Everyone seems to be investing in a polytunnel but what’s the big secret? Why do polytunnel gardeners fall in love with their new addition within days of the stakes being driven into the ground? Are they universally suitable for every gardener and every garden?
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Thankfully all the answers are here so if you are pondering whether to invest in a polytunnel or not, read on to find out the five top things you need to know BEFORE you buy…
#1 The Reality of Polytunnels
They are a plastic covered paradise that extends the growing season by many weeks but you need to be aware that as an addition to your garden, there are few things you need to consider;
- Your neighbours may object – as a nonpermanent structure you don’t need planning permission unless the polytunnel is a monster and covers your whole garden, but that doesn’t mean your neighbours will love your polytunnel as much as you do. They may object and this could cause you problems.
- Consider drainage – when rain falls, it has to go somewhere and by covering the portion of the ground, the rain has a smaller funnelling process to go through. And should it snow, you will need to remove the snow from the roof of the tunnel. Take care, as jabbing it with a brush could cause damage. And don’t allow the snow to build up around the sides, as the weight of it could cause problems too.
#2 Plan it
The space within domestic polytunnels is valuable so to get the best from it, you need to plan it…
- Size – clearly, buy a polytunnel that best meets your needs but also one that can be easily accommodated by your garden.
- Plan the border – you can shoe horn all kinds of plants into the polytunnel but this creates poor growing conditions for plants and encourages pests and disease.
- Access – when building and laying your beds, make sure you allow enough access for your wheelbarrow to glide effortlessly up and down pathways.
- Zone it – just like your outdoor space, zoning the polytunnel helps to maintain the growing conditions but also helps with crop rotation year on year.
#3 Ventilate and Irrigate
Adding a thick layer of polythene over a steel frame means you create warmer conditions in which plants can grow and thrive. If you are looking forward to abundant crops and maybe trying your hand at growing more exotic fruit and veg, domestic polytunnels are the way to go BUT…
- Ventilation – when the sun shines, even when it weak autumn or winter sunshine, the heat in the polytunnel steadily creeps up. Make sure you allow plenty of ventilation. This may also include night time ventilation during the height of summer.
- Irrigation – warm soil means happy plants but if you don’t water daily (or several times a day in hot weather) or invest in an irrigation system, you will have parched plants. And that means wilting leaves and very few fruits or vegetables.
#4 Essential Extras
Unlike the glass greenhouse, the domestic polytunnel has a slightly shorter life span but is still expected to last a decade or more. Some domestic polytunnels looked after and repaired well, last for much longer.
Polytunnel gardeners have some handy essential extras that they use to make propagating in the polytunnel much easier;
- Workstation – create a workstation that can be moved from one year to the next as you rotate your beds and so on. Create it so that it suits you in terms of height, shelving and so on.
- Repair tape – buy plenty of reels of repair tape and as soon as there is damage, fix it and fix it properly.
- Have a water butt handy – if you don’t opt for irrigation systems, then a water butt system that is close to your polytunnel is essential.
#5 Have the Right Attitude
Gardening in a polytunnel is a learning curve. You will make mistakes but remembering these as time marches on can be difficult, so why not keep a polytunnel journal to remind you of what needs to change and why?
Some gardeners say that growing in a polytunnel is like growing plants in a different country. The climate is different, the heat is different, the moisture and humidity levels nothing like what we are used to. There are plenty of polytunnel gardeners sharing their exploits online, why not join them?
Be relaxed in your approach and enjoy it. And make room for a few chairs to enjoy the polytunnel environment too!
First Tunnels has over two decades of experience developing fantastic polytunnels for domestic and commercial use. Working closely with their customers, they create the products that gardeners need to create fabulous crops of fruit and vegetables – and prize-winning blooms!