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Just occasionally I’m not so much a gardener as a builder. When you’re developing a garden, the first several stages involve an awful lot of digging, lugging stone around and construction – it all seems to take ages and hasn’t got a great deal to do with plants. But if you have the patience to do it, it’s worth it.

I’ve been struggling to manage in recent years without a decent coldframe, so this spring I’ve decided to bite the bullet and make myself a super-deluxe model, the entire length of my 8′ greenhouse and about 3’6″ from front to back. This is not small for a coldframe – but then my greenhouse is already groaning with seedlings and I’ve only just started early sowings, so I do need the extra space!

As you’ll see in the picture, the first step, before I so much as banged in a nail, was to sort out the area where the coldframe was to go. There were two blackcurrant bushes here, which were always a bit close to the greenhouse for comfort, so I moved them to the allotment this winter. I had to hoick out a spare gooseberry bush, too – not such a well-thought-out manoevre as I hadn’t anywhere to put it. Luckily I’ve got two more to the right of this area, so I’m not exactly going to go short.

Then I marked out the area and dug it down to half-a-spade’s depth. This is a really useful depth for hard landscaping – it does for paths, patios… pretty much anything, really.

Next I edged the area with boards – I used 4″ boards, but you can use standard gravel boards which are 6″. These were attached to short stakes at the corners and checked for straightness with a spirit level.

I roughly levelled out the earth inside the boards, and then put down some weed-suppressing membrane, stapled to the boards on the inside to about 1/2″ from the top (you can just about see the edges in the picture). And, finishing touch, about 9 bags of gravel from the local DIY store. This means you can level it easily, and the coldframe isn’t resting on bare earth – which means it won’t rot so quickly, either.

Next instalment… the start of the woodwork!

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