I have been so busy over the last few weeks with soooooo many different things that are going on in my life, all good I am glad to report….. and boredom is definitely not on the agenda ;). I have been working in the poly tunnels over the last week or so and have also managed to do some more gardening outside in my rockeries.
Today, I have been looking at what I have growing in my tunnels and also what is growing outside. Everything in the tunnels is doing so well, looks so healthy and has very little ‘bug’ damage. Outside however, is a very different story. Between the wind, which is very strong here, the rain, which is very heavy and frequent here and the slugs and snails that seem to have made their home on our land…..everything looks sick or is very slow to grow. The carrots and potatoes are doing OK but the runner beans and the dwarf beans are all but destroyed from the unseasonable wind and rain.
As I have mentioned in my piece ‘About Me’ I have been gardening for many years and have always grown our vegetables both outside and also under cover. When I lived in the UK I grew in a glass house (green house) and a plastic green house, both only about 6ft x 8ft. I grew tomatoes and cucumbers mainly and the odd bit of lettuce but there was never enough room for me to grow all the veg I would have liked. Moving to Ireland and having a large enough area to have a poly tunnel was like a dream come true and as soon as we started to build our home I started to look for a poly tunnel. I researched poly tunnels and looked at lots of different companies and what they had to offer. My biggest concern/worry was would the tunnel be able to cope with the extremely harsh weather conditions that we get here, as we live in a valley and are only 1 mile from the Atlantic….I will leave the rest to your imagination but it is very difficult to grow most plants unless they are able to cope with the elements.
After educating myself about the structure of a poly tunnel and our needs for a strong tunnel we decided to buy from a company based in the UK called First Tunnels. They had a fantastic web site which was so easy to ‘get round’ and when I called they were so helpful. I told them what my needs were, where I lived, the type of weather we get and they helped me to work out what size tunnel I needed along with what type of cover, crop bars etc.
I found my poly tunnel so good, I bought another, and I would love another (don’t tell my hubby 😉 ).
Why do I like growing in a tunnel. There are too many reasons to list but here are some:-
Where we live we can get all four seasons in just one day and when you are growing veg outside it only takes that one day to destroy what was a healthy plant.
In the poly tunnel however, the weather outside can be doing whatever it wants, wind, rain, hail, sleet or snow but inside the tunnel the sun is shining (OK, not literally) but the weather inside the tunnel is so controlled.
I did, however, a few years ago decide to plough the meadow/field behind the house and grow all those outdoor veg like potatoes, cabbage and runner beans etc. We cleared the ground, put up fencing and planted and planted and planted, It was a lot of hard labour and even harder to maintain the ground to stop nature from taking over, but, guess what, I lost and nature took over 😦 I ended up with a very bad back and a very very over grown veg patch. We did get a few potatoes however, but the cabbages were eaten alive by the caterpillars and the runner beans…….well they ‘ran to ground’ and produced very little. It was hard to believe that there was ever a veg patch there as it had turned, very quickly back into a meadow 😦 That was the toughest summer I had ever experienced gardening, doing what I love became a ‘nightmare’. So that was the end of that and gave in to the fact that it is not easy to grow outside in the environment that we had chosen to live in.
Growing in poly tunnel is a such a lovely environment to work in…whatever the weather!
With the poly tunnel however, it was much easier to control the environment that I was growing in. We could only see one slight problem, that was a we lived at the bottom of a mountainside so we did have to bring in the soil and build raised beds (needed these days for the ‘ol’ back) which is great because that means that I can control the weeds, snails, slugs and bugs so much easier than if I was growing outside and everything in the tunnel is much cleaner.
We bought our tunnel from First Tunnels 🙂 about 6 years ago and it was not long before I ran out of space. Initially I used my tunnel to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, chilies and salads but wanted to grow more….loads more!! We then bought another tunnel about 12 months ago and my lovely hubby built the planters, erected the poles for the tunnel and finally, when the weather was right put on the plastic cover.
We now how vegetables growing all year round, start seeds in January and continue sowing and planting all year 🙂
Over the last 12 months we, as a family have had the pleasure of eating freshly grown, chemical free veg everyday out of the 2 tunnels, even on Christmas day I went out, picked brussels, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and salad leaves for our dinner….now I call that a huge success, for growing your own!
Other veg that I have overwintered and had great success with are, Cauliflower, Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Many varieties of cabbage and Lettuce.
Both of my tunnels are full, or will be within the coming weeks with a massive variety of veg including, Tomatoes, Aubergines, Chilies. Basil. Coriander, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers, butternut squash, melons, celery, celeriac, lettuce, rocket, mustard, cress, oriental salad leaves, spring onions/scallions), sweetcorn, peas, beans, courgettes/zucchini, parsnips, carrots, radish, the list is endless and that’s not including all the seedlings that I have growing for overwinter veg 🙂
For me, there is NO comparison between growing outside and growing undercover……poly tunnel gardening is the best, cleanest, easiest and THE ONLY successful way to garden in such an uncompromising environment.
There is nothing nicer than eating, fresh, clean, chemical and bug free fruit and vegetables from your poly tunnel!
Now, hows that for a good but slightly long explanation on, ‘Why Grow In A Poly Tunnel’ 🙂