Gardening in the Polytunnel is a real tonic, especially when the winter weather can take a turn for the worse.
This will be my third season with a Polytunnel and quite honestly I think I’d be lost without it. It’s already starting to fill up, and it’s only February!
Mostly with various cuttings that I took at the end of last year in readiness for my back garden nursery scheme that I want to launch later this year. I also planted a few pots of daffodils and tulip bulbs last Autumn and they are already popping there heads through.
That’s the beauty of a Polytunnel, your produce can be brought on earlier in the season, just remember to give them a little extra protection if a frost is forecast. All I do is throw a fleece over everything and it seems to do the trick.
I find the tunnel is useful for overwintering pretty much anything that needs a bit of protection from the cold winter weather. Anything that’s particularly susceptible to frost I put in an inner section of the tunnel, a kind of Polytunnel within a Polytunnel if you like.
You can also add a little heat using a cheap solar powered light that will create just enough heat to keep the frost off. Alternatively you could create your own heat using a home made heat sink . Dick Strawbridge made one in his television series ‘It’s not Easy Being Green’.
Basically it’s a large hole filled with crushed recycled glass and a small photovoltaic panel that generates enough power to drive a small computer fan to re-distribute the heat that is stored in the glass throughout the day and release it at night. The principle reminds me of the storage heaters we had in our first flat.
Summer Treats in the Polytunnel
In late Spring the tunnel will be emptied ready for a few summer treats. I tend to stick to Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, a few Aubergines, and a couple of Melons. If it’s your first season with a Polytunnel try not too me tempted into planting too many plants as they rapidly grow into huge triffid like forms and you’ll end up hacking them back.
It’s tempting to grow loads of different produce when you have a Polytunnel, but I’ve come to the conclusion I’d rather only grow as much as we need, rather than growing loads of different varieties, half of which might end up on the compost heap.
I don’t really have a favourite as I like to grow different variety’s each year to compare the results in a bid to try and find the perfect tomato?
This year I’ve chosen to grow a variety called Cherrola, an F1 Hybrid that I’ve heard is a good cropper, and has an excellent flavour. I’ve also planted a few cherry tomatoes Gardeners Delight as I think they have the sweetest flavour of all the cherry varieties.
If you’re thinking of investing in and/or building your own Polytunnel my advice is to go for as large as you can afford and try to plan your planting from January to December to maximise output.
I’m so happy with ours we’re thinking of buying a second tunnel so we can grow a few exotic plants for fun.