Tag Archive | Growing in a polytunnel

Tackling A Problem Area On Plot Four (Part One)

I took over my fourth plot at the beginning of 2012, as it became free.  This plot was next to my other three plots and I’ve got to say I really wasn’t sure I wanted another plot, but it had the advantage of a polytunnel (which was only four years old at the time) and some wonderful fruit trees at the back.

(Just in case you are wondering, all over the country there are waiting lists for allotments, but where I live, there are always some available to rent, so I don’t feel guilty for having four plots).

Below are some photos from when I first took the plot, in January 2012:

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As you can see there was a lot to be done.

I have worked really hard on this plot over the last two years and most areas are coming along nicely.  There isn’t lots of growing space on this plot due to the trees and I have found that, as it has developed over the past two years, it has become my ‘pleasure plot’.

  I now have an area under my large plum tree that I call my ‘woodland area’, where I planted lots of spring bulbs.  In fact, you may remember me planting lots of snow drops in this area to remember my dear friend that passed away in February last year. I also recently transplanted lots of for-get-me-nots in her honour too.

  During the last year I have transplanted lots of surplus plants from my garden at home and from around my other plots and I am gradually filling the area with beautiful perennials.

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In September last year I also moved my small pond to a well lit corner in this area and transplanted aubrietia all around it, so hopefully this will look beautiful in the Spring too.

So overall, this area is becoming a beautiful, peaceful place, where I now walk past and remember my old dear friend.

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At the front of my fourth plot is a small area which I have given to my dad to look after.

For those who are new to my blog, my dad had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Not long after taking on my fourth plot, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of it to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

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Last winter I laid two woodchip paths either side of my dads area and I brought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put the chair in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I also made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

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  I absolutely love spending time with my dad at my allotment.

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The area at the back of this plot is great.  I have two apple trees (an early and late variety), a golden gage tree (which make delicious jam) and a pear tree.  I have also inherited a row of worcester berries.

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This area just needs mowing each week and it’s a lovely shady place to sit in when the weather is too hot and it’s time for a rest.

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In 2012 when I first took the plot over, there were two sheds that stood in the middle.

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I already had a shed on my first plot, so I gave one of the sheds to my sister who also took on the plot next to mine and I gave the other one to one of my friends at my allotment site as he didn’t have a shed.

This area had terrible soil on so for the last two years I have used this area as my wildflower area, with fantastic results:

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I also have an area where I have inherited some summer raspberries.  This area had couch grass growing all through the raspberries and in between the rows, so it was a hard area to tame.

I started by covering as much of the area in between with weed suppressant and left this down for a season to kill the couch grass.  I have spent two years now pulling up the couch grass from underneath the raspberries, in the hope that it will eventually weaken and die.  I certainly have an awful lot less of it now, but I still have a long way to go with it.

I then prepared the area in between the raspberries and sowed grass seed in Autumn 2012 and by Spring 2013 I had a much better, uninvasive lawn in between the plants:

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And then I also have my wonderful polytunnel.  Inside the tunnel was great when I took it over and I just added compost to the beds before planting.

My polytunnel is really my pride and joy on this fourth plot and it’s the main reason for taking this plot on.  I have had so many crops from it in the last two years, but it is particularly brilliant for overwintering salad crops.

I wrote about my first year in my polytunnel here if you are interested.

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So, my fourth plot has been hard work so far, but it is beginning to come together, though it is far from complete.

I have one more area that I have been working on over the last few months (in between other jobs)….it is the area outside of my polytunnel.  This area has bugged me for the last two years as it was a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and some little round pebbles which I have slipped on various times and nearly injured myself.

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There is also a row of blackberries which I have recently cut back.

This area is also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is incidentally a fasinating weed… It has descendants (a group of ancient tree like plants) that thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that shows some of it’s ancestors reached over thirty metres in height (you can read about it here).  But this explains why this weed is so difficult to eradicate, as it’s been around so long and also it’s roots go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. It likes moist clay soil and thrives in these conditions, which is exactly why this area outside of my polytunnel is perfect for it.

So I have spent two years weeding and weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and I decided enough is enough and it was time to do something about this area….

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As this has turned into a very long post I have decided to continue telling you about this area and what I have done with it, on Friday.

So have a good week and thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.

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A Year Of Growing In A Polytunnel – My Review

Last week after one of my posts showed a photograph inside my polytunnel, Anna from ‘Dig The Outside’ asked if I had any more photographs.

I thought it would be a nice idea to write about my first complete year with a polytunnel and what I have learnt, showing you some of the photographs I have taken.

