it’s not everyone’s favourite, it’s versatility in the kitchen is to be admired. It can be cooked, eaten raw, and its leaves can be taken as salad leaves. Yet, it remains expensive to buy.

Today, beetroot is available in a range of colours and (a little-known fact) can be grown in two shapes! As well as the common globe, beetroot is also available in cylindrical varieties - rarely seen in shops or markets.

On the plots we grow both shapes but prefer the cylindrical varieties for speedy cooking and ease of bottling when pickling.

However, neither type is difficult to grow nor need much fuss in terms of growing care. Few pests bother it and it can be successionally sown from late spring through to autumn and beyond, although older roots do become ‘woody’ in texture.

We sow a few seeds every few weeks, simply setting them individually in rows in seed trays of compost or as ‘clumps’ of up to five seeds together in cells trays or in small plant pots.

As the seedlings grow to around two inches, we wet the surrounding compost making the removal of the seedlings easier reducing the risk of root damage.

Having made lines of string using knitting needles (they never break or rust) on the tilthed soil, we plant the seedlings around three inches apart following the lines and remembering to label each row as a reminder of the varieties grown.

The clumping method is similar but involves less work. Simply sow the whole clump of seedlings together in the soil. As the dominant beetroot grows, remove it to give the remainders room to grow and fill the gap.

Not sure? Try chocolate beetroot cake! Converted!

Great British Life: Julia with our dahliasJulia with our dahlias (Image: The Potty Plotters)

Why, why, why, Delilahs!

Gone are the days of the blousy blooms of dahlias being considered ‘much of a muchness.’ In fact, today’s cultivars are a vision of sheer wonder and beauty!

Colours range across the spectrum and, in addition, a variation of heights and textures. Some are perfect fillers in borders while other much taller and elegant varieties may need staking for support.

Standing on the plots, we admire flowers from this year’s new tubers complimenting new cuttings from tubers taken back in April.

Either way, dahlias are a perfect cutting flower to accompany zinnias and cosmos (and not an earwig in sight!)

Great British Life: Julia with our dahliasJulia with our dahlias (Image: The Potty Plotters)

A handy tip

Ever tried planting seeds on tapes? They are perfect for people with fine motor skill difficulties as well as children who can to be pretty heavy handed when sowing seeds.

Each packet (depending on the manufacturer) contains metres of tissue paper impregnated with seeds set at the relevant distance for growing the plants which can be ripped to the length needed.

Although the tapes may be a little more expensive than a packet of seeds there is no waste or need to thin out the seedlings.

Available for: lettuce, radish, beetroot, carrots, spinach, herbs as well as varieties of flowers.

Dwarf beans

‘Beans meanz’ – well, lots of things, but when it comes to dwarf beans, our favourite is ‘Mascota’, a purple-coloured bean pod and very easy to grow.

This variety develops fruit at the top of the plant, which saves searching under leaves for any beans. Importantly, the beans don’t grow old, tough and ‘beany’. Instead, they just grow in length!

Another advantage is the bean can be frozen whole without the need to blanche first, can be eaten raw and, in the summer months, can be cooked and eaten cold in salads.

What’s not to like?

pottyplotters.co.uk, @pottyplotters (social media), search ‘Potty Plotters Plotcast’ at Apple Podcasts/Spotify.