There is Something Funny in the Tool Shed.

Anybody who has read the wonderful ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons will know that there is something funny in the woodshed. But if you could see my tool shed or sheds you would probably agree that there is something very sinister lurking in at least one of them.

I would love a beautiful shed.  Flighty has a picture of one on a recent post, on his blog: Flighty’s Plot. This comes complete with festive Christmas tree. The door is ajar but inside you know everything is in perfect order; nothing funny lurking in there.

Fans of Gardener’s World go weak at the knees at the sight of Monty Don in his corduroys striding purposefully down the path with his wheelbarrow, pausing to throw a ball for the dog, then stopping to speak winsomely to the camera. Well, I go weak at the knees at the sight of his tool shed. I love all his tools, and he has so many, gleaming and each hanging in its own special place. The potting area is beautifully organised with lovely compost and clean pots. And all that space, enough for a camera crew. I think I would add a nice comfy chair and a Pelargonium on the window sill, and I really need a clean table where I could sort out my seeds and put them into nice labelled packages or do a bit of twin-scaling. A bookcase would be good and a blackboard on the wall where I could keep note of seeds sown or jobs to be done.

I actually have three sheds. One is a disused garage, a previous owner decided to build a new garage nearer to the house. When he moved from here he obviously became overcome with weariness at the idea of clearing it out so he didn’t bother. I can understand why really. Maybe it isn’t just his stuff. This house is 500 years old. Maybe all the previous owners left their junk around over the centuries and when the garage was built there was a ready-made home for it all. We have managed to fit our lawn mower in here and the broken strimmer but not much else. I try to avoid going in there. It’s too depressing. So I can’t make my Monty Don shed in here.

And what about my other two sheds? They are actually two old stables. I have several unkind friends who say that they are a disgrace to the garden and should be pulled down. I say they are charmingly rustic and haven’t they heard of shabby chic? The friends say ‘Well can’t you at least paint them?’  And I reply that if I paint them they will no longer be charmingly rustic.

Now we come to the embarrassing part. One shed is entirely filled with plant pots. A great towering monument to my extravagance. I started off washing them and arranging them neatly, all graded in size. But gradually things got out of hand. It’s not just my extravagance though. People started bringing me their unwanted pots too. My shed seemed to become the depot for unwanted pots for everyone who knows me. Presumably word has got round and people think that I have a thing about pots. It has got totally out of hand. My bamboo canes are in the far corner of this shed and in order to get at them I need a hard hat and protective clothing in order to scale the plant pot mountain.

I think there must be some unsavoury sort of plasticy sex going on in the darkness of this shed because even when nobody brings any pots for a while the heap just carries on growing. They are reproducing. As for what is happening in the slimy, murky underworld of the floor under all this, I dread to think.  Probably new life forms are developing to join ancient microbes and Hieronymus Bosch type Beasties.

The third shed is full too. It is full of cardboard. I collect cardboard I have masses of it. When friends aren’t bringing me unwanted plant pots, they bring me cardboard. And now I have enough to fill a shed. This isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. I’m going to make my work -intensive veggie patch into a potager with raised beds. I went to a talk by Alys Fowler a while ago and she explained the no-dig sort of permaculture which involves raised beds made up of a lasagne of cardboard, grass cuttings, compost and manure.  You don’t even need to dig the weeds out first; you just put the cardboard down and start layering. So saving cardboard isn’t as eccentric as The Pianist seems to think. What does he know about permaculture?

I feel embarrassed now at having revealed the shameful secrets of the tool sheds in all their squalor. I hope people won’t stop reading my blog in disgust and go away never to return.  I am disgusted with myself and I’m going straight out there to clean and arrange those pots. I will take some carloads to the dump and just keep a normal number of pots, all nice and clean and graded according to size. Friends bearing pots will be dealt with firmly in future. I will get to grips with any creatures of the dark lurking in there and all will be light. Well it would be if there was a window. I’m going to clean my tools and make a rack for them.  I’m going to make a nice potting area.  I’m going to have a special place for labels and a nicely sharpened pencil. String, gardening gloves- there will be a home for everything. Unfortunately there is no room for a chair or camera crew but you can’t have everything.

