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Steeltech Greenhouse diary

The site
Our old glasshouse was in need of dismantling, as it was over 20 years old and missing a few panes of glass.
The site was south facing and level, a great start for any site. I had a tap outside the door which would also be very useful in the near future.


Preparing for base
After carefully dismantling the old glasshouse and taking the metal and glass to the recycling centre, the site was now ready for installing the base. I inspected the blocks used in the base of the old glasshouse and found they were in good condition, so decided to use some of them for the new base. Working from the back left corner, I installed wooden 4’ x 2’ boards, 6” longer on the inside measurement than the finished dimensions of the ordered greenhouse (3M x 3M). The corners were screwed together at this stage with 6” removable screws. I made sure to keep the wooden frame level at all times, and found using some builders sand on the base very useful to raise the boards where needed. To get the frame square, I measured the frame from diagonal corners and adjusted until each measurement was the same. Once I was happy the frame was level and square, I hammered 2, 3’ lengths of metal bar along the outside of each board to stop it bulging once the concrete was putting pressure on the inside of the wooden boards. I put hazard tape and old pipe on the ends of the metal so they would be safer to work around as I spread the concrete.

The next step was to mix the concrete that would be used to prepare the final base that the greenhouse would be attached to. I used a standard foundation mix of 1 part cement to 6 parts sand and grit. I found mixing small batches in my wheelbarrow keeping it dry until the contents were mixed together, and then adding small amounts of water, keeping it on the dry side and not too wet the best method. Using a hand trowel, I placed the concrete on the inside of the wooden boards and used the tops of the wooden boards as a guide for making the top of the strip level. I made the strip foundation around 8” wide, so with the extra 3” on the outside measurement , 1” for the greenhouse base, there would be around 4” of base on the inside of the greenhouse. At this stage, the builders sand on the inside of the site was very useful as a temporary retaining wall to stop the wet concrete from spilling inside the strip, and been wasted. I planned to use raised beds inside the greenhouse and wanted the roots to be able to reach the open ground under the greenhouse. Another option would have been to prepare a solid concrete pad at this stage, as you would if planning a shed. After 4 days drying time, I removed the wooden boards and metal bars, leaving a fresh strip foundation. I was now ready for delivery!

Installing the greenhouse
I had ordered the 3M x 3M greenhouse from Steeltech sheds 6 weeks earlier. They told me there would be a 6-8 weeks waiting time after placing the order and true to their word on the 12th of February, a very friendly crew of 3 arrived with pre constructed greenhouse panels on the back of their small truck. Watching them work was a pleasure, as they obviously had done this hundreds of times before. After screwing the four wall panels to the base, there was hardly time to take a picture and they were on to the two roof panels!

Once the roof had been attached, a metal ridge capping was installed using a generous amount of strong screws. They told me that these green houses were built to withstand the Irish weather and indeed there are a few Steeltech greenhouses braving the winds on the Arran islands! If in doubt, check out the owner of Steeltech sheds, Sean Brett demonstrating this with a hilarious take on the failed Tesla cyber truck demonstration last year, with his own, Sledge Hammer Proof Polycarbonate Greenhouse! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zoc9EfhgUQ

In less than an hour, the final few finishing touches were been added including a clever window that would prove a great addition for air circulation as the temperatures increased in the coming months.

Preparing the raised beds
The next step was to prepare the raised beds. I decided to use untreated wooden boards, 8” x 4”, as these beds were for growing food in, and I was concerned about possible leaching of unwanted chemicals from treated sleepers into the soil that would be growing the vegetables. My local saw mill selected some excellent Lawson cypress trunks, as these have super long rot resistance if in contact with the ground. Once I decided on the size and shape of the raised beds, I cut the timbers to size and used the lip of concrete on the inside as a level guide, to bolt the 8 timbers together. I then filled the middle area with large stones, as this would be the path, and needed to be raised.

Filling the raised beds
Deciding what to fill the beds with is a very important decision. I would recommend as much organic material as possible. I started with 12 wheelbarrows of topsoil that I had from a previous project. This was mixed with the builder’s sand on the base and some extra grit for improved drainage.


Next was a wheelbarrow of compost from our compost bin, including hundreds of healthy worms, and millions of soil microbes, which are a gardener’s best friend.


Healthy plants need great soil, and the permaculture saying of “feed the soil, not the plants” is a great principle to go by when deciding how to build a healthy soil. I chose organic manure, an organic chicken pellet fertiliser including seaweed dust and potash as well as an organic multipurpose compost for the final layer for the young plants to be planted into. This layer would be slow to grow any unwanted weeds, as the bagged compost and manure is heat treated, which is why the added soil microbes and worms from the first layer would soon mix with the final layer. At this stage I also put the final finish of sharp gravel on the path (which slugs and snails hate to travel over). There was about 4” of height left on the boards, to add more soil in the coming growing seasons.


