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Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

Can anyone recommend a good quality cold frame...

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 14:51

... unscrew the hinges from the top rail and leave them attached to the lid, then build the walls, then screw the hinges back onto the top rail.

Two approaches to the lid:

1) classic windowframe, as used in houses, with the pane sandwiched between wooden front and back or, in this case, top and bottom;

2) sheet of acrylic on a wooden frame.

I'm going with option 2. Why? Because it's a lot easier and because option 1 traps a puddle of water on the lid, soaking the top frame at the front edge, warps the lid and grows algae.

You need four lengths of wood. You can use the same stuff as for the walls, or use 2"x1" / 50x25mm (probably more like 45x20mm really) for most of it. These are going to sit along the tops of your walls, so you want 2 that go along the side walls and 2 that fit between them along the front and back, or two along the front and back and 2 that fit between them along the sides. However, I wouldn't go for an exact size match. I'd make this frame "too large." Along the back, use 75x25mm. For the sides and front, use 50x25mm. Bear in mind that 1200x1000mm is the space inside your walls, not the size including the walls, and make the frame overhang outwards, not inwards. That means you want 1200mm + 45mm + 45mm = 1290mm lengths front and back, and 1011 or 1020mm lengths on top of the side walls between them. The extra width of wood at the back will stop your lid going over backwards, but bear in mind that wind is strong, and leave it shut on windy days.

The outer dimensions of this lid frame will be (1200 + 45 + 45 ) x (1011 + 45 + 45)mm or (1200 + 45 + 45 ) x (1020 + 45 + 45)mm so your want at least 1290 x 1101mm or 1290x1110mm of acrylic. I say "at least" for the optional extra to follow. If you go with an exact fit, lay your acrylic down on the wood of the lid frame, square it all up, drill it and screw it down. Don't bother trying to counter-sink acrylic. Use dome-headed screws and those neat little plastic screw head covers. You can also use roof sealant if you want to prevent water getting down around the screws.

Optional extra: give your roof an extra 25mm on the sides and front and an extra 3mm on the back. Put another piece of 45x22mm wood onto each side and the front and screw them to the wood already there. Put a 45mm strip of acrylic over each of these pieces of wood and a 22mm strip over the back piece and glue them. Slightly more water-proof roof! Yeah, that's very optional.

Screw your lid hinges onto the back wall and you're done!

No. Wait. No, you're not. Ventilation, propping open and wind protection are still needed. Sheesh. See? That's what I get for trying to ad-lib this sort of thing.

Wind protection's easy. You just need something to stop the wind lifting the closed lid. One of these should do. Doesn't have to be locked. A bent piece of copper pipe would hold it ... until someone nicks the copper pipe.

Umm ... propping it open ... I'm not getting good ideas using hinges so I'm going with an extra piece and a change to the lid. For the lid, use 75x25mm at the sides too. This gives you about 45mm of overhang down the sides. Under one side, against the wall when the lid's closed, put an 8cm piece of 25x10mm along it. Against the forward half of that, put a 4cm piece of 25x25mm then another 8cm piece of 25x10mm. They should line up with the edge, forming a U-shape open to the rear. On the side wall, put a 12cm piece of 25x25mm horizontally with two 4cm pieces on top of it, forming a wide U-shape. Put a 12cm piece of 50x25mm or marine plywood acros

Can anyone recommend a good quality cold frame...

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 14:50

Homebase or a specialist timber merchant may be willing and able to make those cuts for you. If you have to, you can do it yourself with a carpenter's saw. It may be a bit scruffy, though.

If you do a sloping top with a long diagonal cut, you make right-angle cuts to cut your wood down to size and then put on, from the bottom up, in the case of the 100cmx120cmx525mm and 675mm example, 5 straight pieces 100cm long across the side then one piece that's 50cm straight and 50cm diagonal and one piece that's just 50cm diagonal. To secure that top one, you put a length of your 25cm-square wood along the diagonal. It's going between the corner posts, so it's only doing 850/1000 of the length of the diagonal, so its length is SQR(850^2 + (150x0.85)^2) = 859.5mm, and you need to cut the ends at a slight angle, 3.3mm off the perpendicular if it's 22mm wide, for the ends to fit snugly against 75mm posts.

Using 100mm boards, 500mm front and 700mm back, 5 boards across the front, 7 boards across the back, 5 straight boards and two tapered ones just the same at each side. Sloping rail 855.9mm sides length, 4.4mm offset, 860.3mm total length. Top-down approach: 1020mm length each side, 20mm offset across each end, total length 1040mm.

Why yes, the birds did come round to congratulate me on the neat job I did on their house.

Now for the alternative: putting the scruffy edge at the bottom where it won't show once you sink this thing into a sand bed. This works pretty much the same way but your side planks have to be 1011mm long at each side not 1000mm long, and cut at the ends 11.25mm off square, for total length 1022.43mm. Doing it this way, you start at the top and put on whole planks from top to bottom, then add you diagonally-cut planks and the rail behind them at the base.