I just hope I don’t release the tool shed Beastie so he can slither out and take up residence in the garden and sneer at me from the boles of trees every time I go past.

Oh well I’d better get started. I may be gone some time.











For my Tool Shed Beastie many thanks to dear Betty Booth who paints the wonderful backdrops for

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23 Responses to There is Something Funny in the Tool Shed.

  1. Pauline says:

    Happy New Year to you and yours! You have been busy thinking up things to do this year – don’t your garden centrers take unwanted pots? We manage to get rid of quite a lot that way whenever the undergardener starts complaining that we have too many! All cardboard gets torn up to go onto the compost heap, so that isn’t a problem, thank goodness. The shed usually gets its annual tidy when we can’t get into it any more and potting, sowing seeds etc get done in the greenhouse. Lets be honest, I try to do as little of this work as possible, housework in the house is bad enough, I try just to enjoy being outside!

  2. Chloris says:

    Happy New Year Pauline.
    I never thought of giving my pots to a nursery I’ll try that, as long as they don’t expect me to wash them first. I hate housework whether it’s inside or outside but I like the idea of starting the new year with everything sorted.

  3. bittster says:

    Your pile of plant pots sounds intimidating. I recommend having a second person standing by if you dare to tackle that beast. If all is lost at least someone will be there to call in and direct the search crews!
    I can’t pass any judgement. I did manage to stack and sort a few pots last year, but there’s still more than enough odds and ends scattered about in the corners of my garage.
    I am grateful to only face less than six years of squalor. Five hundred years would drive me over then edge!
    Good luck, and loved this post 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I can’t think of anyone who would help me with this sort of job. Certainly not the Pianist. And it is straining friendship too far to expect friends to help.Anyway I have made a start.
      And if the Beastie gets me it is no more than I deserve.And I have thought of what to do with all those pots. I’m going to give them away as gifts to all my friends.

  4. Flighty says:

    Thanks for the mention. I nodded and smiled when I read this post as many gardeners seem to have a thing about sheds.
    I have to say that I do have a touch of shed envy at you having three whilst my own is only sentry box sized so there’s little room for anything but essentials, and certainly no room for me.
    I’m sure that no one will go away in disgust but are far more likely to sympathise knowing that they’re just the same. Shed tidying is a popular New Year’s resolution which I suspect more often than not fails to get done. xx

  5. Chloris says:

    Well you wouldn’t have shed envy if you could see them. To be honest the 2 stables are only just standing. And if you only have a sentry box you can’t fill it up with pots and there is something to be said for that.
    Happy New Year.

  6. Anna says:

    Oh Chloris your post made me laugh and I loved the tool shed beastie 🙂 I’ve two sheds – one small one at home where the lawn mover and my composting worms live and a bigger one at the allotment. I have to confess to having an outside pot cupboard – I refuse to call it a shed as I’m not able to fit in it. There are plans here to get rid of some pots – just let me know when I can drop them off? Seriously as Pauline suggests some of the garden centres welcome them with loving arms – have a snippet somewhere about a chain of garden centres that takes them. Will come back with details later if and when I locate it.

    • Chloris says:

      I’m very impressed that you have wormery I’ve been thinking about getting one myself. When I heard Alys Fowler talk she waxed lyrical about the benefit of worms. You are welcome to my garden any time Anna, but leave your pots at home.

  7. Cathy says:

    Oh dearie me! You are either making out that it is worse than it is to get the sympathy vote or else you seriously need to be taken in hand (but not by a tool shed beastie)….. I know our sheds (ex pigsty and privy, we think) don’t have quite as many years on the clock (something over 200) but at least they are in use – not pristine, admittedly, as The Golfer has the bigger sawdust covered one for his workshop and the smaller one has tools thrown into it by me. You are clearly too kind to your friends by doing their recycling for them – I am sure you will acquire more cardboard than you need in the course of normal activities, so just recycle any excess and do the same with your own pots (no doubt you are acquiring new plants in pots all the time, just like the rest of us)! Then get those sheds cleaned out, knock out a few bricks and make a window and then use them – stop making excuses Woman!! ps just teasing, maybe?

