It's time to get a polytunnel
Although the show is off-air for the winter it's business as usual here. I'm still going up to Greenacre every week marking out the new gardens and getting new plants going for next year. My autumn-sown broad beans are looking good and I potted up the spares that weren't planted out into buckets for forcing in the greenhouse which should give us crops by early May.
Truth is though, we don't have enough space in there for everything so I've decided it's time to get a polytunnel. I know that they look like simple structures to put up, at least compared to a greenhouse but believe me they're not. Ned, the location manager at Greenacre didn't believe it, but he does now! There are so many parts - each similar but not interchangeable and really confusing instructions. My only advice is get help, and expect to need it for some time. Anyway, after much dismantling, adjusting, swearing and general fiddling about our tunnel is up.
The big advantage of a tunnel over a greenhouse is that size is cheap to buy. Once the cost of the hoops and doors have been covered, you can go as large as you like for very little more. And let's face it, who has ever had a greenhouse or polytunnel that isn't brim-full in its first season?
There are a few extras worth putting your hand in your pocket for when buying. Thick polythene with good insulation qualities and a four-year guarantee for starters. Ours is 180 microns thick and what's called 'luminescent' so looks opaque from the outside but the light that passes through bounces around making for better growth. Other extras include double doors at both ends - essential to allow air to blow through the tunnel to cool the insides in summer and stop fungal spores settling on plants in winter. Insulation tape to keep the plastic clear of the metal hoops (without it the heat causes the cover to crack) is a must and (a personal preference for me) an anti-drip coating on the plastic so condensation doesn't fall down the back of your neck while potting up plants.
At Greenacre, we're using it for all our cuttings and to house tender pots through winter but I've got big plans for spring, starting off all our summer bedding and annual veg in it. If you're thinking of getting one now, I say go for it. It'll bring spring to your plot six weeks early, guarantee crops of salads right through winter and make growing tender veg like peppers, aubergines and toms a breeze. Just make sure you get an extra pair of hands or two to help you put it up!