The end of the summer marks an important time in the polytunnel garden. Most of the main summer crops will likely still be in full production, yet winter will be approaching fast. While there is something to be said for taking some time to simply appreciate the bounty of late summer, it is also important to think ahead, and to make sure that you are prepared for the colder months ahead. Sometimes you will have to be ruthless, and rip out plants that are still producing food in order to make way for the next wave of sowing and planting.
Why Be Ruthless in Your Polytunnel?
One of the things that you may have to struggle with at this time of the year is deciding when to make the transition and remove summer crops to make space to plant things for overwintering that will feed you over the winter, and through the hungry gap beyond. If you are not ruthless then you will soon find that although you enjoy a bounty of food in the summer, you will not have enough crops to feed you through the more challenging times of the year.
One of the best things about having a polytunnel is the fact that you can use it to grow and eat your own food not just in the summer but all year round. But you can only succeed in eating from your polytunnel year round if you are able to make difficult decisions come the end of summer about which plants to keep, and which to relegate to the compost heap.
What Plants Might You Remove Before The Harvest is Finished?
A number of common polytunnel plants can be productive right up until (or even beyond) the first frost in your area. These might include:
- summer squash
- peppers & chillies
With each of these examples, you could happily leave these in place until they stop producing. But as mentioned above, doing so could mean missing out on later crops. Being ruthless and ripping out at least some of these crops to allow time for winter greens or other overwintering crops to be sown or planted into polytunnel growing areas in August/ September/ October could be the best choice for the overall yield from your polytunnel, even if you do miss out on the tail end of production for the plants in question.
Do you have the ability to be ruthless in your polytunnel garden? Can you remove a courgette plant before it is done? Or pull up your pepper plants before all the peppers ripen? How do you make your decisions about what has to go, and when? How do you make the most of all the space in your polytunnel throughout the whole year? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.