The first plants
I was now ready to plant! The first three plants were going to be permanent features in the greenhouse, and these were placed on the eastern wall, so as not to shade the vegetables in the afternoon. I chose the self fertile Grape ‘Vanessa’, which I plan to train into the roof to give some shade for certain crops in later summer as well as lovely grapes. Next were a self fertile Peach and Nectarine to train espalier along the eastern wall. I plan to help pollinate these with the aid of a paintbrush as they flower.
I planted rows of beetroot, marked with a line of vermiculite, which also covered the fine seeds.


In another corner I planted a few sugar snap peas, to be grown up a climbing wigwam I had left over from the previous growing season.

At this stage I also planted out a few lines of Lettuce, Baby and PakChoi, perpetual spinach and Rocket, all started a few weeks earlier in modules. I also planted two rows of onion sets, a few spring garlic and some French shallots.


The future
In the near future, my plan is to plant out Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Coriander, Basil, Peppers and Chillies in the remaining space. All these plants have now been started and are growing on in modules until they are large enough to be planted into the raised beds. As the lettuce goes to seed or is eaten as the weather gets hotter, I will replace where needed.
As you can see, the possibilities are up to your imagination and taste regarding what you decide to use your own greenhouse for. Watch this space for more updates and in the mean time, happy growing!

After 3 weeks we were harvesting our first lettuce!

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COVID19 UPDATE!

We are now open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday.

We are in a privileged position to offer our customers plenty of space outdoors, which makes adhering to the HSE social distancing measures easy.

Over the last 2 days our customers have been fantastic at respecting each other’s space and have been a total pleasure to work with.

If you are not comfortable leaving your car, we will help you to the best of our ability from the comfort of your car.

We have some simple guidelines in place which we ask you to kindly respect when visiting.

1. Keep in mind the minimum 2m social distance at all times
2. We accept contactless card payment only
3. The shop is out of bounds – if you require something from inside just ask
4. Only touch what you plan to bring home with you.
5. Children and pets are to remain in the vehicle.
6. Most of all enjoy your visit!

Thank you to all of our customers for being so patient and for your continued support in these challenging times!

Warm Regards,

Noah, Maya, Bill, Rain and all the Deelish staff!

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Deelish Garden Centre closed to public for now

Dear Gardeners,

After today’s Government announcement, we feel it would be irresponsible and inconsiderate to remain open to the public for the time being.

We have built up great relationships and friendships with generations of visitors to Deelish over the years and care too much about their safety. So after 36 years of serving our dear customers, to the best of our ability, we have made the very difficult decision to temporarily close our gates.

We will continue to offer our online ordering system using An Post and Fastway Couriers, via our website at www.deelish.ie and via our email address sales@deelish.ie for essential gardening supplies. We will endeavour to respond as quickly as we can, but your patience is always appreciated. We plan to leave orders prepaid pick up orders, for collection at a designated pick up spot and time here at the garden centre, however please respect the Taoiseach’s advice regarding any unnecessary travel.

Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram for latest news!

Stay safe, stay at home!

Lots of love,

Deelish

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The Natural Gardener – Soft Fruit

Here in West Cork we have fantastic growing conditions for all types of soft fruit. Even a novice gardener should be able to get great returns from just a few plants. Kids (and adults) will be delighted to feast on the tastiest fruit grown in their own gardens! Even with the smallest garden you will be able to find somewhere to grow some soft fruit, unlike fruit trees, which can take up lots of space .

This time of year is the best season to plant soft fruit, as plants have a great chance to establish strong roots, without any chance of drying out! There is also the largest range of varieties available at the best prices, as many are sold as bare root.

Listed below are some of the most popular as well as some more unusual, with information on planting and after care. They are all tried and tested with feedback from our customers here at Deelish garden centre. We also stock a range of more unusual soft fruits including; hardy paw-paw, chilean guava, feijoa, cape gooseberries, mulberry, figs, passion fruit and dead man’s fingers!

Blackberry, Wineberry, Tayberry, Loganberry, Sunberry & Boysenberry: A selection of these fruits can provide fresh berries from early July until the first severe frosts occur in the autumn. They provide a variety of flavours ranging from that of the true blackberry to those arising from crosses between raspberry with blackberry and other Rubus species. Plant in well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade. Grow them on wires against a fence or wall, or as single plants up a post. Space at least 6ft/2m apart. Cut back to 10in/25cm straight after planting to promote fresh growth from the base. During autumn or winter each year remove canes that have fruited to ground level and train and tie in the new growth that has grown up from the base during the summer. In late spring cut out the tips of the leading canes to promote the growth of extra fruiting laterals.

