Sunday, 12 May 2013

Probably the best polytunnel in Viam! (But actually, probably not)

Every selfsufficienter needs some way to extend the growing season.  Here the locals tell you not to put anything other than potatoes and onions in the ground until the 15th of May unless it’s under cover!  In our case we decided to go for a polytunnel and the aim was to build it using as little bought materials as possible. A quick look around the various outbuildings and garden here at Chez Powell turned up a number of things we could use. So when our friends The Hopwoods (Maz’s blog is listed over to the right, lots of good stuff there so take a look) came to stay we got to work. What follows is a “How we did it” rather than a “How to...” as I'm sure it doesn't conform to any kind of poly tunnel norm! Which is just how we like it!

First for the base/frame we cut down some of the pines growing at the end of the garden. We made a rectangle base and A-frame at either end and in the middle.

  This was all lashed together rather than screwed or bolted to allow for the changing of the green pine wood. Thinking this way it can be tightened or loosed as necessary.  Matt’s a climber so taught me some knot technique along the way as well.

We found the frame work for a large garden gazebo in one of the outbuildings so we used a long pole as the ridge pole (Is it called a ridge pole outside of a tent? I don’t know) 

We then drilled some holes along the base and inserted more poles vertically, attached plastic water pipe to act as frame/support for the plastic film that will eventually go over the top.

We also drove in some chestnut fence posts (left over from the pig fencing) at either end to add a bit of extra support and strength. At the one end they will also act as the frame for the door.

The decision was made to dig out the beds and paths before putting the film on. Not fancying the saunaesque   conditions that would ensue with two 30something men digging inside a polytunnel, not to mention the smell!  All the turf was given to the pigs and chickens who love to root around in it to forage for greens and grubs.  

 At the end of the first day, two thirsty men took a break and posed for the up-coming calendar!

The following day, we then stretched the film over the top, weighted it down with rocks found around the land and screwed into the frame at either end.

The door was knocked up form some wood reclaimed from pallets and the hinges used were taken from an old door we took out of the house.  


We used stones found when digging to create a little border around the beds themselves, just to make it look nice.

All that remained was to plant it up. We had to wait a bit for the market as a frost killed our seedlings. It wasn’t just us some other English guys down the road had the same problem. So far we’ve put in tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and lettuces. We’re also trying out some companion planting with garlic and basil (Both keep aphids and blackfly off the toms) We have also got some pot marigolds to go in. When the whole thing is in bloom I’ll get some more pics on.   

Again many thanks to Maz and Matt for helping out. We had a great week and are looking forward to doing it again. Knitting our underwear from tofu next time!! Should mention that, Chells old man helped with the door and finishing the following week.