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The Polytunnel

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default The Polytunnel

Post by Ploshkin on 2nd February 2016, 10:39 am

I keep seeing all these pictures in books and on websites of polytunnels bursting with stuff growing and can't imagine mine ever getting to that stage. But I hope it will. I got the beds dug back in October & covered with muck (together with 1000s of worms Very Happy but haven't yet found a supply of topsoil to really finish them off. I've just emptied out my growbags and pots from the gh on them. For the time being I'm going without 'edges' to the beds and see how I get on.



At the moment I'm using some unwanted drainage bits as bottomless pots filled with multipurpose compost which will get spread out on the beds afterwards. I put in broad bean seeds in October - the plants are a little bit eaten (chaffinches getting under the door I think) but well established. I've got some spinach beet - the seedlings were languishing in a tray outside the greenhouse leftover from the summer so I put them in the pt about new year. And, I sowed some Amsterdam Forcing carrots on the last day of January, they are covered with layers of fleece as the temperature drops pretty low some nights. The range over 24 hours the other day was from minus 0.2c to 16.9c


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Post by Dandelion on 2nd February 2016, 8:03 pm

Ooh, I like the bottomless pots - great idea!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by FloBear on 7th February 2016, 9:46 am

Looks enormous! Will be interesting to see it fill up over the growing season.
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Post by Ploshkin on 21st May 2016, 9:34 am

I've completed my automatic watering system at last.  There have been a few teething problems but it's going well now.  I will still need to do some individual watering of thirsty plants but it should give enough background watering over the whole area.  I've got 2 45 gallon black barrels inside one end (so that they will also act as a thermal store.  They are linked up to a circuit of leaky hose and I have a battery operated low pressure timer on each barrel.  I could have linked both barrels to one timer but didn't want bits of hose crossing the door as it is the door I use all the time but that's the end where the water supply is.  I fill the barrels with a hose from an IBC container that collects water from the roof of the sheep shed.
Yesterday I planted out my tomatoes, sweetcorn, a squash and a courgette.  I watered  on nematodes a week ago so hope that knocks the slugs back - I've never tried them before. I was quite pleased with how much organic matter the worms had pulled down into the clay since I dug the beds.
I will post a couple of pictures next time I get over there.
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Post by freebird on 21st May 2016, 2:04 pm

Sounds fascinating Ploshkin. What exactly do the timers do?
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Post by Chilli-head on 21st May 2016, 8:36 pm

I like your setup. I do something similar, I'm sure the internal water butts help even the temperature a little, and mean that the water is warmed a little.

Where did you get your timers ?

Feeling a bit envious of your under-cover growing space; my greenhouse is not very big, and is bursting at the seams at this time of year !
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Post by Ploshkin on 21st May 2016, 9:00 pm

Freebird, the timers have 2 dials- one to set the frequency of the watering and the other to set the duration. At the moment I've got it set to water for half an hour every 6 hours but I will cut that down once the beds are reasonably damp. I want the 2 barrels to last a week while we are away if possible.
Chilli Head, the timers are Darlac battery powered timers that run on 2 AAA batteries. They are only about £20 and seem to be the only ones that will run on low pressure from a barrel. I've got mine up 18" high and the water seems to be travelling 30' without any problem.
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Post by traceyjp on 22nd May 2016, 10:35 am

My polytunnel is in its third year and full to the brim with melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies, french beans, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries and more. It was well worth the hard work to set it up. I am jealous of your watering system though Ploshkin maybe one day I will get around to sorting something, until then its full steam with the watering cans!
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Post by freebird on 22nd May 2016, 6:17 pm

Hello Traceyjp. Haven't seen you here before. What part of the country do you live in (or maybe that should be what country do you live in)? Come and join us in the tearoom if you fancy more general chat.

Thanks for that explanation, Ploshkin. I couldn't work out where the low pressure bit came in. I'm more used to low pressure switches turning a boiler off if system pressure too low!
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Post by Chilli-head on 22nd May 2016, 7:57 pm

I really am getting polytunnel envy here. I have a small greenhouse (8x6') which does well enough for tomatoes, peppers, chillies and a couple of cucumbers. But I don't have space for melons ! I did grow them once, and a rock melon, still warm from the sun, is just the most exquisite flavour ...

