First Summer in the Polytunnel

2019 is our first summer having the Polytunnel and we’re sharing our successes and failures that came along with it. We have absolutely loved it and couldn’t have hoped for better results when it comes to our growing goals. We did come across some challenges including Managing the Environment. But we also learnt that we’re able to grow a whole new load of plants that we previously couldn’t!

Digging our first ever crop of Sweet Potato!

A note on Ventilation and Humidy problems and benefits

The plastics eliminate all wind. Which in turn means higher humidity. In Spring we removed the plastics from the doors, leaving just an insect netting, so that at night we can close the doors and still be ventilated. Opening the doors is the obvious answer but our British Summer was lovely and on a windless day with outside temperatures of 28c we were getting regular 55celsius in the heat of the day and even temperatures of above 30c before 9am!!

Suddenly trying to work inside is most tiring in this environment and watering is best done in the early morning or evenings when temperatures are cooler.

We salvaged an extractor fan from the old greenhouses which we installed to the Polytunnel door. This was not as powerful as we had hoped but did managed to knock a few degrees off the general temperate and suck out some of that hot air.

We’re planning a better system for the future which includes extractor fans and solar energy. Remembering that our tunnel is 22×6 metres, it’s a big space to manage.

We had to run the fan from an extension lead but now we are in the process of updating the electrics, we will have electric in the Polytunnel next year and we’re wondering if the fan might even be more powerful than we thought.

What plants were we able to grow in our new environment?

Back in early Spring, the boys installed two raised beds with an overhead trellis at the bottom of the tunnel. Both beds were then filled halfway with logs and branches before being covered with compost. This is also known as ‘Hugelkultur‘ which translates a ‘hill grown’ is not often heard of let alone being used in the everyday garden. The idea is that the organic matter slowly decays over many years adding goodness to your soil but also holding many nutrient, which the plant roots have access to! From there we let the microbiorganisms to the rest.

We also added BioChar which we created in our mini kiln. Along with some Manure and Worm castings our new beds were ready for their first trial.

We love a bit of companion planting and experimented by planting chillies, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, sweet potato, passionfruit, cantaloupe Melon, watermelon and lots of annual herbs.

Plants looking healthy after settling in for a couple weeks
A mid-summer day
Our first Ripe tomato came in Mid June! A wonderfully messy looking variety called ‘Latah’ bred for short summers.
A baby Cantaloupe Melon
A little watermelon found a comfy spot. It grew to about football size!

It was our first time having homegrown Melons and Watermelons but they were the best I ever tasted!

A makeshift t-shirt hammock takes the weight off the Watermelon plant
Cantaloupe Melon ‘Minnesota Midget’ grew really happily and gave a great yield. We’ve saved the seeds for next year!
Passion fruit supplied by a good friend of ours who is Portuguese and picked up some seeds for us on his last trip home!

The passion fruit have got several fruit waiting to ripen and is still throwing new flowers out long in to late summer.

Moringa The Moringa trees grown from seed earlier this year are doing very well. We put a few out to the greenhouse in midsummer but those inside the Polytunnel are much healthier and are even budding up!

The first time we had beautiful red ripe Sweet Peppers in Early August

3 very different types of Sweet Pepper
We took some of our Sweet Peppers to our flower sale in summer and we sold out!

Chilli peppers are one of are favourite plants to grow and this year we had more success then ever!

THE CHILLI LINE UP

Keep an eye on our blog as we will soon be sharing our experiences from this years chilli and sweet pepper growing season, including which varieties we grew and how well they performed!

Every year we look forward to growing tomatoes and this year we were able to compare those grown in the vegetable garden, to those grown in the polytunnel.

One group of Tomatoes undergoing experiment in the polytunnel

When the first tomato flowers set we get very excited over here as it’s one of our favourite crops! We had around 6 or 7 varieties this year and really have a lot to say about them! Our tomato harvest was so plentiful we were able to preserve many for later use and also as a fresh ingredient in our Chilli Sauces!

By mid summer we were forcing our harvests upon innocent friends and family.

Starting seeds inside the Polytunnel with very quick germination rates

Sowing seeds in succession ensure a constant crop

Seeds were being started in the Polytunnel throughout summer and some seeds were coming through in just 2 days! This is great for herbs and salad crops that are being harvested daily and need replacing!

Click here to read about the Vegetable Garden that’s thriving inside the old greenhouse

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