For the last year or so, in different places around our site, large plastic edifices have been appearing one-by-one. A month or so later, the owner appears with an almost-apologetic-but-ever-so-slightly-smug smile, carrying an unseasonal salad crop or a truss of pristine tomatoes. The age of the polytunnel is upon us.
Meanwhile, those without such luxuries look on with envy, knowing that unlike their plastic-coated neighbours they can’t cheat the seasons. So far, that’s included us. Now, though, I’ve decided to invest in covering one of our raised beds.
I found that one of the polytunnel companies (First Tunnels) sells what they call “Heavy-Duty Cloche Hoops”, and that you can fit extra bits of tubing to these to get the size of structure that you want. You can also buy a plastic cover cut to the size that you need to cover it. What we’ve ended up with may not be up to polytunnel standards, but it was about a third of the cost, will move around according to our crop rotation system, and will hopefully give us the chance to do some of the things that people with polytunnels get to do.
There are still some bits to attach to make it more secure, and when that’s done we’ll get the cover on a little more neatly, but here’s the ‘proof of concept’ attempt to set it up:
We haven’t decided what to call it yet. “Polytunnel” makes it sound much grander than it is. “Cloche” doesn’t quite seem to do it justice. Inside, there’s a path to give access all the way along, but you can’t stand up in it. It feels more like a tent than anything else.
I bought it primarily with tomatoes and salad leaves in mind. Now, I’m thinking about trying to squeeze in some cucumbers, chillis, aubergines, dwarf french beans, and courgettes, and then over-wintering some peas and broad beans afterwards. I’d love to try growing sweetcorn and sweet potatoes too…
Okay, so I don’t know exactly what it’s for yet. But if it works well, and doesn’t blow away, then perhaps we’ll add a second next year to give us more space to play with.