Firm Foundations

But to get water, first I had to put up the shed, which now resembled a 1000-piece

ABOVE Eddie and Lisa Buckland help out with the shed building ABOVE RIGHT The colour scheme should help brighten Toby's allotment FAR RIGHT TOP This inventive French allotment holder built his own water carrying machine using an old rotavator RIGHT Water butts full? Then start decanting into plastic containers

ABOVE Eddie and Lisa Buckland help out with the shed building ABOVE RIGHT The colour scheme should help brighten Toby's allotment FAR RIGHT TOP This inventive French allotment holder built his own water carrying machine using an old rotavator RIGHT Water butts full? Then start decanting into plastic containers jigsaw. The first job when putting up any garden building is to make a solid base that keeps the wood off the ground and stops it from rotting. Poured and set concrete is the best but requires hard graft so I've gone for the cheap and cheerful - but perfectly good -concrete blocks set in the middle and each corner. It's essential that the blocks sit on firm ground so I dug away the top 15cm (6in) of soil and then built up the blocks from below the soil level. Burying them like this effectively creates a foundation and skips the upper layer of earth that gets moved around by earth worms and results in your shed sinking Titanic-like into the soil. The next but most important job is to level the blocks. If the base even slightly slopes the shed won't be as strong and over time will twist out of shape resulting in doors and windows that don't close properly. The easiest way to level is to build up the height of the lowest blocks by staking short lengths of timber or pieces of slate on top until they're all of even height. Then connect the blocks with stout 5-7cm (2-3in) timber planks to spread the weight of the pallet-like shed base that goes on next, before the sides and finally the roof are put into place.

For Barry and me this last bit was easier said than done as much of the shed had to be completely replaced before the roof went on. But now it's built it looks the business especially with its stripy blue and cream livery. The best bit though is the gutter that slopes towards a down-pipe leading to an old galvanized water tank that was gathering dust in the garage.

I was intending to fashion my own from old off-cuts of lead or even modified ice-cream tubs but thought better of mentioning this plan when Saturday morning turned into Sunday night and the beach hut restoration project still wasn't finished.

In the end I bought the lot from B&Q relatively cheaply including guttering, a down-pipe and brackets to hold them in place, plus stop caps that prevent water pouring out of the ends of the gutter and a hopper to guide the flow downward to the tank. The gutter simply screws on to the side of the shed - the only thing to remember is to always make it slope by at least 13mm (>■2in) every metre to ensure the water flows down. All this swanky new system needs is a lid on the tank to keep out leaves and suicidal mice - and it'll be complete. While I may not scoop any artistic prizes for my shed project if I can scoop a few cans of water this summer I'll be happy...

ABOVE RIGHT Linked water butts greatly increase storage capacity RIGHT Sasha lends a paw with the watering

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