A Peachy Project

As regular readers know, two and a half years ago we had the limery built – a growing space attached to the house and used to grow limes, as well as lots of other food and decorative plants. It has been a delight in the past year to hear about the progress of a similar project from my friend Ann. I thought, therefore, that you too might enjoy reading about it.

I first encountered Ann through permaculture activities (in fact I met her on-line ages before I finally got to meet her in person). She approached her project from a clear permaculture design perspective as it’s part of the set of her designs for her permaculture diploma portfolio. Ann and her partner Steve are mediaeval re-enactors and have lots of gear that they use when they go to re-enactment events, including this beautiful tent, which is big enough to accommodate a wooden-framed double bed in the “back room” and still provide living and work space at the front:

'17 Haddon Hall-20

now, that’s a tent

Anyway. I thought you’d enjoy hearing from Ann about it all, so over to her…

The Story of the Peach House

So we needed more space. Ideally some way that did not involve lumping heavy re-enactment gear up and down stairs every month (we’re not getting any younger), and that would give added benefits.

As part of my Diploma in Applied Permaculture I am steadily working my way through 10 designs to show that I understand it all. One of these designs looks at our whole system – house, garden, hobbies etc. This uncovered various functions that we would like to be filled. We needed somewhere to grow peppers and a nectarine (the greenhouse is rather cold). Somewhere close by to store a bit of extra wood for the wood burner, an undercover clothes drying space, somewhere nice to sit on a sunny day are on our wish list, to name but a few.

Various options (elements) were listed for the functions needed.2017-12-05 (3)

Our first thought was an extension on the side of the house incorporating a porch linked to the front door, as this would answer most of our needs. However, the first builder we asked directed us to local building regs that would most likely prevent us building to our boundary, or forward of the front line of the house, which meant that joining a porch to the extension would not be possible. Yes we could apply for planning permission, but there were other issues with the boundary and stability of the ground so we reluctantly abandoned that idea.

We then used another tool used in Permaculture designs, a PNI (Positive, Negative & Interesting) to look at the alternatives. Then using one of my favourite tools, McHarg’s Exclusion*, to eliminate the ones that would not work for us.2017-12-05 (4)

We are now the proud owners of the smallest and cutest little conservatory that our lovely builder Spencer has ever built. BTW, this is a different builder to the one mentioned above, who wasn’t at all interested in building the conservatory for us as he felt we would regret it. Eh? Not his problem!!! And no, we don’t regret it, it’s a lovely space.

Peach House

The Peach House. Named by the lovely Snail of Happiness. We don’t have limes, but did have a nectarine – hence ‘The Peach House’. Sadly said nectarine has since died, but the name has stuck.

So here it is. Office, craft room, green house (extends food growing and somewhere for tender plants over winter), wood store, clothes drying space, re-enactment gear store (that also performs as shelf space), bird and hoggie food store, relaxation space, insulation for patio and back doors, extra security, adds value to house.

An added bonus is that in the summer heat it shields the patio door like sunglasses (special glass in the roof) so the lounge is kept cooler with all the doors open. Previously we had to choose – if we wanted the breeze when the curtains had to be open. That let the sun in too! Now we can have the doors and curtains open! Sorted!

Eco choices

Yes, we would have loved wood. The best wood is, I gather, accoya, a sustainable wood that has been impregnated with chemicals to stop it rotting. Made into conservatories in Poland (in the case of the supplier we approached). So overall not really that much better than UK made PVC. In the end we chose PVC as wood would have stretched our budget too far.

However we did choose local trades people and a local window manufacturer.

We couldn’t have recycled materials for various reasons, so did our best to recycle the waste.

  • The displaced slabs were used in a customer’s garden.
  • The vent pipes under floor was left over guttering.
  • We save all the water
  • The skip on the drive – Spencer put things in it and we kept taking them out!
  • We saved – sand, gravel, half a bag cement, old block pavers, nicely algaed ridge tiles, some slate, 2 garden gates, half a fence panel, oddments of wood and an interesting looking cast iron gutter hopper.
  • Any left over cement went onto a path we want raising up, so it wasn’t wasted.
  • Tiles for the floor came off ebay.

One last thing. We kept finding these….


Spencer was here…..


* Sue over at Going Batty in Wales wrote an interesting post about using this approach to decide on her new flooring.

Limery Update

I know that regular readers will be itching for an update on the limery (yes, that is now its official name).

I knew that building work was not likely to happen quickly, but I had hoped that it would be finished by now. Alas not… although there has been progress and it might be done by the end of next week. My builders are lovely – polite and thoughtful and happy to chat over a cup of tea. But even so, it’s terribly unsettling, and the noise of my roof being taken apart and rebuilt was not conducive to calm contemplation or, indeed, editing work or writing blog posts!

However, I have things to show…

They started laying the patio (re-used flag stones) and  building the raised bed:

Flag stones look good as new, but they are about 20 years old!

Flag stones look good as new, but they are about 20 years old!

Then we got the framework for the glass:

Then the builders dismantled part of the roof (this was VERY noisy):

and this the day before thunderstorms were forecast… fortunately they didn’t arrive.

Next they covered the new bit of roof:

Well, at least it isn't going to leak

Well, at least it wasn’t going to leak (much)

Then they came back and put the slates back on the house and attached the battens ready for the new slates… which, apparently can’t be put on until the glazing is completed:

Roof in tact and lead installed

Roof in tact and lead installed

All the flag stones for the patio were put down and the raised bed had its coping stones fixed in place:

And finally, work started on the floor inside the limery – two layers of insulation (all off-cuts from previous jobs), a drain and a concrete floor (mixed using only stored rain water) which is to support yet more reused flag stones:

And that’s where we are tonight… I have just had to create a barricade:

No entry!

No entry!

To avoid any more of this:

Marking their territory

Marking their territory

I am SO looking forward to it being finished, so my garden stops looking like this:

Last year this was a vegetable bed

Last year this was a vegetable bed


Limery? Peppery? Kumquatery?

When our greenhouse lost multiple panels over last winter a choice had to be made about whether to try to extend its life, whether to buy a new one or whether to take a different approach to our growing. After careful thought and an assessment of our resources, we decided that we wanted a more permanent structure to house our crops and so we settled on having a conservatory built. Now, when I say conservatory to most people, they envisage a glass sitting room with a laminate floor and wicker sofas. Not me – when I hear “conservatory” it conjures images of grand Victorian wrought iron glasshouses full of rainforests (think of the Palm House at Kew). Of course, living in a bungalow built in the 1980s does not lend itself to having a grand glasshouse attached, so ideas had to be adapted. We were limited to an area about 3m x 3m for a start off!

The first challenge with our plan, was to find a builder who would understand what we wanted. We dismissed the idea of contacting anyone specialising in off-the-shelf conservatories and, instead, approached a local builder with a range on skills who we know is also a keen gardener. And so discussions started, plans were drawn and we moved ahead. Aspirations for a wooden structure were, for one reason and another, not practical and we came to the conclusion that, for our purposes, the answer was double-glazed UPVC units – constructed specially for our project.

One of the preliminary sketches

One of the preliminary sketches

The second challenge was the name – our lovely builder refers to it as an orangery, but discussion elsewhere yielded a number of alternative suggestions: a place to grow peppers would, surely be a peppery, and if we wanted something quirky, what about a kumquatery? However, Mr Snail – lover of limes and owner of a small unhappy lime tree (which we are hoping will thrive in the new structure) – has settled on the name ‘limery’. If this is the case I am considering whether I might be able to construct a still because, in my opinion, the best use for limes is in a G&T.

As well as having this indoor growing space constructed, we also decided to go ahead and have the area around it revamped, replacing the bed constructed using up-ended paving slabs with a new block-built raised bed and returning the paving slabs back to their original use, having the patio reconstructed, this time with good drainage.

And now work has been proceeding for a couple of weeks (although they are not here every day), progress is being made. Originally the glass and glaziers were due to arrive on Monday, but they have now rescheduled for Wednesday. Those of you who are friends on Facebook have already seen progress, but for everyone else, here are some pictures of how it’s been going:

There has been some head scratching:


Some of the gang

Sam and Max have been on the case:

Building inspectors

Building inspectors

There has been some invasion of the concrete by the local wildlife:

footprintsAnd finally, today, I managed to put some plants in there!!


Stocking the space

Do you think that I might be over-enthusiastic?!

It looks worse before it looks better

The plans for the orangery, as our builder has decided to call it, are agreed. Work will start in three weeks time and will involve the construction of a patio and a raised bed as well as the glass room itself. Before the builders arrive, however, we have to clear the area of all sorts of things: water butts, a bench, lots of pots (with and without plants), bags of compost… you know the sort of thing that accumulates around and inside a greenhouse.

