It all began in an energetic spring. Lockdown was a mere six weeks old and after a lovely April spent outdoors painting anything made of wood my attention drifted to seed sowing and hardening off.
I only have two window sills and two indoor cupboard tops on which to start off my seedlings. No, I have no greenhouse nor a conservatory. And this year, on top of all the extra chores such as sanitising frequently-touched surfaces, washing all groceries under the tap, sorting my husband’s meds and arranging workmen to do whatever workmen do, I got tired of taking my trays of seedlings in and out of the house twice a day, uncovering them for slightly longer periods, and I decided I needed a greenhouse. But, better than that, a new shed with a greenhouse front.
Hey presto! Such a thing as a potting shed seemed the ideal solution. My aunt was quite adamant in her specifications for such a new potting shed. Was it cladded? Was it lined? How many windows opened?
And where would I purchase it? I sorted out all the fine details she’d itemised. Then got on to a-man-who-constructs-sheds.
He came to look at the site I’d chosen for the new potting shed. The sun was at the right angle and should bring on my beans and tomatoes a treat.
‘No, no, no. That won’t do. There’s no room,’ he said.
( No room? There was a huge gravelled area at the top of our garden doing nothing).
‘And look at that slope.’
I couldn’t see a slope.
‘What about the cherry tree?’ I ventured expecting the answer “We can dig it up and replant it”.
‘I’ll get my chain saw to it, leave a small stump. Burn the rest.’
I almost passed out in horror.
These were not the responses I was expecting.
‘But I can do you a small shed in that space over there. On a gravel floor.’
He pointed to a dark corner I hadn’t even considered.
‘I want a solid base.’ I said. (What was the point of a wet gravel floor? Everything would get wet! And what had happened to my idea of a potting shed?)
‘Difficult,’ he muttered.
I would not be put off.
‘There’s another place we could put a potting shed. A second shed,’ I said, showing the less-than-enthusiastic workman a paved, flat area. He looked and measured and kicked a few slabs. And eventually he agreed that would work. Except there is already a shed there.
‘What if we move the old shed up to the gravelled area?’ said I, still foolishly optimistic.
‘Nah. Only good for firewood. It’ll fall apart if we move it. It’s rotten through. Not a bit of good.’ Great!
I felt rather more deflated after this last exchange. And the question of moving our water butt created such problems that I wondered if I’d actually ever taken ‘A’ level physics. Maybe I had absolutely no comprehension of how water travels. Was it me?
We left it that a small shed could be erected on the gravelled area with a new concrete base and I would order the shed myself and get back to him. I felt somewhat dismayed. I’d wanted a potting shed - in the sun!
Suddenly it was the end of August. And it was a filthy, cold, wet day. I put the same questions, queries, plans for my shed(s) and my preferred solutions to a friend of ours. He could see no issue with what I suggested and within days the site of shed number one was ready. He had carefully dug up the cherry tree and moved it to a pre-fertilised plot for me. No chain saw nor burning required. He also shifted my water butt and rerouted the guttering. My idea worked perfectly. Yes. I did do ‘A’ level physics after all. My raised beds were also shifted and that made space for a 1.83x1.83m shed. (6ft x 6 ft in old money).Thank you my friend. If you are reading this you know who you are.
And no-one had to burn a perfectly healthy, pretty cherry tree or worry about a wet gravel shed floor nor uproot precious rose shrubs or worry about a sloping shed roof to allow the guttering to meet the water butt at the right point.
Stage one was over.
After a beautiful April when the year was young and the sun was shining who would have imagined how hard it would be to even get the garden site ready for just the one shed? It was the devil that in August the weather had turned against us. Friend number one had shovelled so much soil in damp, drizzly, murky conditions he looked like he’d been in a rugby scrum. Friend number two (DFL - down from London ) trimmed an enormous rambling rose and cut it up into little pieces for the green waste bin and changed her rain hat at least twice. I changed my outdoor coat three times. And I was merely transporting garden waste. Not digging nor hacking back.The bloody rain did not let up. But we finally managed to organise the garden such that at least one shed could be sited and be used effectively. April, May, June, July and now August. Back in the spring I’d had such plans...
And what had happened to my dream of a potting shed? I wanted storage, windows, staging and a side door. When had my idea - from last April - been derailed?
It seems I needed two sheds. One for boring things ie a dry shelter for garden tools, tarpaulins, vegetable fleece, a riddle, the cat basket, a wheelbarrow etc And the other - a potting shed - for fun creativity: for sowing my seeds, for potting on, for hardening off, for ripening. In short to cut out the work of transporting seedlings and young plants from inadequate window ledges to the outdoors and back again morning and night for six weeks during April and May.
Today, dear reader, it is October 19th. And I’ve managed to order one shed. Friend number one collected sand, cement and concrete blocks to make the base. Way hay. We were in business. Or so I thought.
Can you deliver the shed? Yes. Can you bring the shed sections through the back gate to the gravelled area? Yes, madam, we can. Can I have a double door on my shed? Yes. And when can you deliver? The website says 2-4 weeks.
‘You’re looking at 10-12 weeks, madam.’
‘January?’ I asked, my heart sinking.
‘If I also want a potting shed ready for next April when should I put the order in?’
‘I’d say the end of November.’
‘Thank you. I’ll do that.’
By the time I get my two sheds a covid-19 vaccine will have been found. And I’ll feel about a hundred. But I’ll be two-sheds-better off.
Marvellous! Excitement over. We’ll be in a new decade by the time these garden constructions are in situ. And I haven’t even mentioned what the workman said about coming over to make the concrete base nor my husband’s reaction to all this change. That’s, as they say, a whole other story. Friend number one is taking over and starting footings and preliminary painting work this week, while the weather is still open. In March 2021 I may have a potting shed delivered. Better not get my hopes up though!
Perhaps I could rewrite ‘War and Peace’ while I’m waiting.
(Is it me? Is it?)