Welcome to our blog

AnneHoeing1

Welcome to the Access blog, where you can find all sorts of hints and tips about gardening with the Access range of Mini greenhouse, Cold frames and Raised Beds. We do hope that you will find our blog a useful source of information – and even inspiration!

In part, our blog was inspired by all of the customers we meet at the shows. We love talking to customers and helping them make the most of their garden and growing under glass, so we thought it might be a good idea to share our hints and tips with a wider audience!

Blogging is a two way thing, so we would love to hear from our customers about their experiences with our products – or just gardening in general. Feel free to add your thoughts to our blog.

Matthew writes:

I work on the technical side, and I am really proud of the high quality range of products we manufacture. My contributions to the blog include tips on where to site your cold frame and mini greenhouse, the benefits of our design and hints and tips on using and caring for your Cold Frame.

Anne writes:

I am a keen gardener and live in the village where Access is based. I help out at the shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court, and have a number of Cold Frames and a Mini greenhouse in my garden. My blog entries concentrate on what you can grow in your garden using the Access Cold Frames and Mini greenhouses. I also have my own blog  – Annes Garden Blog, where I have a wide range of articles and recipes as well.

The ideal greenhouse for an urban garden

DSC_9575aUrban gardens are often too small for a vegetable patch, so why not combine a small greenhouse with a place to grow salad crops and herbs?

The Access Growhouse with raised timber bed is ideal for the patio – it only takes up 4′ x 2′ of ground space (1.2m x 0.6m) but gives room inside for growing soil based crops and also growing on plants in pots and seed trays using the built in shelves.

Simply place the wooden base on the patio or on a balcony and fill with good quality compost. The Growhouse then sits on the base and protects the plants from the elements. The glass on the Growhouse will trap the warmth of the early Spring sun and warm the soil in the base, allowing early crops to be planted. With 16 square feet of growing space a variety of salad crops and herbs can be grown from seed, and in the south of England cropping can take place almost all year round. In the Summer crops such as tomatoes, peppers, chillies or aubergines can be grown under the glass. The front and roof panels can be slid open to prevent overheating on warm summers’ days.

As space is so limited in an urban garden, the shelving system provides extra growing space in the Spring, with space on the shelves for 10 full sized seed trays. If salad growing is your thing, then lettuce seedlings can be started off in a seed tray, ready for transplanting into the soil when earlier lettuce crops are harvested.

Comparing the competition

DSC_9462aDesigned for a bit more height, the Access Midi Growhouse provides plenty of space between the adjustable seed tray shelves and also gives enough height to enable bush tomatoes to be grown inside the Growhouse during the Summer months. It’s size is similar to the many low cost Growhouses on the market, but we think it is worth paying that bit extra to get all of the benefits of an Access Growhouse.

Competitor’s features

Solid backs – many Growhouses have a solid back to them. Although a Growhouse is often placed in front of a wall or hedge, some light can still enter the Growhouse at the back so we make all of our Growhouses with a glass back to maximise the amount of light inside. Wooden growhouses especially are often very dark at the bottom, so nothing will grow in that position.

Hinged Doors – a Growhouse with hinged opening doors has a number of disadvantages. Hinged doors generally can only be secured in the fully open or fully closed position. If they are left partially open then the doors will flap and bang in the wind. Wooden hinged doors can also warp quite quickly making them difficult to close. Hinged doors can also be a nuisance in restricted spaces, as they have to open outwards into the area where you are standing. By contrast the Access sliding door design ensures nothing slides beyond the footprint of the Growhouse and allows gentle ventilation on cooler days, keeping the air moving inside the Growhouse and reducing damp and disease problems.

Growhouse shelvingSolid shelves – people sometimes comment that our shelves only have slim bars on them and that they do not go the full depth front to back. We could make our shelves deeper and thicker, but the more that is placed on the shelf, the darker the area below becomes. We don’t think there is any benefit having more space in the Growhouse if those plants are going to die due to lack of light.

Fixed shelves – many Growhouses have fixed shelves but with a fixed shelf there is no option of accommodating taller plants. With the Access Growhouses all of the shelves are adjustable and removable, making the space inside really flexible. In the Spring all of the shelves can be in place to protect tender plants, then they can be removed for Summer crops such as Tomatoes.

Twinwall glazing – polycarbonate glazing has lower light transmission than glass and, unlike glass, does not trap the heat from the sun. The phrase ‘greenhouse warming’ comes from the fact that a glass greenhouse allows the suns rays to enter but then traps the heat inside. This means that in the direct sun a glass greenhouse can be warm very early on in the season. At Access, in early February, we have seen temperatures rise to 22 degrees C inside the Growhouse when outside the temperature has been hovering around freezing. Glass also adds weight to the Growhouse, reducing the chances of it blowing over – in addition, for windy locations, we can supply optional fixing kits to bolt our Growhouses down.

Timber frames – a timber greenhouse looks really good and blends into the garden, but what will it look like in 25 years? All Access Growhouses come with a 25 year framework guarantee  – in fact we have been manufacturing in Aluminium Alloy for 40 years and we still have examples of the original models going strong. We also use stainless steel nuts and bolts in their construction, so if you do want to take the Growhouse down, the bolts won’t have rusted or corroded.

Growing with Raised Beds

EmptyBedsJanuary and February are an ideal time to add raised beds to the garden, as everything is dormant, and there aren’t many other jobs to be done.

Before installing the raised beds, the ground needs to be cleared and the site levelled. If you want to have a row of raised beds you might like to put a gravel path between them. If you are going to do this put weed suppressant matting down where the paths will be before you fit the bed – that way you can make sure the edges of the matting are trapped under the base of the bed.

Before assembling the bed be sure to treat the timber with a preservative – especially the corner posts, as these sit with the end grain facing upward. All of the timber supplied with an Access raised bed is pressure treated, but an extra treatment will extend the life even further. Once the raised bed has been constructed, place it in position and sort out the final levels.

SoilpileFill the beds with good quality top-soil and dig in plenty of organic material. If you have a number of raised beds, then large bulk bags of soil work  or a loose soil delivery works out the best value.

Advantages

Growing in raised beds has a number of advantages. Maintenance of the beds is easier, especially if bending down is an issue! The soil in the beds also drains better as it is above the ground. Once the sun gets onto the raised beds, then they will warm up more quickly – giving an early spring boost to the crops. If the raised bed is paired with a glass Cold Frame then the sun’s heat will be trapped inside the frame, raising the soil temperature. Even in early January I have seen temperatures inside of over 25 degrees C (77 degrees F).

PlantedbedFor the smaller garden, one way of providing lots of variety in a small space is to use Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” book – this divides 4′ square raised beds into 16 one foot squares – perhaps 4 lettuce in one square, a tomato in another, radishes or carrots in another – Mel then gives advice on rotating the crops through the season.

Midi greenhouse – the versatile all-rounder

DSC_9462aLaunched at the RHS Tatton Flower Show the Midi Growhouse is the latest addition to our popular Growhouse range. Standing at 3′ 11″ (1.17m) high, the Midi Growhouse provides plenty of growing height for taller crops. The extra height also provides more headroom on the adjustable seed tray shelves.

The Growhouse is ideal for starting off seedlings and plug plants in the early Spring. Once these have been planted out Summer crops such as Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Aubergines can be grown. The sliding doors allow easy access and also excellent ventilation.

Inside two deep seed tray shelves are included, which will hold a total of 10 seed trays. An additional narrow shelf is available as an option, which will hold another 3 seed trays. In addition to the shelves, 8 seed trays can be placed on the floor.

DSC_9575aDesigned to cope with strong winds, the Midi greenhouse also includes a ground fixing kit to enable it to be bolted down to slabs or concrete.

An optional timber raised bed is available which will allow soil grown crops to be grown inside the Growhouse. This is ideal for gardens which do not have a vegetable patch. As the soil inside the raised bed will warm up quickly, the raised base is particularly suitable to very early salad and vegetable crops – in fact, south of the English midlands, it is possible to grow salad crops all year round.

The framework of the Midi Growhouse is architectural aluminium, which comes with a 25 year guarantee, and the glass is toughened safety glass. The glass traps the sun’s heat, making it warmer than a plastic glazed greenhouse. Glass is also more resistant to heavy snow falls, two or 3 feet of snow can be allowed to build up on the Growhouse roof. Two large glass doors slide at the front of the Growhouse to give a large opening for easy access and excellent ventilation.

 

Access 4′ Growhouse – ideal for tender plants

Growhouse-FBG_0112The most popular model in the Access range is the Value Growhouse. 4′ long and just under 5′ high, the Growhouse provides plenty of growing space in a versatile design. In the early springtime the seed tray shelves can be used to hold up to 24 full sized seed trays; in the Summer the shelves can be removed and crops such as Tomatoes, Chillies and Peppers can be grown. When the chill winds of Autumn blow the shelves can be re-fitted and more delicate plants can be protected from the worst of the Winter weather.

The Growhouse is made in Britain from architectural aluminium and is glazed in toughened safety glass. The framework comes with a 25 year guarantee and is designed to withstand strong winds in exposed locations. Fixings are included to allow the Growhouse to be bolted securely to the ground.

Using real glass (toughened for safety) rather than plastic glazing has a number of advantages. Unlike plastic, glass traps the heat of the sun’s rays, warming the Growhouse and resulting in earlier crops. The glass is also very rigid, so it will not flex and blow out of the Growhouse in windy weather and the roof panels will cope with 2 or 3 feet of snow.

The unique ‘sliding door’ design provides easy access into the Growhouse, with no hinged doors to flap and bang in the wind; the design also allows infinitely variable ventilation, just open an inch on a bright early Spring day and wide open in the height of Summer. In fact, if the weather is really warm, the glass can be removed.

DSC_0152 DSC_3550To make the Growhouse even more versatile, there are a number of accessories available. Seed tray shelf covers allow the Growhouse shelves to be used with smaller pots. These have a capillary matting on the top to catch drips from watering. Another really useful accessory for the Growhouse is centre staging. These are made of 4mm toughened glass, so they let the light down to the lower levels, but provide capacity for another 8 seed trays. In the Summer the middle staging can be lifted out, allowing taller plants to be grown.

DSC_8199If you are away, another useful accessory is the automatic louvre vent. Ingeniously the vent will open and close on it’s own as the temperature inside the Growhouse rises and falls. In the late Spring the sun will be up at 6am, warming the Growhouse, but with an automatic vent installed the Growhouse will be ventilated while you are in bed!

The vent uses the expansion and contraction of a plant based oil to drive the piston on the vent, so there is no need to bring power to the greenhouse.

New 6′ Growhouse

6' long GrowhouseTo add to the success of the 4′ long Access Growhouse, we have now added a 6′ long Growhouse, providing even more growing space in a compact area. The Growhouse is 6′ 0″ (1.83m) long; 2′ 2″ (0.65m) deep and 4′ 11″ (1.49m) high and is designed to be completely free-standing.

The 6′ long Growhouse is constructed from glazed in 3mm toughened safety glass and includes 6 adjustable seed tray shelves. To access the Growhouse, the 3 panels at each level at the front, slide open; they can also be used to ventilate the Growhouse in warmer weather. During hot spells, the roof glass can also be opened, keeping temperatures inside manageable.

Growhouse shelvingInside, the split level shelving allows maximum flexibility. For taller crops, shelves can be removed on one side and left up on the other side. The height of the shelves can also be easily be adjusted.

The framework carries a 25 year guarantee and the Growhouse is glazed in toughened safety glass, designed to withstand strong winds and snow. Unlike plastic sheets, the panels will not bend and blow out in windy conditions. Glass also traps the warmth of the sun, maximising plant growth in the early Spring.

Early Lettuce under an Access Cloche

24th February

24th February

This year we decided to do an experiment to see how much difference the Access Salad Cloche made to growing early lettuce. Two salad beds were prepared, one covered with the Access cloche and the other left uncovered. To give the outdoor planted lettuces a chance, we delayed planting the lettuce seedlings until 24th February. Six lettuce plants, each with around 5 leaves, were planted in each bed.

 

 

 

 

11th March

11th March

Just over two weeks later, the difference is clearly noticeable, with more leaves on the lettuces under the cloche, and the lettuces themselves significantly bigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30th March

30th March

 

Another two weeks on (5 weeks after planting out) and the difference is again noticeable, with the lettuce under the Access Salad Cloche now twice the size of the plants in the bed outside.

 

 

 

 

13th April

13th April

 

Access Salad Cloche

Access herb and salad cloche with timber base

Access herb and salad cloche with timber base

Ever dreamed of having a ready supply of fresh salads or herbs just outside the kitchen door?

The Access Salad Cloche provides a small protected area for growing your favourite herbs and salads. The timber base is designed to stand on a patio and be filled with compost. Into this base salad crops and herbs can be planted. If the base is placed on soil, then deeper rooting crops such as carrots can also be planted into the base.

The glass cloche sits on top of the base to protect the plants from the wind and the rain. In the early springtime the glass traps the warmth of the sun, warming the soil and boosting growth rates. Even in early February, if the cloche is in the sun, the temperature inside can reach 20 degrees Celsius.

To ensure the cloche does not overheat, an ingenious ventilation system is built into it. Small slots at the base of the cloche and the eaves allow convection ventilation to be established as the temperature rises, preventing the cloche from getting too warm. Later in the season the roof panels can be removed, protecting the plants from the wind, but allowing rain to enter and water the plants.

For safety, all of the glass in the cloche is 4mm thick toughened safety glass. Unlike plastics, glass traps the sun’s warmth – important for early spring growth; it also provides weight to the structure to stop it blowing away. The base is constructed using pressure treated timber for a long life, and is fixed together with stainless steel screws.

Given a sunny location south of the English Midlands, and the right choice of plants, it should be possible to keep a steady supply of salads right through the winter.

The salad cloche is available either in plain aluminium finish, or with an Antique Ivory colour coating.

Glass Dome Bell Cloches

Set of Glass Bell Cloches

Glass Bell Cloche in Garden

Glass Bell Cloches are ideal for protecting delicate plants or herbs in the border of the garden, or for bringing on salad crops such as lettuce during the Winter months. The cloche can be placed over the plant at night and removed in the day, or a piece of wood can be placed under the rim of the cloche during the day to ventilate.

Our glass cloches are hand blown for that authentic Victorian look and incorporate a glass ball on the top to allow the easy lifting of the cloche. Traditionally the lifting ball of the cloche was made of solid glass, leading to problems with the glass acting as a lens, so to prevent this these cloches incorporate a hollow centre to the ball.

Row of glass bell cloches over lettuce plants

Lettuce under Bell Cloches

Although we associate bell cloches with British gardening and the traditional Victorian kitchen garden, growing under glass originated in Roman times where they used pieces of glass in frames to protect Cucumbers. In the 16th century Venetian glass blowers were able to produce hand blown glass domes, but it was the French who perfected the growing of crops under these glass domes – hence the French name cloche (French for bell).

In the early 1900’s crates of lettuce, carrots and other vegetables came to London from Paris every year between Christmas and March. These vegetables were produced under glass cloches on ‘hot beds’; these consist of manure placed in the growing bed which decomposes to raise the temperature. Even when there is frost all around, a hot bed will maintain a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius – enough for early vegetables to germinate. The glass cloche then provides the protection to ensure that the crop is protected from the wind and rain.

Unlike the plastic versions of these Victorian Bell Cloches, the glass traps the warmth of the sun, keeping temperatures up. In addition the weight of the glass ensures that the cloches won’t blow away in the winter gales.

Cheese covered by a glass bell cloche

Cheese under a Glass Bell Cloche

The smaller glass bell cloches can also be used indoors to protect house plants, ferns or even cakes and cheese! The glass bell is hygienic and looks good in any kitchen. Pair the cloche with a wooden or slate base for the ultimate kitchen display case!

Three different sizes of Glass Dome Bell Cloche are available from Access. The small bell cloche has a diameter of 8″ (20cm) and a height of 8″. The medium cloche has a diameter and height of 10″ (25cm); and the large cloche has a height of 30cm (12″) and a diameter of 30cm. They are also available as a set of 3 cloches.

First Punnet of Strawberries – 16th May

Ripe strawberriesThis year the first strawberries were ready for picking on the 16th May – just in time to go down to Chelsea Flower Show! What better way to celebrate the start of Summer than with a bowl of delicious home-grown strawberries and cream!

The Cold Frames use real glass (toughened for safety) which, unlike plastic, traps the heat inside the greenhouse, aiding the ripening of the fruit. Being under glass increases the yields from the strawberries dramatically and also protects the fruit from birds and insects. By planting several varieties of strawberry cropping will take place throughout the Summer.

For more flexibility and also to make picking easier, we use 5l black plastic pots for the strawberries. This keeps the fruit clean and also the compost will warm up more quickly under the glass. Make sure the strawberries are kept well fed during the season, as this will also improve yields.