My grow-your-own garden August update: building a greenhouse and tidying trees

During August we've been enjoying the fruits of our labour with plenty of veg to harvest but we've also dealt with blight, non-ripening peppers & fruit trees desperate in need of pruning. Here's how we got on & more info on the DIY greenhouse we built...

It’s been a funny year weather-wise. Did we even have a summer? There were some good sunny days in August, just as we’d hoped for, but not quite enough to ripen the peppers and tomatoes. In fact, we decided to remove a lot of the foliage from the tomato plants so that any sun that did arrive would help to put a bit of colour on them. They look a bit sorry for themselves without the leaves – did you notice that these are planted in my repurposed wardrobe planter??

Luckily, this did help, and almost all of the tomatoes have started to ripen now. However, we’ve had no where near as many tomatoes as we did last year. That’s partially down to the weather but also caused by a spot of tomato blight. We noticed the dark patches of blight appearing on the stalks of the tomato plants in one of our raised beds, so we quickly removed the plants before it could ruin the green tomatoes or spread to the other plants in the veggie patch.

Still, at least the remaining ripe tomatoes have been delicious and we’ve been able to enjoy them with almost every meal. And the unripened tomatoes on the blighted plants didn’t go to waste as we made another batch of our favourite green tomato chutney. We made some at the end of last year and it’s been our favourite of all the chutney’s we’ve made (although the spiced autumn chutney was awesome too!) so I’m glad we could whip up another batch this time.

With many of our crops having either been already harvested or not yet ready for picking, we turned to some other essential maintenance in the garden. In particular, we decided to prune our trees. On Gardener’s World, Monty Don recommended pruning trees for shape in summer and for growth in the winter, so it was time to do some shaping!

Other than my old secateurs, I didn’t have any tools for the job, so I was keen to try out a Fiskars lopper that I got from tool suppliers Sp8tium, whose ethos is to provide high-quality tools at good prices from an honest supplier. Knowing that’d be tackling both fruit trees and our ornamental trees, I chose a medium bypass lopper that would be capable of cutting fresh living growth.

The eucalyptus trees that we planted early on are now taking over the space and have become very tall in a short amount of time. So, I was pleased that the lopper handles are a good length to provide extra reach, and the tool is lightweight enough for me to hold it up at a good height without getting sore arms. I trimmed away all the gangly branches to create a better shape, and my husband tackled the highest canopy of the tree to reduce the height a little – the branches were almost blocking out the view from our bedroom window!

The fruit trees were also pruned for shape, as it’s important to have ‘open’ apple trees to improve fruit production the following year. We did this last year and have already seen a better yield this year, so I was keen to keep up the good work and prune our apple, plum, crabapple and cherry trees. Plus, I needed to tidy up some of these trees before we could start an important building task behind them…

Although building materials have been in short supply we did manage to do a bit of construction work in the garden this month. The greenhouse that I’d had my eye on had been out of stock since the spring and didn’t show any signs of being available in the near future, so we decided to try to build one ourselves.

We already had some leftover pressure-treated timber from when we built our raised beds and fence a few years ago, so we used some lengths of this to construct a lean-to structure on the back of our patio trellis. We found some used pallets to clad the lower walls and to build the worktop inside.

My husband found some secondhand sheets of polycarbonate roofing on Gumtree for £10, so we repurposed that for the roof and walls. The most expensive part of the build was a pack of screws and some in-fill foam for the ends of the undulating polycarbonate, so we spent no more than £50 in total on DIYing our make-do greenhouse.

It’s certainly keeping our potted-on plants and cuttings happy at the moment and the peppers are doing great in there. I don’t know how well it’ll work over winter but it makes good use of some wasted space at the back of the garden and at the very least it’s a handy potting shed to store our compost, tools and pots.

Finally, produce-wise, we’ve been picking, drying and storing our onion harvest, and have grown our own garlic bulbs for the first time ever! We’ve been eating tomatoes, lettuce, basil, rainbow chard and fresh sweetcorn – or ‘mini pops’ to be precise. This is the first year that we’ve grown those little mini sweetcorn that you can use in a stir-fry and they are absolutely delicious fresh from the garden.

And we haven’t been able to keep on top of the runner bean harvest – we’ve had so many beans that our neighbours, friends and family have all been enjoying bags of them! Likewise with the courgettes; I’ve got a freezer drawer full of them, we’ve eaten them practically every day and have given away dozens to anyone who would eat them!

Although it’s felt a bit like the garden has been slow-going this month, on reflection, we’ve actually enjoyed a lot of fresh produce and have done some storing for winter too, so it’s actually been more productive than I first thought. I’m already looking ahead to next year and have been researching autumn planting for onions, shallots and garlic to keep the garden productive over the winter.

Let me know if you can recommend any online suppliers of sets, seed potatoes, seeds or fruit plants as we’re particularly keen to get some more fruit growing at home too. Please leave me a comment below with your recommendations and tell me how you’re getting on with you own veggie patch. 🙂

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Cassie Fairy

Cassie Fairy

Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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