Blueberry: Blueberries, a well known ‘superfruit’ grown for their health-boosting properties can be a tasty and attractive addition to the garden. In the autumn the bushes turn crimson, adding brilliant colour to what can otherwise be a dull season. In the spring the bushes are covered in masses of sweet scented dainty white bell shaped flowers. The soil in west Cork generally gives them the acidic conditions they require. If you do not have the appropriate soil, they should be grown in containers using an ericaceous compost. Two varieties should usually be planted to improve pollination and ensure a good set of flowers under adverse weather conditions. Plant 3ft/1m apart in a sheltered position in free-draining ericaceous soil in full sun/partial shade. In winter, cut out any damaged or dead branches. It is also recommended that each year a few old stems that have borne fruit are cut hard back to promote new growth in the following spring. They will thrive from an annual mulching of pine needles or similar acidic mulches.

Cranberry: Cranberries add a tangy flavour to everything from stuffing and sauces to drinks and barbecues. Best grown at the edge of a pond, otherwise in a container or raised bed lined with plastic which has been pierced so that water is retained but not allowed to stagnate. Incorporate plenty of moss peat when planting and water regularly with soft (rain) water. Space about 1ft/30cm apart.

Currants: Closely related to the gooseberry, currants have a markedly different flavour and use. Currants produce insignificant flowers followed by long strings of shiny berries, with a sharp flavour. Plant them in moisture retentive soil in an open position in full sun or partial shade. Avoid planting in a position where the bushes might catch a late spring frost which will damage any emerging leaves and new growth. Space currant bushes 3-4ft/1-1.25m apart, apart. After planting, cut blackcurrants down to 3-4in/8-10cm above ground level, and cut the stems of red and white currants back by about half. Blackcurrants fruit on new wood so aim to remove a third of the old wood each year, taking out at or near ground level the oldest branches (those with the darkest wood). Unlike Blackcurrants, Red and White currants fruit on two year old wood so require only that the leading shoots are shortened by about half each year to encourage branching. If and when the bush becomes crowded, remove the occasional branch to open it up to allow air to circulate more freely.

Gooseberry & Jostaberry: The gooseberry is the first fruit of the season. The fruit should be thinned in late May and the thinnings used for cooking. The remainder should be left to swell near to full size and then used for pies, jamming and freezing. Jostaberrys were produced by crossing a blackcurrant and gooseberry. The berries resemble a large blackcurrant, but are about twice their size. Plant in deep, well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade. Avoid planting in shallow soil which dries out in summer as this will result in poor sized fruit. Also avoid sites liable to catch late spring frosts. Space bushes 4ft/1.25m apart Jostaberries 6ft/2m.Cut stems back by about half after planting. This is very important for successful establishment. Try to build up a well-shaped bush by annually cutting out crossing branches from the centre in the spring before bud break. Also cut out any diseased or damaged wood.

Goji Berries: Goji berries are the latest ‘must have’ fruit and are said to boost your immune system, contain more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than steak and play an important role in traditional Chinese medicine. Plant 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart. Goji berries are self fertile and are easy to grow and thrive even in poor soil. Flowers and fruit are formed on the stems that grew in the previous year, so pruning aims to encourage the production of this wood. Prune lightly in early spring, removing dead and badly-placed shoots.

Grapes: Grapes are very hardy and the breeding and selection of varieties has progressed so far in the last ten years, that it is now possible to plant a range of varieties suitable for growing under cover and outdoors. If we get more summers like 2018, we may see a West cork wine company in the future! They will give the best results if planted and trained against a south facing wall; they will also do well when trained onto a horizontal wire support away from any wall. When grown under glass or plastic, vines can be planted outside and brought in through the wall. Vines should be spaced 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart. Many a book has been written about pruning grapes and there are various methods to choose from depending on where you are growing them. Fruit will be produced on new growth, so pruning is needed for a good crop. The main pruning time is early winter. Pruning later can cause the vine to bleed sap, weakening the plant. Training and pinching out of new shoots, as well as thinning of fruits, is carried out in spring and summer.

Honeyberry: The fruits are very similar to blueberries in taste and looks, and can be eaten raw or used in jams and jellies. Like blueberries they are high in antioxidants and vitamin C and make an interesting addition to your fruit collection. Plant 3ft/1m apart in spring when there is no risk of frost, this allows the plant to get established over the following summer. They do not mind acidic or alkaline soil which makes them a great alternative for gardeners who struggle to grow blueberries. Young plants only need dead material removed for the first three years while they get established. For more established honeyberries, pruning should be done in early to mid-summer after harvesting. At least one other variety will be needed for pollination. It may be worth considering pollination by hand to increase yield of fruit.

