The Potting Shed Saga

For this years winter project, I have been building a potting shed on the plot. Not from a kit but from mainly 2x2 timber and sterling board. The problem has been that it is total time consuming. As Magnus used to say, once I started I just have to finish, primarily in order to make it rainproof before any water damage can be done. I was waking up at 3 in the morning working out to overcome each hurdle as they arose.

For example, I constructed the sides out of 2x2 at home, then took them over the plot to fix them onto the base – the problem being how to hold one side upright when trying to fix another to it. Having overcome that, how to fix the roof beam and rafters – and finally how to fit the roof felt on when I couldn’t reach. The only answer to that was to climb onto the roof and tack the felt down. Three weeks fled by in a flash, but finally I have finished the construction and now have to paint, put the final touches in place, and fit out the inside. The only problem is that it’s turned out rather tall. As one of my plot neighbours said, I won’t need to stoop to get in. I can always put in a bunk bed for when Jeni chucks me out. But I have done this all single handed, which gives a certain pleasure in achievement, and yes, a little bit of smugness.

Apart from the shed, I have been doing a few other things. The plot clearing up is coming along, slower than usual because of the shed, but happening. I have also been sowing and planting. I sowed the sweet peas about 3 weeks ago in compost filled root trainers and placed on the bedroom windowsill. They have now all germinated and transferred to the pollytunnel. They will be left there for a week and then taken outside for the winter. I place a chicken wire cage over them to stop the birds nipping off the shoots. They will survive all frosts outside until being planted out at the end of February.

I’ve also planted Shakespeare onion sets, Solent Wight garlic, and Aquadulce Claudia broad bean seeds in modules within the pollytunnel. I tend to start nearly everything off in modules these days rather than directly into the soil. I think it gives plants a good start, weeding out those which won’t germinate, and avoiding as much as possible any animal damage. The onion sets and the broad beans are getting away fine and will be planted out soon, but the garlic bulbs take a while to burst into life – it will happen eventually.

My plot neighbour Brodie gave some of his excess plants in around May time. I planted them out and didn’t really take too much notice, not really knowing what they were. A couple of weeks ago Brodie wandered across bearing a small, round, orange, yellow fruit, saying eat this. It was delicious – a glorious bitter sweet taste. I recognised it as a cape gooseberry, Brodie calls it something else, but it’s from the Chinese Lantern family – Physalis Peruviana. I duly looked at my plants and sure enough there were the lanterns waiting for me to pick. I’ve eaten Cape Gooseberries before from supermarkets , or Asian hotel breakfast bars, but these are something else. I’m hooked. Brodie picked a large ice cream pallet full of fruit and noticed that they don’t keep too well – but none of mine made it away from the plot. So taken with them that I took one home, squeezed the fruit onto a kitchen towel , and waited for the seeds to dry. This took a couple of days, I then sowed the seeds into a pot of compost, and placed them on the bedroom windowsill along with the sweet peas. A couple of weeks later the seedlings are just showing. When large enough I’ll pot them on and keep them indoors until next spring.

We recently went to the theatre in Chichester and beforehand visited West Dean gardens. They are thoroughly recommended. They have glorious walled fruit and vegetable gardens. Two things that interested me that they were growing is Oca, widely grown in Latin America and known as New Zealand yam or Oxalis Tuberosa. The other was lemongrass grown in pots. Two more challenges for next year.

But for now back to the potting shed.

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