I installed the polytunnel in April/May 2013. It was definitely starting to show signs of it’s age. To be fair, the plastic covering is designed to be replaced every 5 years, so we have done well that I lasted 8 years. The raised beds had also started to rot away. These were the original ones that had come from Tommy Topsoil.
Recently we had been using the polytunnel to house the chickens. They had to be kept indoors due to the outbreak of bird flu in the UK.
The space left by the polytunnel is now being used as a vegetable patch!
Well, this is a sure sign that summer is on the way – trays of seedlings that are going to be ready to go into the polytunnel in the next few weeks. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, mange tout, and lots of flowers (including geraniums and sunflowers).
We put up an 8ft x 20ft polytunnel in May 2013. We put two 8ft x 4ft raised beds down one side and then racking on the other side – it was only 8ft wide so we couldn’t put raised beds on both sides. While it worked, it was the most efficient use of space and the raised beds were a little too wide to reach the back (while not standing in the raised bed itself).
We decided to make the existing raised beds slightly narrower (by cutting down the existing raised beds) and to put them on both sides of the polytunnel. While this gives us slightly less growing area, it is a better use of the overall space and it is much easier to reach the back of the beds (particularly if you have short arms!).
We (actually I mean Jo!) also seem to be a bit more organised this year in terms of sorting out what we want to grow and when it needs to be planted. Rather than deciding on what we want to grow about 2 months after it should have been sown.
This is the original layout for the polytunnel. Unfortunately, two raised beds side by side wouldn’t have left enough space for a walkway.
And here’s the new layout. Rather than 4 wide beds, there are now 5 narrower beds. This leaves room in the middle for a path and means that you can reach the back of the beds without having to stand on them. The workbench now runs across the polytunnel rather than down all of one side.
A few weeks ago the summer arrived. Goodness, we waited long enough! And the temperature in the polytunnel started to soar. While we do remember to water the plants in here, it can be a bit hit and miss. We decided that the plants might benefit from some regular watering and have installed a Hozelock automatic watering system. It is relatively cheap and it does look like the plants appreciate it. It is set up to water them for 10 mins twice a day (6am and 6pm avoiding the heat of the middle of the day).
We started with the Hozelock starter kit, but within a week had to upgrade the timer. The original timer (Hozelock 2705 supplied in the starter kit) had presets (twice a day for 5mins, twice a day for 10 mins etc), but you couldn’t amend the schedule. The other reason for the upgrade was the original one packed up! I thought it was flat batteries (it uses two C type batteries), but when I opened the battery compartment, it was full of water! Even after trying to dry it out (and with new batteries), it was still dead. Ho hum. I will put it down to operator error, but I thought I had tightened up the back of the compartment properly (it is screwed on and has a rubber gasket to keep the water out).
The upgraded unit (Hozelock AC Pro) while a bit more expensive does seem to do the trick. It was easy to set up and I like the over-ride facility in case you think the plants need some additional watering during the day. It did come with a rain sensor than cancels the watering program if it rains. However, this isn’t of much use in a polytunnel!
We added some bits to the original starter kit – in particular, we add a couple of spray nozzles and these seem to work a treat. When then have drippers that feed the courgette plant and drippers in each of the tomatoes plants. The system has been really quite flexible and B&Q (not one of my favourite stores) does seem to stock a lot of the bits for this system. The other thing that seems to work well is the Hozelock extension bar that means that we don’t need to keep unplugging hoses if you need to fill a watering can or wash the car.
We had to install an “extension bar” to be able to connect up all the Hozelock devices. At £25, it is expensive, but it does mean that you don’t have to keep unplugging hoses to fill up a watering can or wash the car!
The vegetable patch seems to becoming on in leaps and bounds. No doubt due to some of the (very) wet and (slightly) sunny weather we have had over the past few weeks.
The weeds and grass seem to be doing particularly well.