Kiwi: The Chinese Gooseberry is a very hardy twining climber and can be cropped outdoors wherever grapes grow. Baby Kiwis (Actinidia arguta) are edible, grape-sized fruit similar to kiwi fruit in taste and appearance, but are green, brownish, or purple with smooth skin. Often sweeter than the kiwifruit, baby kiwi fruit can be eaten whole and do not need to be peeled. It is important that the bush is given very good shelter from the prevailing winds. Bushes are excellent for covering old walls and should be planted at least 5.5m (18ft) apart. Some varieties are self fertile, others need a male and female for pollination. In winter, cut existing laterals back to three or four buds beyond the last fruited stems. Each year cut back about one-quarter to one-third of the oldest laterals to a bud around 5cm (2in) from the main stem. New growth will be produced from this stub in the growing season.

Lingonberry: The Lingonberry is from the same family as the blueberry and cranberry and therefore enjoys the same acid soil conditions. They are Ideal for growing in pots in an ericaceous compost and are evergreen and self fertile. They have a natural spreading habit and are particularly useful as an under planting around blueberries.

Raspberry: Raspberries are really delicious, but very expensive to buy fresh in shops. A single cane (costing just over €1) can produce over 2kg. Of fruit! Plant in deep, rich well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. Space canes 15-18in/40-45cm apart. Allow 4-6ft/1.25-2m between rows of summer-fruiting varieties (summer fruiting varieties will need a support) and at least 6ft/2m between rows of autumn-fruiting varieties. Dig the planting hole deep enough so that the root sits in the soil with the previous soil mark just below the soil surface, back fill and firm in. Cut back Regular canes to 2in/5cm above soil level after planting (these off cuts can easily be used as cuttings to produce more canes). Keep well watered until canes get established and add an annual top dress of organic fertiliser in the spring. Do not hoe in the planting area to remove weeds. Pick weeds by hand. The growing shoots of the Raspberry plant grow from underneath the soil. Hoeing could chop off these growing shoots resulting in canes dying. Summer-fruiting varieties fruit on canes produced in the previous year. After fruiting, cut out the old, fruited wood in autumn/winter and tie in the new growths to the support. Autumn-fruiting varieties fruit on canes produced in the current year. After cropping, these should be cut down to ground level to promote the growth of new canes.

Rhubarb: Rhubarb has been cultivated in Irish gardens since the late sixteenth century. Its leafstalks can be stewed or used for making preserves. Plant about 21/2-3ft/75-90cm apart in an open, sunny position in moisture retentive soil that has been enriched with well-rotted manure or organic matter prior to planting. Over the years the crown may begin to spread. To keep it producing healthy growth for long it will need to be divided, which can be done during winter-time (at a time when the ground isn’t frozen). This is done by digging up either the whole clump or a section of it, cutting it into smaller pieces, and then re-planting each bit in an area with a bit more space.

Strawberries, Framberry & Pineberry: Strawberries are most children’s and some adults favourite soft fruit! Pineberry is a white strawberry cultivar with a pineapple-like flavour, white colour, and red seeds, great for confusing hungry birds!. Framberry grows like, looks, and is classified as a strawberry, but has a distinctively different flavour, somewhere between that of a raspberry and a strawberry combined. Plant them in an open, sunny position in soil which is rich in humus. Set plants 18in/45cm apart in rows 30in/75cm apart. After planting, water thoroughly. If no rainfall occurs during the first few weeks after they have been planted, water regularly to keep the soil moist until plants re-establish. Replace with fresh, certified stock (or your own ‘runners’) in a new bed or a different part of the garden every 3-4 years. Strawberry ‘runners’ (baby plants on the ends of stalks) should be potted on next to the mother plant to increase the number of plants or cut off, giving the plant more energy to produce fruit.

All the soft fruit (as well as fruit trees) mentioned will produce much more fruit with the application of potash as a top dressing in late winter or early spring. This will help the plants produce more flowers and fruit. Potash will also help strengthen plants and make them resistant to extreme weather and diseases. An excellent source of potash is found in pure wood ash from your fireplace (not mixed with coal or briquettes),just spread on the ground around the plant and the rain will wash it down to the roots.

During the growing season an organic fertiliser and or mulch with added seaweed will add much needed nitrogen and trace elements for leaf growth and overall health of the plants. Fresh compost will make an excellent mulch around the base of the plants (keep it a few inches away from the stem), as this will contain earthworms and soil microbes.

If there are long periods of dry weather, regular watering is advised, especially for freshly planted fruit. Organic liquid fertilisers can also be added at this stage for a quick feed.

Fruit nets are sometimes needed to keep the birds from eating your buds and fruit before you get a chance to! Regular checking of the netting is needed to make sure they do not find a way in. If using a pest or fungal control on your fruit bushes, be sure to buy an organic product, or make your own. Always wait at least a week before eating any fruit after applying the product.

All that is left to do now, is to choose which of the above soft fruit is for you, plant it as soon as possible and enjoy your tasty rewards this summer! And remember, gardening doesn’t have to cost the earth!