Diary of an Expectant Greenhouse Gardener: Part 4 - Dwarf Wall or no Dwarf Wall?

We are ready to start at last and we have been debating whether to build a dwarf wall as a base for the green house. A dwarf wall is usually built of stone or brick and is usually 2ft tall depending on which greenhouse you have chosen. Our house is built of blue lias stone so that would be the choice of building material for us, should we choose to go ahead with this plan.

The advantages of a dwarf wall are that they allow the design of the greenhouse to tie in with the existing architecture of the house and other permanent structures in the garden. By matching the building materials, you gain a coherence of design that can enhance the elegance of the greenhouse especially when the home is of a certain style. For example, using a mellow brick that matches the bricks once used to build a period Edwardian house would allow the greenhouse to sit comfortably within its surroundings. The same could be said of a more modern structure.

Materials such as brick and stone absorb the warmth of the sun during the day, allowing this warmth to be released into the greenhouse during the night, which helps to maintain a more constant temperature and hopefully increase crop yield.The dwarf wall is a stable anchor for the greenhouse especially on a windy site plus it can allow for extra headroom where required.

The hard landscaping materials can prevent damage caused by rats and mice.

With the benefits of a dwarf wall sounding very positive we decided to enlist the services of a builder. The plan was that I would obtain three quotes and we would decide on who to hire based on cost, time frame and examples of previous work carried out.

So, I got on the phone, and it went like this…” Yes, we would love to come and quote for you, but we can’t do any work until August, September, or October”.

“I retired two years ago”

“We only do big jobs love”

Eventually we did get someone to quote, and he would be available to start almost immediately, which was good news. The builder turned up, looked at the plans, walked around the site, measured up and then turned to me and said” you’ll need a big ladder to climb up into your greenhouse then”. Oh, I thought, he thinks that the whole greenhouse, including the timber base goes on the dwarf wall. “Have you built many dwarf walls?” I asked. “Yes loads” he replied. I was too polite to say anything and as he departed, he said he would get a quote to me that same evening.  He was true to his word and coming in at just shy of £5k I was happy to decline his kind offer and would also save a few pounds on a ladder. No wonder he could start immediately.

We decided to forgo the dwarf wall idea and would opt for a simple layer of bricks on concrete footings instead. I assured my husband that I would be able to build this successfully on my own if I took my time…. Little did I know.

I’m not new to a bit of building work, Chris and I have built walls and laid patios before, though I have to say that the results have been a little rustic.  In this case the base for the greenhouse must be perfectly level, square and to the exact measurements provided with the very helpful base plan. The greenhouse will be securely bolted to a course of bricks which are lain onto concrete footings which has to be a minimum of 100mm in depth.

Sadly, our garden is on a slope so just digging out the trench for the footings was going to be challenging. As usual I called in the help, and they were brimming with excitement and enthusiasm and promptly informed me that the labour rate had gone up and it would be a Chinese takeaway this time. I can’t complain they dug the trench mixed at least 10 loads of cement up in a wheelbarrow and were a massive help.

Slowly and surely the footings went in and to my relief they were level. The bricks went down next, we must have measured and remeasured a dozen times before the greenhouse dimensions were correct.  Once we had them right, I drew a chalk line around the whole thing so that it would remain accurate. The work took about a week to complete as it had to fit in around my regular gardening jobs.

I’m just hoping that this base will be good enough for the greenhouse fitters when they come. To be honest I wouldn’t recommend doing this job yourself even with some limited building experience I found this a bit stressful and getting the base square is tricky.

I am excited though as the next stage is the arrival of the greenhouse and I can’t wait.