Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Second Coming of the Polytunnel

Another one of those perfect allotment days today, where the combination of ideal weather, things growing  nicely and the fact that you get plenty of stuff done just reinforces the joy of this whole gig. We were down there for near enough seven hours, which passed in an absolute flash. My envy of the hordes of currently-retiring baby boomers, decades of this sort of thing ahead of them, paid for by little more than being in the right place during the right property boom, is only salved by the fact that I get to do this at the weekends too.

Anyway, enough whingeing about baby-boomers; I'm not David Willetts and this isn't a blog about inter-generational income distribution. No, this is a blog about things like polytunnels, like the one we put up today. You may or may not recall that our previous polytunnel rippped and blew off the frame, largely due to me being a total idiot and not really securing it. As I've now learned, the trick, when putting up a polytunnel on a gloriously sunny day is to use your imagination and realise that the weather won't always be like this. I tried to put this into practice today, on the replacement cover that we bought.

Bury the bugger
First I dug a trench into which the surviving tunnel frame would go. Happily, things were pretty cloudy at this point, so I didn't have to sweat my ass off too much. The trench was probably about 5 inches deep. Any deeper and we were going to start losing some potentially valuable height from the thing, plus I'd have to stoop like a goon just to get in. No thanks.

Next I anchored the sides with a kit I got off Amazon. Much better than the crappy tent-pegs we got with the original tunnel.

Having back-filled and stamped in all the soil the frame was pretty damn secure.

After applying some hot-spot tape, on went the cover. You'll notice that, in addition to the guy-ropes, we've used railway sleepers and big lumps of concrete to try and prevent the thing getting airborne again.

I'm probably only writing all this down to try and persuade myself that this time I have really put in enough effort to be rewarded by a polytunnel that stays put for a while. If this doesn't do the trick, maybe we'll not bother again. Either way, it was amazing how quickly the temperature inside it got up to ridiculous levels; I'd guess well over 35c, which should be a nice treat for the tomato plants that have, until this point, been loitering in the shed.

I think I'm gonna sit 6 plants on top of grown bags, and just dig the other 6 into the ground, and see what works best. We've also got some cucumbers on the go which'll stay in the tunnel, and we'll get a courgette or two in there. What else can go in, or are we too late to get things germinating?

In non-tunnel news, Kasia's mum came and did her usual thing of putting us completely to shame by digging over two big patches, on her own, in record time. By Christ, she can dig. Elsewhere, things are generally looking very good with the recent lovely weather, allied with a liberal handful of chicken manure pellets hither and thither, no doubt doing the business for a lot of our developing crops. Of particular note:

Strawbs are on the way. These are an alpine variety, with our others showing plenty of flowers, so hopefully not far behind. All the plants are looking really healthy in this, their first proper full season.

The first of our first early spuds (Rocket) are in flower. Considering the shocking Spring we've had, I'm chuffed with how strong and healthy all our spuds are looking. I've said this before, but I love the fact that something as drudgerous and proletarian as a spud can have such delicate and attractive flowers.

Also very attractive are broad bean flowers. They actually taste amazing too; shame it probably does the plant, and thus any future harvest of beans, no good to go hoiking them off.

Finally, we got plenty of weeding done and Kasia got a Butternut Squash, and two Patty Green Squash planted out into a patch her mum had dug over. We haven't had the best of times trying to get squashes and courgettes to germinate this year, which is weird as normally it's no bother. Anyway, this is our only Butternut, so hopefully it flourishes. I bloody love Butternut squashes; if we manage to grow a few, that will be pretty exciting.

And so that was that. A full day on the plot, a magic way to spend a Sunday. Hope the sun shone on you too, wherever you were.


  1. Oh dear I'm a baby boomer!

    We had similar problems germinating squash last year.

    1. Ha! Nothing personal, you understand. We've had a shocking time with squash this year. I'm thinking of giving Franchi's claims of high germination rates a test next season. Large amounts of non-germinating seeds are a real hassle.

  2. Hi, we had this same polytunnel, we buried the sides of the cover under the soil too, if the cover isn't taught with the frame it eventually rips as the wind rubs it against the frame. Ours wasn't taught enough and ripped to pieces on it's first winter! We have since built a wooden frame round the original at the bottom, built a door and window at one end and covered it in proper polytunnel plastic. It's taught as a drum and am sure it will last years! Good luck with yours!

    1. Thanks Helen, this is really useful. Ours is tight as a cat's proverbial now, so we'll see how we go. I'm hoping the anti-hotspot tape will cut down on friction. We might take the cover off for the worst excesses of winter. If this one rips anytime soon we'll defo go down the home-made route, same as you, as the frame is sound enough.

  3. I was about to buy a Polytunnel for an 85 year old Gardener I work with....not now after hearing what happened to yours. I have sown some Butternut Squash called Hunter. On the BBC Gardening Website they say it has been specially bred to deal with the British weather. I have never grown Squash before so I am relying on Beginners Luck. Take care. Marion

  4. Everything is looking great. I always do quite well with my squash germination EXCEPT when it comes to the butter-nut, I don't know why but they just don't seem to like my very much but this year I have doubled my germination success of all time and got 2...hope we both get plenty of harvest from them!

    Poly-tunnel looks good. Hope all that preparations withstands those nasty winds we often get.


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