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Breathing life into an old greenhouse

Discussion in 'Greenhouse Growing' started by DevonPhil, Apr 3, 2021.

  1. DevonPhil

    DevonPhil Gardener

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    Happy Easter…

    Along with this house, we inherited a nice old greenhouse. It hasn't been used to grow anything for at least 5 years, just left as a garden equipment store.

    I began clearing things out with a view to relaying better paving slabs (the original 5 slab walkway was poorly layed and featured an ants nest beneath it. Currently, the outer edges are all soil, which until yesterday were covered in weeds.

    I'm thinking I would like to re-slab (edit: not block pave) all but the left hand edge, and build my own stagings across the back and right hand side. Then using railway sleepers to smartly contain the soil bed on the left… (Oh, and give the glass a good clean).

    We are novice gardeners with intent to start off growing things like tomatoes and chillies.

    My questions:
    • Might the soil be ok to re-use?
    • Should I rejuvenate it somehow?
    • Completely dig this out and replace with new soil / compost?
    • Or, is it better to pave the whole floor and grow everything in pots?

    Thanks.

    This is how it looked at 5pm yesterday:
    greenhouse.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  2. Alisa

    Alisa Gardener

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    I vote for bringing in loads of fresh compost and planting directly into it.
     
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    • DevonPhil

      DevonPhil Gardener

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      Thanks @Alisa, but can you explain why?

      I've been reading this morning about how old soil can become full of fungus and disease unless recieving constant attention.

      As a novice gardener, I'm leaning towards paving the whole greenhouse…… unless anyone can provide a reason why I shouldn't?
       
    • ricky101

      ricky101 Total Gardener

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      Hi,

      Well lucky you to have such a big greenhouse :)

      While blocks may look nicer , paving slabs might be better as a block may sink too easily where it takes the weight of a leg of the staging etc.

      Not something you may be thinking of now, but when laying a new floor, consider a route for laying an electricity cable and /or a water pipe in there.
      Being able to have even a small electric propagator means you will be able to get things growing much earlier next year.

      Soil or Pots is always a personal choice, there is no right or wrong, but when going for soil you will need to clear off all that loose sandy looking stuff and you will need to replace/refresh the soil every 3-4 years as disease can quickly build up in it.

      For such a large greenhouse just toms and chillies ? suggest try as many veg and flowers as you like, some will work other not, part of the fun of gardening.
      Things like Strawberries, Courgettes, salad crops etc are all easy to grow.
       
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      • rustyroots

        rustyroots Total Gardener

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        That is a decent GH. I agree with @ricky101, I would use paving slabs not blocks, for the same reason, but also there are more gaps in blocks for weeds to grow through. I have grown in both pots and direct into soil. Personally I prefer direct and seem to have better results. I just put about a 2 inch layer of home made compost on each year and have done so for the last 5 years with no previous issues. I do give it a feed with chicken pellets a week or 2 before planting and another in mid summer and just ‘tickle’ it in. I also rotate what I grow where each year and over winter crops in the beds after Tom’s and cucumbers have finished. Regarding staging I would advise having something foldable and removable. You will be looking for the extra space in the coming years.

        Rusty
         
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        • DevonPhil

          DevonPhil Gardener

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          Thanks @ricky101 and @rustyroots. Paving slabs is indeed what I meant - I'm afraid my builders lingo isn't perfect.

          Thanks also for the soil advice - that makes me feel better about recovering what's already there. Will discuss the options with my wife and give her the deciding vote.

          Eitherway - its going to be a bank holiday weekend of heavy lifting…
           
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          • ricky101

            ricky101 Total Gardener

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            You can get lots of different size paving flags, but have always used the smaller 450x450 type from the diy stores, easy enough to lift and handle, unlike the bigger 600x 600 ones.

            Make sure the sub soil is well packed down and use something like a 25mm layer of sand to lay the flags onto, but ensure there is something solid around all the edges to hold them in place or use a layer of sand and cement mix or the ready mixed packs of Slablayer etc.