Fastening them together: you can use nails, which is cheap and simple and works fine, or you can use screws, which gives you the option to dismantly and reassemble the thing a few times. If you're using screws, drill a hole just wider than the screw and its thread through one part, counter-sink the top of that hole if you're using counter-sunk screws, then assemble everything and drill holes the same size as the screw shaft not including the thread into the other piece of wood, and when you put them in tighten them one half-turn each at a time, rather than tightening one all the way before you start on the next.

So far, we've got four walls in something like a rectangle. If it's actually a rectangle, which you want, the diagonals are equal. The way to make sure this stays true is to brace it diagonally. If you did the "top-down" boards on the side, you can fit horizontal rails at the bottom front and back to match the ones at the sides, then put diagonal pieces across them at the corners. Whichever approach you took to the sides, you can also tie it rectangular by threading thin wire through hooks in the corner posts. Pull them tight, measure the diagonals, adjust the wires as necessary until the diagonals are equal and then tie them securely.

You also need a lid, a hinged lid. Put your piano hinge or two door hinges on the outside of the top rail on the back. You should probably do that before you assemble and position the walls, actually. In fact, you should have this part set up ready to screw back together before you assemble the walls, because it's a bit awkward trying to line up hinges and fight gravity and everything else. Let me think this one through again.

Okay. You make the lid, lay the lid upside-down on your work table, put the top rail along one edge of it, put the hinge(s) on the lid, stand them up against the top rail, screw them to both, check that it does fold back and forth, unscrew the hinges from the top rail and leave them attached to the

Can anyone recommend a good quality cold frame...

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 14:49

Pretty simple construction job, actually quite loose specs. Shouldn't be hard to DIY. Considering the sheds you can get at the garden centre (every ******* door is shorter than I am!) and the bird boxes you can get from that online bird food company (2mm wall thickness, panel pins, torn apart by the first fresh breeze to hit them), you'd probably get a better result by going to the local high school and getting the 15-yr-olds to make one for a woodwork project than you ever would buying one.

The only "precision engineering" part is putting two door hinges onto the lid with colinear axes *ahem* is putting two door hinges onto the lid in a straight enough line. Simple answer to this: get a piano lid hinge instead and use that. Homebase sell 'em.

Two approaches to dimensions:

1) Decide exactly how big you want it, and make it that size.

2) Decide how big it has to be and how big it mustn't be, look at what's available and make something between those two sizes.

You should be able to get bundles of something like 3"x1" / 75mmx25mm or 4"x1" / 100mmx25mm pressure-treated wood. Get the "planed, square edge" stuff. The "sawn" is cheaper but you end up planing it yourself to make it fit. That or you could go for marine plywood. If it can handle the sea, it should be able to handle rain. You can also get 3"x2" or 3"x3" / 75mm square wood in 8ft / 240cm lengths that's been treated to last for years even in contact with wet mud. They call them "fenceposts." Marvellous things for a job like this. There's also 1" / 25mm square. It won't be exactly that once it's been planed. More like 22mm. You'll need that too. Homebase sell "indoor only" 2mm acrylic and thicker "outdoor" acrylic sheets in huge sizes, or you can order acrylic or polycarbonate sheets in just about any thickness and size online from somewhere like if you don't have a way to fetch the big sheets home yourself.

Side note: buy some acrylic sheets, some polycarbonate sheets and some glue and stick them together in alternating layers and you've got yourself a projectile-resistant window (sometimes inaccurately called "bullet-proof glass") but the glue may make the view a bit milky and distorted.

If you're using 75mm-wide wood, some obvious heights are 300mm, 375mm, 450mm, 525mm, 600mm and 675mm. With 100mm, obvious heights are obvious. If you're using plywood, some obvious heights are half its width and a quarter of its width. If it's in 240cm lengths, you could go for a really small 40cm x 80cm frame, an 80cm x 120cm frame (European standard pallet size), a 100cm x 120cm frame (same size as a standard GKN blue pallet), a 100cm x 140cm frame or even a stonking great 120cm x 240cm frame without having lots of little end-bits left over. Using the 240cm fenceposts for corners, 525mm at the front and 675mm at the back are obvious choices because then you exactly use up 1 fencepost.

If you want to be really fancy, you can make your cuts at 45-degree angles so the wood nicely meets at all the corners rather than having a vertical notch down it. I call this overdoing it. It's easy to get this wrong and leave an unsightly hole ... also known as a ladybird hibernation home! Go for it! Wildlife gardening for the win!

The front and back walls are pretty simple. For a 525mm front wall 120cm long, you need 7 120cm lengths of 75mm-wide wood. For a 675mm back wall 120cm long, you need 9 120cm lengths of 75mm-wide wood. That's 8 240cm lengths cut across the middle. Simple.

