Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice, looking to be self-sufficient or supplement your salad bowl, we all want a bumper vegetable crop – but it can be tricky to achieve. A polytunnel is a great way to up your game and help you grow the veggies you’ve always dreamt of, so here’s a guide to putting up a polytunnel, and growing your own veggies.
Putting It Up
Putting up a polytunnel is a lot easier than you might think! You can choose to have it erected by a professional, or you can do it yourself – either way this definitely isn’t a job for a bad-weather day! In particular, you want to choose a day that isn’t too windy. It’s also important to put it up in warm weather, as the polythene will hand more tightly on the frame and make the job easier. A standard polytunnel has a framework constructed from hoops of aluminimum (or other metal) tubing, covered in a large polythene sheet. Assembly is pretty simple; first you’ll lay out the footprint and put up the frame, then you’ll dig a trench around the outside of the frame and use it to secure the sheet, before fixing the cover to the frame, and adding the doors.
What to Sow, When
One of the most important things to think about when trying to achieve the best possible vegetable crop when using a polytunnel is knowing what to sow and when. In spring you can sow early crops of lettuces, carrots and herbs. In summer all the half-hardy plants – the aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, chilies and tomatoes plus the more tender herbs such as basil and coriander can fill the beds. In autumn, winter salads, overwintering brassicas and oriental greens are ideal, while in winter you can enjoy cut-and-come leaves, spinach and chard and sow your onions. Peaches and nectarines can also be brought inside to avoid peach leaf curl.
For a bumper crop of veggies proper irrigation is vital. Overhead watering systems might sound attractive, but the environment tends to be humid anyway and as you are growing a wide range of crops means some are too wet and some too dry. For something a little lower tech but potentially more effective, irrigation tubing at bed level is a great option. You can also use this method to adjust the height of the water spray so plants that need to stay dry (say to avoid rotting) will, and those that need more water will be equally catered for.