Planting in the polytunnel

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 potatoe plants.  The bed next door contains two rows of parsnips and 6 cabbages.

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.

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.

Setting up the raised beds in the polytunnel

One side of the polytunnel has been set up with staging.  The other side is going to have raised beds for growing vegetables.

I picked up the raised beds and the “veggie” soil from Tommy Topsoil (http://www.tommytopsoil.com/) near Halifax this morning.  I bought loose soil which was loaded onto the back of the pickup as well as two 8ft x 4ft raised beds.  It took most of the afternoon to set them up, but they are now ready for planting.

The L200 will carry about 1 ton on the back.  With a cubic meter of soil on the back, we are just about full!

The L200 will carry about 1 ton on the back. With a cubic meter of soil on the back, we are just about full!

Two raised beds (8ft x 4ft) setup side by side.  It took a cubic meter of soil to fill these two raised beds.

Two raised beds (8ft x 4ft) setup side by side. It took a cubic meter of soil to fill these two raised beds.

Polytunnel – Day 6

Just about done.  The excess plastic around the door frames has been trimmed.  The excess around the edges of the polytunnel will be buried in a trench around the polytunnel.  This will help ensure that the polytunnel isn’t going to go anywhere in strong winds.  We will probably put a row of patio slabs around the edge of the polytunnel to keep the grass at bay – we will not be able to use the strimmer up against the polytunnel.

I would have dug the trench today and  backfilled it, but the physio has told me to take it easy with my back.

The plastic covering the polytunnel has now been trimmed around the door frames.  The plastic just needs to be tensioned and then the excess around the edges buried into a trench around the polytunnel.

The plastic covering the polytunnel has now been trimmed around the door frames. The plastic just needs to be tensioned and then the excess around the edges buried into a trench around the polytunnel.

Buried treasure

Well, not quite.  I found an old mobile phone while digging in the garden.  We have found lots of pottery and bits of china, but this is the first phone that we have found.

It didn’t look in good shape.  The battery had really deteriorated, so it was good to have it out of the ground.

When I took off the back of the phone, I was a bit surprised to find the SIM and a memory card still installed.  You can tell from the photo below that both were showing signs of having been in the ground.

I wondered if I would find anything on the memory card.  Or even if it could be read. 

Amazingly, it was a yes on both counts.

Looks like the phone was owned by a young boy who was into fishing, hip hop and air rifles.  Below is one of his most notable catches.

It is amazing what you find buried in the garden.

Having removed the back and the battery, imagine my surprise to find the SIM and the memory card still installed.  There is no chance of getting anything off that memory card.  Or is  there?

Having removed the back and the battery, imagine my surprise to find the SIM and the memory card still installed. There is no chance of getting anything off that memory card. Or is there?

 

One of the images left on the memory card.  All dated 2009.  Goodness knows how long the phone had been in the ground.

One of the images left on the memory card. All dated 2009. Goodness knows how long the phone had been in the ground.

Polytunnel – Day 5

And I am almost there.  By the end of the day, the frame is covered and waiting to be tensioned.  I had to get some help unfolding the plastic before it went onto the frame.  I probably could have done it on my, but it is the sort of job that would take an hour on your own or 5 mins with two people.  I opted for  the two person approach and Rob North kindly lent a hand.

It is starting to look like a polytunnel now, particularly from the inside!

The next job is to tension the plastic and cut off the excess,  but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

I must admit that this is a two man job - unfolding the plastic and getting it over the hoops is much easy with two pairs of hands.  Rob North kindly assisted.

I must admit that this is a two man job – unfolding the plastic and getting it over the hoops is much easy with two pairs of hands. Rob North kindly assisted.

It only took 5-10 minutes to unfold the plastic and get it onto the frame. Next job is to attached it to the wooden battens that run aroung the base of the frame making sure that it is tensioned correctly.  Why do I think of Dougal from the Magic Roundabout?

It only took 5-10 minutes to unfold the plastic and get it onto the frame. Next job is to attached it to the wooden battens that run aroung the base of the frame making sure that it is tensioned correctly. Why do I think of Dougal from the Magic Roundabout?

The plastic is still to be tensioned and the excess material trimmed off around the door, but we are almost there!

The plastic is still to be tensioned and the excess material trimmed off around the door, but we are almost there!

Polytunnel – Day 4

Well, again today, it was really only half a day on the polytunnel.  I had to go to the builders merchant this morning and I didn’t get started on the polytunnel until after lunch.

I decided to redo the first door frame that I had installed.  Looking back at it, it wasn’t completely vertical and you didn’t really notice until you should back and looked at it.  If I didn’t put it right, it would always annoy me in the future.  So with that sorted it was then a case of installing the supports for the internal trestle platform.  This has only been installed on one side since we are going to put raised beds for vegetables on the other side. 