The side walls introduce a problem: the sloping top. Gardengirl encountered this. Saws just don't like going at shallow angles to the grain. You can make that cut. An electric jigsaw will do it as long as you're very patient and go slowly, or you can use a table saw. Homebase or a specialist timber merchant may be wi


Posted: 10/01/2015 at 13:01

Just imagine it with a female presenter!   It would be all annuals and "that's pretty", flowers on boots and flower arranging. 

I would love to see a series of progs presented by Adrian Bloom on perennials and other expert growers and breeders of hellebores, heleniums, etc etc.

Nah, mate. You want a real man to persent it! Get that Bear Grylls fellow in. He knows his stuff! We could have a little crocodile farm over there and a snake pit in this corner so you'd always have protein to eat and somewhere to store your pee until you needed a drink, a few pine trees so you could build a shelter under one for winter, a nice big fallen log to use as a chopping block for your firewood, a bit of swamp where you could catch catfish using your own fingers as bait ...

You wouldn't need a house any more, so you could have a bigger garden, too.

Of course, you'd need to have a suite at a 4-star hotel just down the road and only garden while the TV crew's around.

plum tree or pear tree?!

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 12:54

I was told not to bother planting pear trees as I don't have children, so there won't be any of my grandchildren around to enjoy the fruit when the thing finally produces some. I think that was old-fashioned advice from before everything was a graft from an older tree, but it stuck.

Last Victoria plum tree I saw lost branches to the weight of all the fruit ripening simultaneously. Owner was giving away carrier bags full of ripe plums to try to get them into humans faster than they'd go off.

Pear orchard in Austria a couple of years ago produced more fruit than anyone could harvest. I walked down a country lane beside it, walking in the wheel-tracks through ankle-deep pear, with bees, wasps, hoverflies, udder flies and everything else on lacy wings swarming around me. I took this as an invitation to help myself from the trees.

Wasps? Only been stung once, and that was by one that got caught between scarf and neck while I was riding a motorbike. Itched for a while. Had one on my lips once, chasing food I'd already eaten. I just waited until she'd had her fill from what was still on my lips or given up, whichever it was, and flew off, then I carried on eating. She didn't come back for more. They're fine, really ... unless they get drunk eating fermenting plums, of course ...

Windy - get your pots secure...

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 12:47

Violent storm, Beaufort Scale force 11, was forecast for Portsmouth. Yesterday morning I got an invitation to a party there today. I'm glad I wasn't driving last night. Heard chainsaws around midnight, so I guess a big tree went into the road somewhere near here. Another one has blocked a road a few miles away, and I've just been cutting up the huge branches that blew off the big, old pines across the road. Only direct damage here I've noticed is that two plant pots blew over. I hope my rose cuttings can survive that. It would be annoying to lose them.

Need to replace what I think is box

Posted: 10/01/2015 at 12:43

I guess the plant did hear you after all, nutcutlet:

 It's still got 2 years' leaves, but it's flowered.

Brugmansia cuttings.

Posted: 08/01/2015 at 22:31

Can't wait to start mine off. But I will have to wait for,wRmer temperatures  as I don't have a garage or GH.  I bought some seed late last year (still seems funny saying last year) of a white variety.   I had a peachy coloured one a few years ago, huge blooms and an absolutley heavenly perfume, especially of a warm evening. (Is that right ....of a warm evening ?  I'm getting paranoid now after someone posted about being grammatically correct  )


I can't wait to start mine off, but I will have to wait for, warmer temperatures as I don't have a garage or GH.  I bought some seed of a white variety late last year. It still seems funny saying it was last year.  I had a peachy-coloured one a few years ago, with huge blooms and an absolutley heavenly perfume, especially of a warm evening.


I have fixed that for you.

If you think it's funny saying you got some seeds last year, hold onto your seat for this line: "I had a girlfriend last millennium ... "

Bringing a bland wall to life

Posted: 08/01/2015 at 22:26

 A serious idea? No, it's just a ... wait.

 That's symmetrical! That's an actual thing! I thought it was just a display of wall-hooked pots.


That was their actual display of a decorated wall, not just a shop front?

 Bad! Wrong! Also wrong and bad.

They'd have done better to paint it olive green, stencil M*A*S*H 4077th on it and drape a cam net over it. Seriously.



Hawkeye agrees with me. Oh, wow. Hawkeye!


Room 101

Posted: 08/01/2015 at 22:11

Well, you're not missing anything. They're on TV. That's enough information for you to know you're not missing anything. I don't watch any of them, and I'm not missing anything either!

Actually, Horizon and London's Burning should both have tags on them for "since they stopped being good." Thinking about it, Garfield and Fred Bassett can go on there, too, with the same tag on Garfield.

If I get really, really bored, I may yet acquire the Horizon thing about mega-tsunamis and edit out the good stuff. I'd put all of one kind of crap together, then all of another kind of crap, then all of a third kind of crap. In the end, it'd be about 40 minutes long rather than an hour, and it'd be PURE CRAP.

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