(I apologise that the quality of the older photos are not quite as good as the newer ones, as some of these were taken on my mobile phone, before I started my blog).

January 2012 - My New 4th Plot

January 2012 – My New 4th Plot

The main reason I took on the fourth allotment plot in January 2012, was that it had some wonderful fruit trees and bushes, but more importantly it had a fairly new polytunnel on it.  You can see it in the photo above.

You may have read before, that the plot belonged to ‘Eric’ before I rented it.  I learnt so much from him and he was, and still is my greatest allotment inspiration.  Eric’s family put the polytunnel on his plot for him just two years earlier, after removing the old and dangerous greenhouse that he had.  They did a fantastic job, leaving me with a sturdy, well thought out tunnel.

Eric grew his tomatoes in the polytunnel and even though he knew he was giving the plot up because it was getting too much for him, he still cleared most of his old tomato plants away and left the polytunnel tidy for me…thank you for this Eric:

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I decided right from the start that I wouldn’t grow tomatoes in my polytunnel, as I had my greenhouse at home for this.  I knew I wanted to grow a large range of plants in there, but my main priority was to lengthen the whole growing season, both at the beginning and the end.

This whole year was going to be a trial year for my polytunnel.

I started by digging up any perrenial weeds and digging in loads of compost, which Eric had also kindly left for me:

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Then I sat and planned what I wanted to plant.

I sowed my first lettuces and radishes at the end of March last year, covered with a small cold frame to begin with and I planted some early peas that I had started off in guttering in my warm greenhouse at home.

I also planted six early potatoes and covered them with straw instead of earthing them up:

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  I grew many things in my polytunnel the first year.  Each time I harvested a crop, I replaced it with a sprinkling of fertiliser and a spade full of new compost and then replanted it with something else.

Here are some photo’s I took throughout the year:

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And how it looks today:

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During the last year,  the polytunnel has been a godsend, producing crops that struggled outside in such a cool, wet summer.

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The following crops that did really well were:

Lettuces – (all through the year)
Radish – (no signs of flea beatle, though outside radish suffered badly in spring)

Perpetual spinach

Khol rabi

Cape gooseberry

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Peas

Sweet Peppers

Basil

Coriander

Broad beans

Celeriac (grew bigger than those outside)

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Gerkins (produced far more than those grown outdoors)

Carrots (no problem with carrot fly and germinated without a problem)

Mizuna

Corn salad

Turnips (they seemed to grow in front of my eyes)

Beetroot

Onions

Spring onions (both summer and winter varieties)

Sweetcorn

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The following crops that didn’t do so well were:

Courgettes (succumbed to mildew early on and produce fewer than those grown outside)

Patty pans (succumbed to mildew early on and produce fewer than those grown outside)

Chick peas (I think this was down to lack of pollination)

Potatoes (I harvested an earlier, but far smaller crop due to a smaller amount of water)

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The ‘Not so good things’ about owning a polytunnel:

Opening and closing the doors – In April and May I had to visit my allotment every morning to open the polytunnel doors and again every evening to shut them.   I did this to keep some warmth in during the night, until the threat of frost had passed by at the end of May.

Watering needed to be carried out every day during late spring and summer.  Luckily for me, I have a good allotment friend who helped out when we went on holiday.

Everytime I left the polytunnel I had to put a caged door on so the local fox didn’t go in.

When it snowed in the winter I would have to knock the snow off before the weight of it did any damage.  In fact, the last snow we did have, managed to pull some of the plastic away from the wooden door frame.

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Observations:

It must be noted that some of the crops that did so well in the polytunnel in 2012, would usually grow well outside, but as it was such a cold and wet summer, it was a godsend.

Some things I tried in the polytunnel were because I had one or two plants left over, after planting the majority outside.  These plants always grew quicker than the ones I planted outside on the same day.

I planted Tagetes in the polytunnel to attact beneficial insects into it and it worked brilliantly and looked great.

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Conclusion:

It was great to have earlier crops and later crops, in fact we were still eating my summer lettuces (not winter hardy ones) at the beginning of December, which I think is amazing.

I loved my first year with my polytunnel, but watering was such hard work.  I am now looking into the possiblility of somehow attaching a soaker hose to a large water tank I have, but I’m not sure if this will work?

It was lovely to work in the polytunnel when it was impossible to get onto my plot, due to last year’s wet weather.  In fact, I can honestly say it was a pleasure weeding and planting in there, listening to the wind and rain outside.

And finally:

The benefits are so great to me, that I am planning on adding another polytunnel to my plot eventually, when I can afford it, in the hope to have more winter/spring crops ready earlier.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday.