The Gumtree shed…

When we got our allotment, it didn’t take long to realise that a shed would be an enormous asset. The site is just under a mile away from home; close enough to walk up there, but not to run home to escape a shower. And that’s quite a way to carry tools; if we didn’t want to drive up there all the time, we needed somewhere to store them. In true Permaculture style, it would fulfill other functions, too; where we planned to put it, it could act as a partial windbreak, as we are in the southwestern corner of the site, where the wind whistles in over the river meadows, partially screened by a blackthorn hedge, but partly exposed. The roof would be a raised surface for capturing rainwater to store in our (wombled) water-butts, too.

New allotment with an “open aspect”…

The maximum size we’re allowed on site is 8′ x 6′, on a slab base; no concrete, no decking. But we didn’t really want to give up that much growing-space, as our plot is an odd shape; triangular, with the hypotenuse facing south-west into the prevailing wind. We don’t have any power tools to store, just secondhand manual tools, so security wasn’t much of an issue. So an 6′ x 4′ wooden shed would be plenty big enough.

But a new shed would cost at least a hundred pounds, which kind of negates the money-saving aspect of allotmenteering, even if it’s a one-off investment. So I started looking round on Gumtree, allowing myself a budget of around £30, thinking there’d almost certainly be money to be spent getting whatever I found up to scratch. But most were far too big, and I kept missing the smaller ones that were offered. Except one, which was offered FREE as “might suit someone for firewood!” Half of one long side was missing, replaced temporarily by the door, but I went to see it anyway as it was only a few hundred yards away. Not great, but surely, salvageable… The lovely young couple giving it away had decided to replace it with something intact and also bigger.

The Head Gardener surveys a pile of potential shed…

So we hauled it across town, the end bits, the door & parts of the framework inside my van, and the sides lashed to the roof-rack of the Head Gardener’s estate car. It sat for a week or so in a heap, beside where it was going to be put back together again, whilst HG laid & levelled the slabs. Then we spent a merry afternoon puzzling out what should go where, and screwing it all together; it had previously just been nailed. Some bits are a little rotten & have been replaced, and the roofing felt needed replacing altogether, and our allotment just isn’t quite the same shape as the ground it sat on before so the roof just wouldn’t quite sit properly, but hey! we have a shed, all screwed together firmly, and it hardly cost us anything!

Oooh look, a shed!

It just so happened that a friend had recently had her conservatory roof replaced with something more permanent. It occurred to me that a piece of ex-roof triple-wall polycarb might just plug the gap in the wall and make a rather good window; Head Gardener moved the remaining slats down to the lower half, I cut the polycarb to the right length and lo and behold! it just slotted over the slats perfectly. Screwed into position gently, the windward side that looks towards the water-meadows actually lets the light in now.

The structure was probably never the sturdiest, and strong winds might have been an issue, exposed on the edge of the site. But HG had a stroke of pure genius; why not use some of the pallets that I’d wombled to make composters to brace the shed, inside the structure, instead? So there are three strong & heavy pallets resting on the floor slabs, screwed to the wall supports & each other, and acting as shelf supports & tool racks.

A pallet serving as a brace and a tool-rack

There’s a triangular shelf made from pallet-wood at the end for all the things you might need a work-surface for, like potting, or making a cup of tea, and two shelves running across the end over that for all those little pots & tins of stuff we seem to need. Like biscuits…

Pallet-wood shelves, and conservatory-roof window!

There’s a shelf at the bottom of the window; whilst it doesn’t let full daylight in, I think there’s enough light to start the odd window-box propagator-tray of seedlings in there. There are hooks and nails to hang small things like trowels, string, netting and dibbers, and I’ve even cobbled together a somewhat flimsy welly rack from an old curtain pole and a spare bit of wood. It’s not “finished” yet, in that we have yet to trim the roof felt, put up the “bug box” and add the guttering; in fact I’ve yet to source some of that. And it’s far from luxurious, and there are no gingham curtains or bunting (yet!) but we haven’t found a single drip of rain inside, and it’s stood up to winds that have brought branches down elsewhere in town. So, so far, so good!




or am I a palletaholic…?

I am only just starting to appreciate what resources are literally lying all around us. A couple of weeks ago, I needed a new bantam house for my smaller chickens; the one they were in was far too big for them and took up too much of our small urban garden. I looked on Ebay, Freecycle, AdTrader, the pet shop window, everywhere I could think of, to try to find something I could convert into one. Maybe even a decent old sideboard?! But there was nothing available locally under £50… However, I had a good, solid roof left over from an otherwise rotten hutch, two-thirds of a tongue & groove door, and a couple of bits of old fencing lying around. There were two pallets outside the little signwriter’s factory at the top of the next street, and two more in the bin store of the nearby flats; altogether, plenty of wood. So I knocked on a couple of doors, asked nicely and it was given unto me… in fact they were glad to see it taken away!

Less than a week later, the bantams moved into their new coop, which has cost me less than £10, and only that because I had to buy hinges and bolts; I just hadn’t left enough time to source them for free. It’s sturdy and draught-free although well-ventilated, and comes apart easily for cleaning, with easy access to the nestboxes on one side. Not too easy though, remembering the fox…

Bantam coop made from recycled pallets and other bits & bobs.
Bantam coop made from recycled pallets and other bits & bobs.

 I’m not even a novice at woodwork, but a lady of a certain age who probably used all the wrong tools, didn’t even draw up a plan or measurements, but did everything by eye and guesswork. And it works!

I’d put off doing this for weeks, because I knew it was going to be too hard and I’d get it all wrong, and that pallet wood was rubbish, and I’d have to go to B&Q for bits, where they always laugh at me… but it wasn’t hard at all! And I’ve ended up with something a darn sight roomier & sturdier than the cheapest available locally, at £60 without even nestboxes or perches.

My point is that if I can do it, anyone can. Just get out there and have a go!