April 30

The endless polytunnel

I do love a trial and usually have something I want to try out each year. In the past I have looked at sowing seeds and the best ways to do this and when to use each method.  This year I am trialling something completely different. Last year my tomatoes were a bit indifferent in places in the polytunnel.   That was partly due to ants, which are a real problem and I can’t find a way to get rid of them, and very dry soil.  I have tried everything to get rid of the ants, and I mean everything my friends, from boiling water to nematodes. And NOTHING works!

Many years ago I read Eliot Coleman’s book The New Organic Grower and instantly wanted his moveable polytunnels. He designed and built them himself and they run on tracks and have 3 different places they can settle.  I don’t have the know-how or desire to build my own but I now have a temporary tunnel which I can move around.

For about 18 years I have had a hooped tunnel frame without a cover on my plot. I planted an apple tree inside it thinking I would move the frame soon but of course, never did.  This winter I pruned the tree hard so that I could get the frame over it and then walked it to its new site. It has had go where it would fit rather than where it would look best so it is in an unusual place but it is in.  The polytunnel companies are all taking a long time to send items out, understandably, and I couldn’t wait for 6-8 weeks so I bought some cheap plastic from Amazon for £3 to cover it with. It will do for this year.

The thing that is different about it is that it has no ends. I know! What was I thinking? Actually, I was thinking about the fact that it is the wet that I am really trying to keep off the tomatoes and probably provide a bit more heat than our ‘normal’ summers. (Not sure what a normal summer is nowadays!) The tunnel’s side is facing the prevailing winds, offering some protection but I can not deny that it is airy inside. And that the plastic blows around a bit because it was too stretchy to put on tightly.

Inside, I have planted tomatoes and a cucumber in the same way as my other tunnel. This means bottles sunk to water and string underneath the rootball to train the tomatoes up as they grow.  At each end, half in and half out, I have two courgettes under plastic domes because it is a bit early for them to be out yet.  The downside might be slugs and snails. The tunnel is near the patch of comfrey and there must be hundreds of the little critters hiding under the leaves. However, the tomatoes that I planted out when it was really warm are growing well.

 

 

 

Outside the tunnel, I have buried the plastic and then planted some lettuce in the ditch, covered in plastic bottles at the moment to protect them from things until they are big enough to cope on their own. They are growing well but need more frequent watering than if they were in the soil with no polythene underneath them.

So, this is my trial for the year. Will the tomatoes grow and fruit well? Will the endless tunnel be later than the one with ends? Can I use it for a second year in this place or will I need to move it after I have harvested the fruit, if there is any?  If I want to move it, I only have to pull it up and move it to the side where I reckon I can fit it on twice more before running out of bed. Then I can bring it back to this patch. My very own mobile polytunnel.

I will keep you posted with updates.  What are you trialling this year?

June 4

Harvest Monday 4th June 2018

I do love this time of year. Everything in the vegetable garden starts to get going and there is a choice about what to have for lunch, not just spinach!

This is probably the earliest cucumber I have ever grown. I bought a grafted plant, Mini Star, which already had some small cucumbers on it and this one didn’t go yellow and drop off with the cold but grew.  It will take a little while for the next one to be ready.

This is the first beetroot from outside. It is a mixture of Boltardy and Bona and is the first year I have grown Bona. It has done just as well as the Boltardy the only difference being in the shape of the root: it is a globe with no point on the bottom.  On the back of the packet of the seed it says that they are as good as any hybrid which made me wonder if I could save my own seed from them.  I think I will sow some more, let them grow through to next year and save the seed just to see what happens. Tomorrow, however, I will make beetroot and feta samosas with them.

All of my outdoor carrot seedlings were eaten by slugs and snails. Grrrr! So, I only have the carrots in the polytunnel at the moment. Some of them are a little wiggly because I garden on sand and stone. I am going to eat these with the peas below, broadbeans and a lemon and mustard dressing.

Again, these peas are from the polytunnel. The outdoor ones won’t be long but it does show how the polytunnel extends the season at both ends.  These are Douce Provence and I will definitely be growing them again. The plants seem to be stronger and a little tougher than the Hurst Greenshaft I normally grow. The peas, however, are tender and sweet.

The smallest harvest ever of potatoes. One of the Nicola potatoes was flowering so I thought I would just take a look.  They are small but were delicious cooked with mint. Patience!

And soon to come are the strawberries and the globe artichokes. I can’t wait!

My thanks to the wonderful Our Happy Acres blog for hosting the Harvest Monday posts.

May 15

What’s happening now 14/05/18

I can’t believe it is nearly a month since I wrote the last post on the blog. In that time everything has started to grow and the weather is currently quite warm: the polytunnel needs frequent watering.  this week has been a week of planting out so that I can make a bit of space in my greenhouse and sow more seeds!

To my surprise, the garlic in the polytunnel had started to bolt.  Last year, I planted all of my garlic outside and each clove sprouted due to the cold and then hot then cold weather. The bulbs were very small and it really wasn’t worth it. This year, I decided to plant half in the tunnel and half outside.  The half that is outside is not ready yet but this lot was.  I pulled it, strung it up to dry out and planted some aubergines into the space they left.

The heads on these are a reasonable size and so I will save one or two to grow again next year.  Some people on the allotments have been planting garlic that they have kept for years and now have plants that are especially adapted to their soil and watering conditions.

 

 

The broad beans have started to produce and I have picked a kilogram from the tunnel again. They were small, juicy and tender and we ate them in salads and as a vegetable with small carrots and asparagus.  We are eating a lot of asparagus at the moment. So much so in fact that I might have to try and freeze some. It would be great to have an asparagus omelette in the summer or to include some in stir fries throughout the year.

 

 

 

It is the first year that I have grown spring onions, red and white, and they are doing well. I keep thinning them and eating the thinnings in stir fries. The carrots are also bushing up and starting to thicken so these are also being thinned and eaten.  My carrots outside have not germinated particularly well so my next visit to the plot will involve resowing both carrots and parsnips.

 

 

The main job this week has been planting out in the polytunnel.  I have a lot of tomatoes to plant: Costoluto, Sungold, Zlatava, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Tigerella and Black Cherry. You can’t have too many tomatoes, can you?  I have interplanted several varieties of lettuce and am hoping that the tomatoes will provide a bit of shade for them until it gets too hot in there.  I also planted lettuce outside around my courgettes which should stagger production.

 

 

 

 

 

The spinach has been prolific and will very soon need to be pulled even if it hasn’t bolted: I need the space – there are more tomatoes to go in!  This variety, Medania, is supposed to be good in heat and drought so perfect for a polytunnel. I hate it when you have to take something out because you don’t have enough space.

What’s going well on your plot at the moment?