And so, after a fairly lazy day yesterday, today we were out in the cool but very sunny garden. Weed-infested pots were transferred to chicken-ville to provide great entertainment for four happy hens; broken plant pots were thrown away and in tact plant pots moved into the shed or a big tea chest that acts as useful storage; water butts were disconnected; I collected old plant labels and picked up lots of bits of plastic that seem to have accumulated around the garden (more on that in a forthcoming post); Mr Snail dismantled the staging in the greenhouse and removed the  “ladder allotment” from the fence near where the building work will be happening and attached it to the fence in the waste of space area (he even used a spirit level to make sure it wasn’t wonky):

The general result looks like chaos, but I think that is always the way when major clearing work is in progress. We are left with a dilapidated greenhouse that needs the last of its contents removing, plus a whole pile of things that need a temporary home while the building work happens. I’m rather looking forward to it being all over… and the joy that will come with a robust indoor growing space.


Farewell rubbish bed

We now have a date for the builders to arrive to start construction of the conservatory. This means that there are some jobs to be completed… one of which we tackled this morning, namely the emptying of the “rubbish bed”.

I have written several times in the past about the woeful lack of soil in our garden when we moved into our house. This was because the topsoil had been stripped away and sold off when the house was built. The only solution was for us to build raised beds and create our own soil. We did buy some topsoil in to get started, but we have also made tonnes of compost over the 15 years we have been here. Perhaps our greatest success was the rubbish bed – constructed from upended paving slabs and filled with all sorts of waste material: cardboard, shredded paper, wood-chip, moss raked out of a friend’s lawn, fallen leaves, spent potting compost, garden compost, grass clippings, wood ash, teabags, to rot down in situ and generate soil and a bit of heat for the plants too.

The 'four sisters' bed

The “rubbish bed” in all its glory in 2013

However, this bed now has to go to make way for the conservatory, properly drained patio and a new, block-built raised bed. So, in glorious sunshine this morning, we emptied out the most amazing compost/soil (all home-made) and transferred it onto other beds and into two dumpy bags that we then planted up with potatoes. The soil that we had created was packed full of earthworms and had the most fabulous texture. It’s a bitter-sweet activity – I am so proud of what we have created from “rubbish”, but very sad that this area of garden will no longer exist (it has been amazingly productive).

Most of the site of the rubbish bed is destined to become a patio, but part of the footprint will coincide with a much deeper raised bed… which, in its turn, will be filled with new compost all created from waste: we already have two of our neighbours trained to deliver their grass clippings, and a friend has some moss to contribute.

So, farewell “rubbish bed” and thank you. Here’s to much more in situ compost making and productivity.

Emptied out and waiting to be dismantled

Emptied out and waiting to be dismantled

Making plans for growing

Our greenhouse has finally come to the end of its life – strong winds over the winter have torn off the vent, whipped out some of the plastic panels and subtly twisted the frame. It was time to discuss replacing it. And you might be surprised to hear that the decision was that we wouldn’t… at least not with more of the same.

A coating of gloop

No more gloop

Because of the way our garden has evolved, the greenhouse ended up in a spot that regularly floods, meaning that the crops in it are very prone to various fungal infections. Despite regular fumigation, every year we have to deal with botrytis  and other forms of rot. The area in and around it gets coated with gloopy mud, making it unpleasant to walk about out there. We have thought about a raised base, but in this windy part of the country that was something we didn’t want really.

However, we do want some protected growing space – somewhere that’s pleasant to work and will allow us to produce crops over a longer season. Our little garden does not have the space for a polytunnel and I have kept returning to the idea of having a conservatory. Not one of those that’s a glass sitting room, but one designed for growing plants in. So, finally I bit the bullet and arranged for a builder to come round and discuss the options.

My greenhouse... hoping it will breed with next-door's

The current set-up… big changes to come

Not any old builder though, one we have used before, who is interested in gardening and growing things, likes chickens and tries to recycle and reuse building materials . So, today he arrived to have a chat. And what a joy it was – he understood straight away what I wanted – not a conservatory, but a permanent greenhouse  attached to the house. We discussed the light transmission of glass, maximising growing space, drains in the floor, ventilation, waterproof electrical sockets and appropriate door placement. Not only that, we talked about building new a raised bed outside, improving drainage in that part of the garden and how we could reuse the existing paving slabs and make use of the excavated hardcore. A conversation that I had thought might be quite difficult turned out to be very interesting and surprisingly stimulating.

Of course, it’s not going to be cheap and I await the quote knowing that this is going to represent a significant investment. However, it feels like a very positive thing to do at this time when our savings earn very little interest in the bank. In addition, a better drained garden will make the neighbours happy, as they are down-slope and are on the receiving end of the water that flows through our garden.

Exciting times… I’m not looking forward to building work disturbing my life, but it will be fantastic if the plans work out and we have new growing space in the next couple of months.

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