Tuesday 24 April 2007

Spencer is a Genius

A friend suggested that I cut a door flap in the bender greenhouse and then open and close it using laces like on a marquee. At last I can visualise a bender greenhouse door solution that might actually work. I've got loads of gaffa tape (never leave home without it) to reinforce the cut edges and could probably lace with the washing line I found with bits of concrete on it - I KNEW that would come in handy for something!

When I learned finger knitting as a child I had no idea that it would actually prove to be a useful skill later in life...

Monday 23 April 2007

Budget Bender Greenhouse Part 2

It looks a bit strange but not ugly, it certainly gets warm inside and it hasn't fallen down yet, but I am now having quite serious bender greenhouse problems.

The first thing I did after stretching plastic over the frame and burying it carefully around the edges was to go on holiday for two weeks, and in a fortnight of high winds the whole thing filled with air like a massive balloon and loosened itself so much that I've had to tie it down with string around the outside. It now looks as though I've netted a giant jellyfish. Trouble is, I can't think of a way of making a decent door for it, so opening and closing it currently still involves folding up the loose plastic around the doorframe and piling half a ton of rocks on it to weigh it down.

The recent hot weather has made me realise I'm going to have to put vent holes in it sooner rather than later, but I'm scared to cut the plastic in the wrong place because it was so expensive, and to top it all a couple of the willow branches I made the frame from have started to grow, which I'm worried will result in big spikey bits making holes exactly where I don't want them.

Sunday 22 April 2007


Listening to Radio 4 yesterday I realised that the reason for the huge traffic jam outside my window was that someone had been shot dead in a takeaway a few doors down the road from my house the night before.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/6581435.stm It seems he was killed at about the time I was watching Blake's 7 at a friend's flat next door.

Doesn't seem very long (although having looked it up it's about 18 months) since I last came home to find my house in the middle of a 1/2 mile police cordon, when a man held his former partner hostage in a house on Bayswater Grove and came out to shoot at police cars and put a few bullets through neighbour's windows. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/4344402.stm

I have decided that the next time I see some stupid film ad with guns in it on this street, which I frequently do, I'm going to vandalise it as thoroughly as I can and let them arrest me and listen to my reasons in court. It's just offensive.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Removable Seedling Shelf

Casually put some very early seed trays on the windowsill. Fill the remaining space with the first tomatoes, and shove all your lovely ornaments out of the way to fit everything else in. Then knock everything over every five minutes, as the spring gets underway in ernest and there’s not a horizontal space left in the house that doesn’t have some tender seedlings growing on it. Sound familiar?

I have accidentally cooked seedlings that I’d left on the top of the grill, I have carried a six-foot ladder around my flat to water things growing on top of the wardrobes, I have been unable to reach my windows for months at a time because of the precarious arrangements of vegetable racks I’ve used to layer seed trays in front of my windows. I’ve had enough now.

This year I’ve been trying to make better use of the vertical space in my high-celinged flat, and with spring just around the corner I want to double the amount of windowsill space I can grow things on this year. I have a cunning plan.

This is what my living room windows look like

And this is my bedroom window

My plan is to construct a shelf half way up each window where the panes are split. I’m hoping that this won’t block out too much of the natural light coming into the rooms, but for my next trick I’m going to make the shelves completely removable, so that I’m not stuck with a huge window obstruction all year round.

To make the supports as unobtrusive as possible I’m putting in small batons on either side of the frames. Here is me measuring one against the inside of the window frame

I’ll be needing four, two for each set of windows, and a support shelf for the middle of the wider living room window. I sawed the wood for these to the right length in the middle of my living room, on a science lab stool I found behind Leeds University and took home on the bus, topped with an old chopping board that I rescued from a bonfire. Just in case you are having trouble visualising this:

It works a treat.

The next thing to do is to help the fittings (which will not be removable) to blend in, by painting them to match the windows. I used gloss spray paint, but would have used normal gloss paint if I’d had any. I reckon they will get fairly grubby with bits of soil etc spilling on them all the time, so I want to be able to wipe them clean when I take the shelves down.

A couple of thin layers of spray paint is the way to go, it just drips if you try to put too much on at once and thin layers are also less likely to chip off later.

To fix them to the frame I used 40mm screws straight into the wooden window frame. Then I cut the shelves to length on my homemade saw bench and put them in position resting on the batons. This bit actually took some time because after I’d found woodworm in the reclaimed floorboards I was going to use, neither local skips nor Homebase could provide me with suitable wood. Eventually a neighbour gave me some wood left over from her own shelves, thus saving the whole project just in time. Here is the finished product with all my little seedlings waiting for the sun to shine:

And I can of course use the time they take to grow to hoover all the soil and sawdust out of the carpet…

Sunday 15 April 2007


Sorry to have kept you all waiting - no doubt with baited breath - for my next installment here. Excuses include being in Mexico, then being in Somerset, then having a massive list of garden and allotment related things I should have been doing when I was in Mexico and Somerset. Some of this I'd planned to write blogs about, but I've been too busy actually doing it all to maintain a cyber presence at the same time.

I'm now back, everything is planted and watered and I've even got tadpoles in the bathtub on my allotment. Time to sit back and look at it all for a minute, and ask everyone to tell me everything they ever knew about tadpoles...

...for instance, I know you can't move frogs to new ponds and you're supposed to start with frogspawn, but is it ok to move them as tadpoles? The water will be different (I know a bit about that from keeping goldfish in an aquarium) and I think mine will be alright because I've used about half rainwater and half tapwater, to which I added chlorine-neutralising stuff designed to make it safe for fish. The tap water tends to be quite acidic around here though, and I've no idea what PH rainwater is likely to be.

And what do they need to eat? Am I right to think I can feed them goldfish food, and how much/how often should I feed them? What should I feed them when they grow into frogs - I'm hoping they'll eat all my slugs, but should I deliberately plant slug-attracting plants near the pond, or will that just stop them hopping further away to eat the ones that are near my crops? Will they get drunk if I also put slug beer traps down?

Suggestions for names would also be very welcome 'cos I guess I need about fifty. They don't exactly have distinctive personality traits yet, but I'll keep you posted.