In terms of vegetables, we have potatoes, onions, cabbages (although the pigeons seem to have had these), cauliflower, broccoli (the pigeons like these too), sweet corn and some leeks. We haven’t attempted to grow anything in this soil before, so it will be interesting to see how the vegetables do this year.
We have also planted out some tomato plants in grow bags. While there are a couple of plants in the polytunnel, we have put the rest against the wall outside my study. This gets a fair amount of sun, particularly in the afternoon, and having tomato plants both inside and outside will hopefully spread the harvesting season. We will have to see.
We have only planted from the other side of the piece of wood down towards the end wall. We haven’t got around to clearing the last patch. I guess we will as we start to need the space.
All I can say, is that they must be desperate!
MMmm….without exception, the pigeons have managed to munch their way through all the cabbages that I planted. They are probably so fat they can barely fly!
We are going to be moving both the water and electric connections around to the new utility room. This was something that got missed off the original budget and can be a significant cost.
We have decided to dig the trench now. Once the new extension is built, the access would be severely limited by this trench. So we are going to do it now, lay the pipework and fill it back in before the porch is built.
We are also going to put connections into the outbuildings for both water (for the orchard and polytunnel) and electric for the sheds (lighting and power).
This was completed in a day. Probably another day’s work will get it to the utility (!) room. We will put a connection into the outbuildings for both water and electric.
The new water and electric connections will go in this trench. It is cheaper for us to dig it and put in the conduits rather than the utility companies doing it. The tarmac is cut with a floor saw and then a mini digger is used for the trench.
We started planting out in the polytunnel at the end of May and now things are starting to spring into life.
In the current weather, I leave both of the end doors open during the day. If nothing else, it lets the bees in to pollinate the flowers. However, the heat in there is pretty unbearable. I tend to water it twice a day.
Tomatoes. Nowhere near to be red yet, but it is a start!
Courgette. Starting to look more like a marrow. Not my favourite vegetable.
Cabbage. 5 out of 6 have survived. The caterpillars had the 6th.
Pansies and stuff. Things seem to be surviving in the polytunnel – even flowers!
Potatoes. These plants have started to take over the place. There are some parsnips under there, but I haven’t seen them for a while!
Four sunflowers grown from seed. These need potting on (again) as the roots are well out of these pots.
The builders arrived last week and the scaffolding was completed over the weekend. Before the work started (and while the builders weren’t around), we could not resist the temptation to have a look from the roof – the views are better than the roof itself!
There is now scaffolding right around the property to enable the roof to be removed.
Jo admiring the traditional stone slate roof!
The telehandler is used to reach up to roof level with a pallet. This is then loaded with slates and brought down to ground level while the roof is being repaired.
This is the front of the roof – all made from stone slates. It has probably been re-roofed a number of times and this explains the varying qualtiy of the slates. The slates are coursed so the bigger ones are at the bottom and the smaller ones are at the top.
My pickup truck and a skip. Question is which is which!
This is the outbuilding (with new roof) and the newly installed polytunnel. The orchard is behind.
I am working on the basis that if I am going to have to water the plants in the polytunnel on a daily basis, then I had just as well water a polytunnel full of plants rather than a polytunnel half full of plants.
I am not a keen gardener. I leave that to Jo. But with Jo in London this week and time moving on, I thought I should lend a hand with a bit of planting.
We bought some tomato plants at the weekend and these are now planted in two growbags cut in half. I have stood these upright at one end of the polytunnel.
At the weekend, we planted some mixed lettuce seeds as well as some chilli and beetroot (all as seeds). Today, I planted out the seed potatoes that we bought a couple of weeks ago and allow to “chit” in the dark (whatever that means!). I also planted a couple of rows of parsnips and 6 cabbages (all bought as plants).
Goodness knows whether any of this will grow, but let’s see.
The end bed contains 9 seed potato plants. The bed next door contains two rows of parsnips and 6 cabbages.
Each one planted in half of a growbag (gaffer tape put around the middle and then cut in half with a Stanley knife). We have inserted and upside down plastic bottle with the lid and bottom removed. This acts to funnel the water deep inside the bag.