    • Chloris says:

      Well, I can’t knock out bricks for a window as it’s made of wood. I have made a start today on the pots but it may take a while. You couldn’t come and help me could you Cathy? You sound very efficient.

      • Cathy says:

        Well thanks for the invitation – if only you were a bit nearer… Mind you, I can be a bit ruthless so it could have been a little risky…. I wonder if you have survived the shed monster today – or discovered any 500 year old treasures?

      • Chloris says:

        I think ruthless is what it needs. But today has been a beautiful day and I am getting on. No beasties but no treasures either.Just lots of pots.I’ m only tackling the one shed, the others can wait until 2015 or until your visit.

      • Cathy says:

        I’ll bear it in mind – I do like Suffolk (I think that’s where you are..) and once we get our camper van the whole of the UK is our oyster (strange phrase..) 🙂

  8. Annette says:

    Such a quirky post, Chloris! What is the best advise to give to you? Reconsider your friends maybe? 😉 Guess once they know you take all sorts of things they take advantage. We have two sheds: one is nice and tidy and the other one needs to be dealt with very soon…your post made me realize this! Thank you and have a great new year 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I suppose the New Year is a time when we feel the need to get things in order. But in my case I think this may take a while. All those pots!
      Happy NewYear Annette.

  9. Jason says:

    I really enjoyed this post, very amusing! Plus I can relate. I have only one “shed” on our suburban lot, a 1930-era “garage” that is too small for modern cars. It is a terrible jumble of tools, leftover materials from various projects, and, yes, pots. Sounds like you have a good plan for getting your sheds in order. Good luck with implementation, and have a wonderful 2014!

    • Chloris says:

      I am glad that I am not the only one with a messy garage. I have started on the pots so with a bit of luck I might get it done tomorrow.
      Happy New Year Jason

  10. Alison says:

    Happy New Year, Chloris! I almost hesitate to say it, but…I have stacks and stacks of plant pots and piles of cardboard too. I’m sure they must be breeding. If we don’t hear from you again soon, we’ll send a rescue party.

  11. Chloris says:

    I’m so glad your pots breed too, Alison. Happy New Year!

  12. snowbird says:

    I’m over from Flighty who mentioned you. I did laugh at this, and I have a shed filled with pots too….and mice and wasps!!!! How interesting that you can make the wall raised thingy with cardboard! I must know more….xxx

  13. Chloris says:

    I have looked at your blog and I am very impressed at how productive your veg garden is and at how much you grow in pots. The raised beds with cardboard lasagne of good stuff is called permaculture and I am going to try it this year. 1. Because I’ve got lots of cardboard. 2. Because it is a no- dig way of veggie -growing.
    You will no doubt approve of my husband, The Pianist, a Scouser like yourself.

  14. Robbie says:

    LOL…LOVE this post..made me chuckle…a kindred spirit at heart. I have an urban potager because I don’t have enough space, so I mix it all I don’t have any space for a potting shed, but I totally understand your comment “charmingly rustic” vs “Shabby Chic”….tee hee:-)..I feel that way with some of my old statues, rusted gates etc…I call it my weathered look! My husband sees it as, “isn’t that rusty” really…how could he say that!
    A garden needs a soul, history and how do you get it with everything being all shiny..shoot that is not a garden…there is dirt in they grow-lol
    I LOVED my cardboard… I choked out all my overgrown weed, and plants that were too deep from history that I needed to not let see the light of day-lol…
    Great post…I like you even more now that I know you are not perfect and have a messy drawer in the kitchen/garden….great think about digital cameras they can show what you see!
    500 yrs old..what an honor you have to have such an amazing journey…to take care of this space!

  15. Chloris says:

    Thank you for your comment Robbie. It is good to meet someone else who sees the point of cardboard. You are right about me being lucky to have such an old house and garden. I do see myself as a custodian here. I suppose that’s what we all are on the patch of earth we look after.

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