My page PHD: Paul Hurt Design   More and less recent projects in gardening and construction  includes projects I've carried out in 2022 and this page includes more of them. The projects were carried out before the remarkable heat wave - I found the temperature reached 40 celsius near the allotments - but the work I'd already carried out allowed me to cope with the  weather conditions quite easily.

In recent years, I've installed a range of water-collecting surfaces, some of them diverting water to storage containers and others directly to growing areas. After the heat wave, there was a succession of dull days with plenty of rainfall at times. The surfaces captured some of this water.

The greenhouse I designed and constructed is very, very flexible. Obviously, it raises the internal temperature so that plants grow better in cold and cool conditions, the function of a greenhouse but in a heatwave, I can remove one or more of the 6 large panels (length 3 metres) which are part of the main structure - all the panels, if necessary - so that the temperature inside the greenhouse isn't higher than the temperature outside. Rather than doors, my greenhouse has large openings which are closed with polycarbonate panels. Again, these panels can easily be removed.  Traditional greenhouses have openings to allow ventilation  and the gardener can install shading, but these are inadequate. When the outside temperature is much, much lower than 40 Celsius, the temperature in a traditional greenhouse can easily reach 30 Celsius and beyond, particularly if the greenhouse is small - the smaller air mass quickly reaches excessive temperatures. At these temperatures, growth of the plants slows and stops and the plants may be damaged. When plants flourish better outside a greenhouse than inside a greenhouse, then the question has to be asked, what can be done about it? I'm sure that the design I've produced is the best way to deal with the problem, without recourse to the existing system of retractable roofs - a system which is far less easy to implement than this system.

My system, like the retractable roof system, has advantages for water conservation as well as advantages for reducing or eliminating overheating inside the greenhouse. Once the panels are removed, any rain which does fall will water the plants, without using a hosepipe or watering can. I use the greenhouse mainly for growing tomatoes. Before planting tomatoes, the compost in the growing beds can be exposed to rainwater, making unnecessary the use of mains water.

In my greenhouse, there's also a grapevine (variety 'Regent,' a red grape variety with dual use, producing dessert and wine-making grapes). The greenhouse has an extension with the radical roof I designed. The most important advantage of this roof, a dramatic advantage, I think, is its ease of construction, but another is the fact that it makes implementation of a 'green roof' very easy. Green roofs which require the transport of soil, perhaps tons of soil, from ground level to the roof, with plantings of uninspiring plants, very often, aren't for me. The roof of this greenhouse is covered with the top growth of these grape vines, which are now producing a very good yield of grapes, despite the fact that the vine receives only minimal pruning, and with the growth of hop plants. The variety is 'Target,' used in commercial beer growing. In March, when the allotment produces a very restricted range of crops, the hop shoots of this variety can be harvested and used in cooking. The golden hop plant which I grow against a wall in the lower allotment offers more aesthetic appeal, but without the advantage of edible hop shoots.

When it rains every day or almost every day, then water conservation shouldn't be ignored. This is the time to collect water and to store it. The situation can change dramatically, a surplus can easily become a shortage - or, of course, a surplus can become a devastating surplus, as in the case of catastrophic floods. There are a number of South Yorkshire reservoirs not far from my allotments. The varying water levels are immediately obvious. The image below shows the effect of a previous drought, not extreme drought, on a reservoir a little further away, across the Derbyshire border, Ladybower reservoir.

Above, apart from the courgette on the right, these courgettes have been harvested when they are larger than the optimum. Courgettes left to their own devices for longer begin to turn into marrows and sometimes, a well camouflaged marrow will have grown to enormous size. By that time, it won't be a success when cooked but it does have another use. I've got a number of galvanized water troughs for storing water. Peple without water storage  containers, or not enough storage containers, can consider the advantages of treating large marrows, larger courgettes, squash plants and pumpkin plants as portable storage containers. They are 95% water. People with storage containers can consider the advantage of taking these fruits to an area which needs watering and simply leaving it on the soil surface. I very often have plenty of straw and can cover them with straw. Obviously, this is only useful for long term watering, not for plants which need immediate water to keep them going or resuscitate them. Slicing the marrows or courgettes with a spade will speed up the process of water release.