Then it was time to start bolting the timber rail that runs around the bottom of the polytunnel and keeps the polyethene taught.  By the time that I had installed half of it, it was time to call it a day.  Tomorrow the weather forecast is good, so hopefully I will get the other side of the bottom timber rail done and will then cover the polytunnel with polyethene.

The door frames are vertical - honest!

The door frames are vertical – honest!

The timber rail is where the polythene is attached.  This rail can be moved down the hoops in order to tension the cover.

The timber rail is where the polythene is attached. This rail can be moved down the hoops in order to tension the cover.

Polytunnel – Day 3

We get most of the framework up today, including the door frames and the doors.  We had to cover the doors with the polyethene and netting ourselves.  It was a bit fiddly to get the material taught, but we succeed on our first attempt. 

There are just a couple of things to do before we can get the polythene on the framework.  But it is going to have to wait for another day!

It takes a couple of hours to get the hoops and ridge pole installed.  Then the corner stablisers are installed.The stone step from the old chicken house needs centering.

It takes a couple of hours to get the hoops and ridge pole installed. Then the corner stablisers are installed.The stone step from the old chicken house needs centering.

Door frames and doors installed.  There is polythene in the bottom part of the door and netting in the top part.  This allows air to circulate.

Door frames and doors installed. There is polythene in the bottom part of the door and netting in the top part. This allows air to circulate.

Polytunnel – Day 2

This morning I was distracted by purchasing a new lawn mower (and giving it a whirl in the garden).  So this was really only half a day on the polytunnel.

The anchors are now installed – 10 in total – they are installed in the right position and the anchors are level side to side.  The ground does slope slightly along its length, but there isn’t much I can do about it. 

Last job of the day is to screw the hoops together ready for tomorrow.  Once the frame is installed, we can level out the ground inside.  Once the hoops and ridge are installed, this will pull the frame straight and true.  Well, let’s see.

Doesn't look like much for half a day's work, but the anchors are installed and the hoops are now ready to go on.

Doesn’t look like much for half a day’s work, but the anchors are installed and the hoops are now ready to go on.

Some of this ground is going to need to be even up and the plan is to installed some patio slabs on end to create a "step" on this side.  Hopefully, this will make the ground inside level. The tops of the anchors are level and you can see the difference in levels, particularly on this side.

Some of this ground is going to need to be even up and the plan is to installed some patio slabs on end to create a “step” on this side. Hopefully, this will make the ground inside level. The tops of the anchors are level and you can see the difference in levels, particularly on this side.

Preparing the ground for the polytunnel

We are going to install a polytunnel just behind the outbuilding – where the old chicken shed used to be.  It was Jo’s Christmas present last year, but we haven’t had the time to put it up.  With the outbuilding now re-roofed, and most of the stripping out complete in the cottages, it is time to put the poly tunnel up.  I have never done this before, but how difficult can it be!

The polytunnel is 8ft x 20ft – it is exactly the same size as the chicken shed that it is replacing.  From what I can understand, the polytunnel should not be placed in direct sunlight (they simply get too hot) and have some protection from the elements (so having some protection from the wind).  In which case, the site of the old chicken shed makes a lot of sense. It is also close to the house, but out of the way of any building work.  I also purchased a polytunnel that could be moved – rather than the sides of the polytunnel being buried in a trench (to keep the sides down), this version has wooden boards attached to the bottom of the side sheeting.  So if it is in the wrong place, it can all be moved.  Let’s hope it isn’t!

The polytunnel was purchased from First Tunnels (www.firsttunnels.co.uk).  The site contains full sets of instructions and videos on how to construct and site your polytunnel and this looks like the right place to start.

Just in case you don't know what a polytunnel looks like!

Just in case you don’t know what a polytunnel looks like!

The first job is to dig over the ground underneath the old chicken shed.  It is fairly compact and has a fair amount of debris covering it.  I did consider hiring a rotivator, but thought the ground might be just too compacted. 

It took all day on Sunday to turnover the ground.  It was hard work.  I haven’t attempted to level the ground yet, just turned the soil over.

This is the site of the old chicken shed, just behind the re-roofed outbuilding.  The large slab in the front of the camera is the step into the chicken shed.  We will reuse this with the polytunnel.

This is the site of the old chicken shed, just behind the re-roofed outbuilding. The large slab in the front of the camera is the step into the chicken shed. We will reuse this with the polytunnel.

 

Digging over this patch of land is hard work - by hand!

Digging over this patch of land is hard work – by hand!

The ground is now dug over (removing any large stones and debris), but it needs to be levelled next.

The ground is now dug over (removing any large stones and debris), but it needs to be levelled next.

Another view of the ground all turned over and ready to be levelled. The back wall on the outbuilding is now starting to dry out since the gutter and the rainwater pipe have been installed.

Another view of the ground all turned over and ready to be levelled. The back wall on the outbuilding is now starting to dry out since the gutter and the rainwater pipe have been installed.