Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thinking of a polytunnel?

The weather here right now is nothing short of atrocious! Storms are brewing behind storms that are already lashing the coast and my garden is taking a real beating. Thankfully from what I have managed to see by craning my head round the bedroom window it would appear that my polytunnel is still up and intact.
As we are quite exposed here purchasing a polytunnel was a bit of  a gamble, we've seen many of them shredded by coastal winds up and down the county.
To improve the chances of your tunnel surviving in exposed areas there are a few precautions you can take:-

* Keep hoops at 5ft spacings instead of 6ft.
* Double ridge bars to each side instead of one central bar.
* Crop bars attached to all but the first and last hoop will add strength.
* Take time to embed the base plate properly. We chose the type that gets buried into the earth instead of plates that are bolted into a concrete base. This obviously depends on whether you intend to site the tunnel on concrete or earth.

I'm convinced that all those things are what has kept our tunnel in place despite us being quite exposed and right next to the coast.
There are a couple of things I would do differently though:-

* I bought Visqueen Luminance polythene as it helps reduce dripping in the tunnel but I'm convinced it's opaqueness prevents as much sunlight getting in as a clear polythene would allow and therefore affects crops such as Tomatoes that need lots of sunlight. I would change this next time.
* We bought the Aluminium base rails because we thought it would be longer lasting than wood however it was an absolute pig to install and resulted in splitting the polythene. We did complain about this and recieved new polythene from the company but when we recover the tunnel we'll change to a wood system.
* Sliding doors seemed like a good idea however the doors only come with one bolt per door that goes into the ground and it's just not enough to hold it in strong winds (I've lost the doors a couple of times which resulted in bent door runners). I still prefer the sliding door system but I would advise buying an extra floor bolt per door.

I was reading a blog the other day (sorry I forget which) that inspired me to get outside when I couldn't garden and do the dreaded task of clearing and tidying the polytunnel ready for a clean start in the new year.
I didn't take any before photos because....well....I was just too embarrassed but I was a good girl and got some afters:-

polytunnel, gardening
Wow, look at the floor space now.

 polytunnel gardening
After emptying garden pots they're all lined up ready for washing. The contents of them are overwintering in the middle bed.

polytunnel growing
May still look messy but it's organised mess lol.

Overwintering Lavender that my daughter rescued from a department store skip!

This polytunnel has been a real godsend for overwintering the more tender plants, my much smaller greenhouse used to be packed to the rafters in the winter with them. Said greenhouse (a diy version that is wooden at the bottom with double glazing to the top) is now my workshop which means I don't have to take up space in my husbands shed anymore!

Next year these beds will be filled with Cucumber, Garlic, Tomato, Sweetcorn, Courgette, Onion, Salad crops, Strawberries and hopefully - fingers crossed - Melon.
We also have Apple, Pear and Plum trees in there which provide a decent crop.
The outside beds which we've increased in number will hold Peas, Beans, Onion, Cauli, Cabbage, Carrots and probably a load of other stuff that has no chance of growing here but will be thrown in by husband who is apparantly going to "help" this year despite not having a clue what he's doing or how to do it!



  1. Wow, that poly tunnel is fantastic! Huge space. Do you try to heat it, or is it more like a big cold frame you can walk in? What is your growing zone? Left you a short comment answer on my blog.

  2. I don't heat it all George, it pretty much overwinters my plants and enables me to grow loads of veggies that I couldn't otherwise grow, but it's pretty much a coldframe.
    I'm ashamed to say I do not know my growing zone - I've never bothered with it to be honest. I tend to grow whatever I want and just see how it goes lol.

  3. Oooh that's a serious polytunnel. Dead jealous.

    Growing zone? - coastal. Equivalent to Northern USA/Southern Canada, I'd say.

    Impressive bamboo for Caithness!

    Just seen the weather forecast. Hope you are battened down, Linda.

    1. I just googled my growing zone cos i figured maybe I should lol and apparantly it's growing zone 8. I will probably do absolutely nothing with this new piece of information though lol.
      Thank you for admiring my polytunnel Mal, I love it too - though I probably don't make as much use of it as I should ;)
      Yes we are battened down, haven't been out for 2 days now.
      The bamboo is actually a blogger background lol. Don't imagine my shoots of Black bamboo are ever going to look so majestic!
      Have a great day Mal.


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