            000527.jpg
             
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            • DevonPhil

              DevonPhil Gardener

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              Hey @ricky101, you must have been reading my mind. I'd just been gathering all of the materials to ready to lay the slabs. Decided to mix my own 10:1 dry mortar mix (as per hundreds of slab laying tutorial), mainly because the ready mixed slablayer works out very expensive. The greenhouse's internal dimensions are 2.97m x 2.34m (approx. 7m²). Works out I needed to buy 20 bags of sharp sand to 3 bags of cement. I've already got a huge supply of gravel to tamp down to make a firm footing.

              As for the paving, I was thinking of using 20 x 600x600 slabs. However you are so right about the weight of them. Was heavy going just to remove the 5 old ones from the greenhouse. I would need 56 x 400x400 slabs to fill the space. So, I'm currently looking for good secondhand slabs via FB marketplace in the hope I can save some money. Slabs via Wickes would cost between £200-£300, where as they seem to go for £1 per tile secondhand…

              PS: The edges of the greenhouse are solid as it has been built on a huge concrete block work base.

              greeenhouse2.jpg
               
            • ricky101

              ricky101 Total Gardener

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              Hi,

              Not sure of your exact plans for the paving, a central path and the area under the existing bench hard finished as well with a soil border to the other left side?

              Seems you have enough flags to make a central path, could you not re-lay them properly and then use a bit more cement and put about 75mm of concrete from the path under the bench.
              Would be easier and cheaper than all flags ... ?

              By the time you have all your growing gear in there under the bench you will probably not see the concrete, unless asthetics are important ? You can buy cement colourant powders if you want to be fancy.:smile:
               
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              • DevonPhil

                DevonPhil Gardener

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                Thanks for the advice, but asthetics are very important for this one. My wife has decided she'd like the whole floor paved, so that's the plan.
                 
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                • Alisa

                  Alisa Gardener

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                  I prefer classic horticultural methods. Why to lose the soil in the greenhouse to paving? It's the same as paving the garden in general and growing plants in pots. Planting directly in the soil gives roots more space, more even soil temperature and humidity distribution, surface of the soil can be mulched with grass etc.
                  I would go for paving greenhouse if it was purely for orchids/houseplants for example - when you definitely have to grow in pots, may need heating added later etc.

                  People successfully grow tomatoes in the same greenhouse for many years. Of course new compost needs to be added, manure, other fertilizers, and at some point phacelia/mustard to be sown as green manure to improve the soil. (I gonna have season 3 this year - my greenhouse is small - it's 6 X 8 only)

                  Before my tomatoes go into greenhouse I have lettuce, radishes, wild rocket, parsley, spring onions in. Even with roof window open t goes quite up on sunny days, everything would suffer in pots.
                   
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                  • Black Dog

                    Black Dog Gardener of useful things

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                    Don't know if the decision has already been made, but why not both?

                    Leave a strip of soil on the sunny side and fully pave the "shadowy" side. There will always be times and plants that require one or the other, so mix it up - your greenhouse looks big enough

                    And after paving I suggest you build yourself a nice comfortable work bench or a few shelves for easier storage of plants and materials. Also helps with your back if you don't always need to bow down to soil level in order to check your seedlings
                     
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                    • DevonPhil

                      DevonPhil Gardener

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                      Thanks everyone for the advice, it has all been appreciated. As the greenhouse measures approx. 8x10', we decided to go with paving and turn it into a lovely space to relax as well as grow a few plants. We are both very new to gardening, and feel we already have enough to contend with as the rest of the garden is enormous. Only time will tell if fully paved was the right decision, however my wife is very pleased with it. Next I'm going to build some staging from reclaimed scaffold planks…

                      new-greenhouse.jpg
                       
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                      • Black Dog

                        Black Dog Gardener of useful things

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                        Wow, this looks gorgeous. Great job! :dbgrtmb:
                         
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                        • rustyroots

                          rustyroots Total Gardener

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                          I have GH envy! Good job.
                           
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