Tuesday 13 February 2007

Budget Bender Greenhouse

Now I've got my camera working again I can post pictures of the home-made polytunnel I've been working on. It's tiny, but any extra greenhouse space is going to be useful this year 'cos I've been digging over the patch of weeds that I've had under cover for a year, so this time I'll have twice the space for planting that I had last year. That means I'll need twice the number of seedlings, and my windowsills aren't any bigger than they were…

I found a small willow tree on a footpath near the allotment, with nice straight branches just right for building a bender. The number of suitable branches really limited the size of the bender, but it's still big enough to be worthwhile. I've never built a bender before, and had to take it all apart and start again a couple of times until it came out a good shape – having used a tee-pee shaped greenhouse last year I really wanted to make sure this one would have a good amount of headroom, so I kept rebuilding until I made the sides go more or less straight up instead of sloping inwards towards the top.

I ordered clear polythene (guaranteed for five years against deterioration in sunlight) off the internet from here http://www.polytheneone.com/polytunnel_polythene_super_strength_clear.htm
and only realised when it arrived that I'd struggle to get it from my house to the allotment without a car. I managed by kind of folding my arms around the roll at its balancing point and stopping a few times for a rest. But I was glad after all that I hadn't saved up for a bigger roll which would have been cheaper but harder to move.
It would have been harder to unroll, too. Luckily I'd measured up ok – I'd been worried because the bender's shape was so irregular that I wasn't sure I'd got the highest point, but 7m x 7m turned out to be just right. I dug a trench around the base of the bender and got help from another plot holder to unroll it over the frame, and then spent a whole afternoon folding it neatly to fit flat into the trenches and filling them back up with soil.

As you can see it was getting dark by the time I'd finished. I went back the next day just to admire it over a cup of tea. The next problem is what to do about the door. At the moment I've just folded the loose plastic at the front to one side and weighed it down with bricks, but it's a huge hassle to get in and out, in fact I haven't been inside since I filled the trench in case it disturbs the plastic before it's settled firmly into the ground. Here's a glimpse through the side:

It's only been up a few days so I don't know if it will withstand high winds, and I still lack a real plan for the door, which I'll be working on in the next few weeks, but I'm quite pleased with progress so far!


Ralph Mills said...

Very ingenious! Have you solved the door problem yet? Did it stand up to the recent gales? It looks as though it will be a nice place to sit and meditate on vegetables once the plants are growing!

I was given an aluminium greenhouse by an ex-colleague last autumn, and when I'd finally prepared a base for it (which involved demolishing old wall foundations and much besides, discovered I'd mislaid a vital component. So my greenhouse building has stalled temporarily whilst I work out what to do next. Meanwhile March is hurrying past, and like you, there aren't enough windowsills...

You can see some pix of our allotment, including the sad greenhouse, at http://www.twoatlarge.com/allotment/allotment_1.html

I hope your Spring is excellent!


Anonymous said...

Cool greenhouse! I'd really like to build one like the one in the link, out of 550 old 2-litre plastic bottles!


Alice said...

That's a great idea!

Haven't had a decent gale since I put the cover on the bender, but I suspect it will be okay. The curved shape helps, plus the frame can bend if too much pressure is applied to one side. All I should have to do is to make sure the plastic isn't pulled up out of the ground, and I'm planning to put some huge rocks I dug up around the sides to help weigh it down.

Will be attempting to come up with a door solution this weekend, so watch this space...

Unknown said...

Is it sprouting yet? There's a fair chance that some of the willow might actually root in!

Her indoors said...

Love your greenhouse. We used willow to build a den for the children in our garden...now that is sprouting like crazy.