Diary of a Rocket Gardener…in the greenhouse

Last summer I built a makeshift greenhouse out of old reclaimed windows. I grew all my tomatoes, peppers and chillies in pots in the greenhouse whilst the ground was covered with a black sheet to try and kill off the majority of weeds. This was somewhat successful and the majority of weeds have indeed been killed off after a year of being in the dark. This year I have decided to put in a small raised bed system rather than growing in pots and grow bags. I found last year that the pots just dried up too quickly in the greenhouse and my tomatoes suffered from blossom end rot and splitting (both of which were caused by periods of very dry and very wet soil because I kept forgetting to water.) I’m hopeful that the raised beds will help to combat this and that it will be easier to keep my plants well fed and watered.

The beds were fairly easy to put in – I just found bits of wood from previous failed DIY projects and screwed them together. There was some swearing involved, but that’s just normal DIY behaviour. Then in a slightly eccentric British fashion I nipped into the field next door with my wheelbarrow and shovelled the earth from molehills to use as top soil. Once that was in place I watered thoroughly and then added a really nice, thick layer of compost. The plants went in quite quickly – some tomatoes, chillies, aubergines and a couple of okra which I have never grown before – with a handful of wormcast fertiliser too, so they should all have loads of nutrients from the soil. Lucky things.

With my exciting 3 week trip to France in mind, I then spent the rest of the afternoon playing with water bottles and doing experiments trying to find a good way of making a drip feeder. I was immediately transformed to my child self, spending hours at pre-school playing with water funnels, bottles and cups. Do they still do that at school? I hope so, it will serve them well when they come to make up some sort of water irrigation system in their make-shift greenhouses when they’re in their thirties.

I have tried numerous combinations of things to get the flow of water at a slow and steady pace, my idea being that then my kind neighbour can simply top up the bottles from time to time while I’m away and won’t need to worry too much about thoroughly watering every day. By cutting the base of a water bottle, hammering a picture hanging nail through the lid twice to make two small holes, and planting it, lid down, into the soil I managed to get the water to trickle quite steadily into the soil, about an inch an hour. But on reflection I don’t think this is going to help much as the bottles will still need to be filled up daily. What I need is a bigger water vessel. A butt perhaps. Or just a nice big bucket. More thought is required…I shall keep pondering. But I think the water bottle idea would be great for pots and containers if you’re going away for the odd weekend here and there.