Any problems with greenfly Traceyjp ? I am battling against them on my peppers. These warm winters really don't help.
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Post by Ploshkin on 22nd May 2016, 8:54 pm

I'm avoiding melons for this year as everything is experimental this year and melons are a step too far but I'm sure I'll have a go before too long.
I only opened one door of the tunnel this morning as it was grey and drizzly.  I went over there this afternoon when the sun had come out and found that the door had blown shut (i'd forgotten the rock).  The temperature in there was just a smidge below 50° - nothing had wilted so my watering system is looking hopeful.
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Post by freebird on 23rd May 2016, 8:04 am

CH - my greenhouse is the same size as yours. I grow both cucumbers and melons vertically. Once they reach the eaves, I have some netting stretched across a pole along the ridge and down to the eaves, so they grow through that.
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Post by Ploshkin on 23rd May 2016, 10:18 am

That's where I find my lean to greenhouse good - anything that needs to climb can grow beside the wall which has netting attached to it. I've never tried melons in there because of insufficient hours of sun.
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Post by traceyjp on 23rd May 2016, 11:24 am

I grew melons for the first time last year and had a bumper harvest. Trying watermelons this year, so fingers crossed. I have no trouble with green flies this year as I have rigged up net door curtains on the tunnel, but have had a population explosion of voles. I emptied all the raised beds this winter and wired the bases but the little blighters have still found a way in, oh well the joys of country living!
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Post by Ploshkin on 23rd May 2016, 1:54 pm

We still don't know what part of the country you live in Traceyjp
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Post by traceyjp on 23rd May 2016, 4:00 pm

Sorry forgot to say, I'm in Suffolk.
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Post by Ploshkin on 23rd May 2016, 4:36 pm

Ooh, different climate over there - we could be on separate continents as far as the weather is concerned. I like the sound of your melon success, something for me to aim for next year. I have got some fabulous strawberries though.
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Post by Dandelion on 23rd May 2016, 8:46 pm

Ploshkin wrote:I'm avoiding melons for this year as everything is experimental this year and melons are a step too far but I'm sure I'll have a go before too long.
I only opened one door of the tunnel this morning as it was grey and drizzly.  I went over there this afternoon when the sun had come out and found that the door had blown shut (i'd forgotten the rock).  The temperature in there was just a smidge below 50° - nothing had wilted so my watering system is looking hopeful.

My idea this year was to keep everything simple - only do what I know and need. A lovely friend bought me a couple of unusual plants for the greenhouse though, so I will be trying melons this year!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Ploshkin on 27th May 2016, 11:15 am

I've finally got round to downloading my pictures of my watering system.  This is the business end with the 2 barrels that I fill with a hosepipe from outside.  Because the 2 barrels are linked the water level balances when the watering system is in operation.

This is the leaky hose.  I've got 3 lines running down the length of the centre bed - they are all linked together in a loop.  There is a single line running down each of the narrow outside beds but it snakes from side to side to cover more of the surface.

The pipe should ideally be buried below the surface to prevent evaporation but at the moment I want to monitor its operation.  It seems to be working ok and although the surface of the beds look dry, apart from directly under the pipe, there is a reasonable level of moisture an inch or so below the surface.  When I took these I had just put out the tomatoes, courgettes & sweetcorn and they all seem to be doing well so far. I may decide to put in some extra lines but will see how it goes for a bit.
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Post by Ploshkin on 26th June 2016, 5:22 pm

I took a couple more pictures in the polytunnel today and can't believe how much things have grown in just 4 weeks. The sweetcorn is very nearly as tall as me (though that's not difficult) but the stars of the show at the moment are the courgette which is completely outperforming the 3 that are planted in the garden and the Uchiki Kuri squash which is the triffid in the pictures and is currently bearing at least 10 developing fruits ranging from golf ball to grapefruit size at the moment. Yesterday I picked 3/4 pound of strawberries - that's the second big flush. I have just taken delivery of a fig plant and I think I am going to grow it on in a pot for a couple of years before planting it in a bed. If I hadn't had stuff from the tunnel my total harvest to date would have been 3 courgettes, a couple of lettuces and I would just be starting on potatoes. (to be fair, I didn't bother to put any broad beans outside because the ones under cover were doing so well).

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Post by Ploshkin on 26th June 2016, 5:27 pm

Not sure why my second picture ended up in the middle and sideways!
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Post by freebird on 26th June 2016, 11:06 pm

Wow, that all looks fantastic. I guess you won't be sending the polytunoel back for a refund then.
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Post by Ploshkin on 11th July 2016, 11:38 am

I can't believe the difference in just 2 weeks & there has been absolutely no sun since the first week of June.  I'm glad I made my paths fairly wide as I can only just get along them now without treading on stuff.  This is a bit of the aerial squash section


I've never grown sweetcorn before so it's quite exciting.  I started judiciously shaking the stems once the flowers appeared but wasn't quite sure what the pollen was supposed to be landing on but suddenly the silks started appearing, it's quite fun trying to guess where the next one will spring from.  The tallest plant is just about to touch the roof and there are currently 8 tassels showing.  I leave a door open at each end during the day and at the moment they get quite a bit of breeze blowing through.  



Last edited by Chilli-head on 11th July 2016, 12:21 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Picture righted ! Needs manually rotating, the forum does not understand the camera's EXIF data.)
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Post by freebird on 11th July 2016, 5:43 pm

That looks absolutely amazing - and I suppose doubly so for you, as you struggle with things outdoors. It must be so gratifying to see such superb results. Long may it conline.
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Post by Dandelion on 11th July 2016, 6:10 pm

freebird wrote:That looks absolutely amazing

Just what I was going to say!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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