A novice's guide to producing his own food

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2011: The rise and fall and rise and eventual collapse of the greenhouse

The greenhouse didn't survive the December storm

Looking back over the 2011, it’s clear events have been dominated by one thing – the greenhouse. Money, and even more importantly, time have been wasted on it.

My “big project” of the year was to grow my first veg in a greenhouse, and yet here I am at the beginning of 2011 without one, despite having built one twice and moved it three times. As you’ve probably guessed my year-old greenhouse blew down in the December 8 storm, and is completely unrepairable.

This is the second time it has blown over since I bought it in January 2011. The first time was when it was on the allotment. Then I thought I had lost it for good, along with the £459 I paid for it. However, it was salvageable and so I  brought up to the garden at home.

But, come December, it blew down again. Although it was in a much more sheltered spot, the winds were the strongest in 10 years, and the greenhouse was completely wrecked. However, as it was on my own property, I was able to claim insurance, and got most of the cash back. Good news.

I am still determined to have a greenhouse, and will put the cash towards a proper wooden Victorian lookalikey. This will cost thousands, rather than hundreds, but I am confident it will last. After all, we have two wooden summerhouses and a shed which weren’t at all fazed by the storms.

The fault with my greenhouse was a common one — it used polycarbonate sheeting. This is supposed to better than glass for the plants,  but the downside is it makes greenhouses so light they can’t withstand even moderate winds. After the last storms, it was suckers like me with polycarbonate greenhouses who lost everything, while glass greenhouses stood.

The lesson here is: don’t ever buy polycarbonate. I will never touch them again

But I must’ve be too negative, there was plenty to be excited about in 2011. The harvest (although not large) was at least consistent. Just about everything produced a crop which ended up on the table.

Let’s take a look at each bed  in turn.

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Glut, my arse

Toby Buckland

Toby Buckland


Gardener’s World, eh? Quite a show. Whenever I see presenter Toby Buckland stroll into view brimming with fake enthusiasm and waving his arms, I want to puke. Still, you got to respect what the man says. He knows his stuff.  

A couple of Fridays ago he opened with something which pulled me up so sharply, I swallowed the little bit of vomit which had just welled up into my mouth. “Isn’t September great?” he gushed, insincerely, “It’s this time of year when your veg patch has really come together, and you suddenly find yourself with a glut of food.”  

What? A glut? Not in my allotment there ain’t. We had a few good meals, but everything was eaten as it ripened. No way could you use the word “glut” to describe any of my harvests.  

Mind you, there was one notable exception – courgettes. There were lots and lots of courgettes. And I mean so many it was becoming a little bit of a problem. From only six plants we’d made ratatouille so often some of the kids were sick of it, and, as an experiment, Sue and I had frozen some completely raw, and some which had been blanched for a minute (the jury is out on which is the best way.)  

But there was still loads left over. What to do? It isn’t the moste versatile of veg. Fortunately, in the genuinely good magazine to accompany Gardener’s World, I found a recipe for a courgette chutney. Problem solved. Time to try my hand a spot of serious cooking.  

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