   Gardening: Heat! Drought! Water shortage! Action! And other recent PhD projects




Below, view from the workshop of the very small back garden (created from a very small back yard) as well as the much smaller garden-on-the-windowsill drought- tolerant, colourful Geraniums (strictly, Pelargonium plants) with, in the centre, blue bin (for paper collection), on the right, top of the brown bin (for glass and cans) and black bin (general waste.) In the foreground, assorted tools and containers containing screws, bolts, router bits and other fixings.  Image included here as a contribution to still life photography.

The long wooden component in the image above is in shadow. Below, an image which reveals the carving on the face. I find this 'wooden component' very, very pleasing, despite the fact that it came from a church.

View of a corner of the workshop and the view through the window.

Below, another view of a corner of the workshop. On the workbench I designed and constructed, a 45 metre long roll of scaffolding sheeting, with various uses, including the construction of water collecting surfaces.


The structure below to the left can be used for work other than pressing apples and splitting wood. The structure can be used for general-purpose storage, such as storage of apples before pressing. The boards are useful as shelving and the upper board can be used (in a standing position) as a work surface. The boards can also be used for displays, as here. The upper boards have now been covered with black, water-resistant material - not that I expect rainfall here, but useful when the area is used for kitchen preparation, of washed fruit and vegetables for example. My actual kitchen has been converted into a workshop, although there's a kitchen area upstairs.

If someone needs to put something somewhere, then the apple-crusher-wood-splitter-general-purpose-piece-of-furniture offers opportunities. Here, the lower level is used, for temporary storage of runner beans (variety, Lady Di) in the basket.

To the right, the table, again covered with black material, gives somewhere to put the plastic basket full of apples (variety, 'Katy,' an early dessert apple which can also be used to produce a crisp cider) and two containers of grapes. The grapes come from the grape vine growing in the greenhouse (variety, Regent, a dual-purpose dessert and wine variety.) The vine is just over 2 years old (full production by the 5th year) and hasn't been pruned. My aim wasn't to achieve the maximum yield of grapes on a compact plant but to add variety to the main section of the greenhouse, which is for growing tomatoes. The grape vine has been trained to grow through the opening in the sloping wall of the South side of the greenhouse, easily made by removing one of the six large panels of this part of the greenhouse, then allowing the grape vine to grow up towards the slightly sloping roof of the extension and then along the roof - a better way of achieving a 'green roof' by far than lifting a heavy weight of compost to the roof and growing a plant like a Sedum there. The grapes growing on the wall and roof are maturing but not ready to pick yet. They've been growing in a cooler, less sheltered position than the grape vines inside the greenhouse.

The floor of the room, of course, is very useful for putting things on.  Here, the upper basket is full of courgettes, the latest instalment of a crop which this year, even more than most years, has produced a glut, big enough to satisfy any gut.

Below, views of the lower allotment in early September:

Rocks in the rockery, most prominent here Cotswold stone glowing
Squash plant fruiting
Golden hops hopping
Nasturtiums flourishing
Squash plant fruiting
Rhubarb, squash and courgette plants not yet in full leaf
Panorama: part of lower allotment seen from road

All but two of the squash plants (variety, Uchiki Kuri) shown in the image below were stolen in late September.) The squash plants are, or were, at the edge of the lower allotment. There's the short allotment boundary wall here and a narrow verge at the base of the wall, next to a road. I was well aware that squashes could be taken. I moved the squashes as far away from the edge as I could and didn't control the nettles and thorny blackberry plants growing on the verge, in front of the wall. I relied upon them to deter any takers. I was disappointed but not surprised when I found the squashes had disappeared.