In this third extract from the First Tunnels sponsored, new Climate Change Garden book, Kim Stoddart explains how to negate our whatever-the-weather future…
Come rain, wind, prolonged heatwave, snow or goodness knows what else, building a central strength in your planting will be key. With this in mind here are some key tips and considerations to help you on your merry more resilient polytunnel gardening way.
In a structure decidedly not open to the elements, plants do require access to this vital liquid of life.
Year round, to reduce your efforts in the process of watering, maximising the benefit to your plants in the process, a deep soak for longer is always preferable. This way you can ensure the water permeates much deeper into the ground where it can stay for longer, affording a greater supply for your plants and saving time for you as you can leave it longer till the next time round.
Well mulched and composted soil will be much better able to hold onto and absorb water, so it’s important to keep your loam the healthiest it can be. Also ground cover works really well as it helps protect soil from drying out from the glare of the sun (nice to think about during winter). Planting such as lettuce leaves and herbs are light on the soil and work really well as cover crops, as do edible planting such as nasturtiums and calendula.
Dealing with extreme heat
Yes, a polytunnel will get very hot indeed in the midst of summer, especially if the doors and ventilation panels are all shut. It really doesn’t take long for the sun to raise the temperature inside to a level unbearable to both plants and produce, so this is why planning ahead to prevent such heat build up is key.
During the warmer months of the year, it pays to keep everything you can open to the elements, allowing cooling airflow as much as you can. Erring on the side of caution in favour of a cooler tunnel overall, saves you worrying about your plants wilting when (for example) a cooler summer morning, turns into an absolute scorcher when you are at work and unable to do anything about your plants probably wilting. If you’re worried about rabbits or other wildlife with plant nibbling tendencies getting in over night, then simple barriers can easily be constructed or used to provide protection.
Handling strong winds
A well installed polytunnel will be able to stand firm against gale force winds, as long as doors and all openings are kept securely shut. If you know extreme winds are forecast, it’s also important to err on the side of caution and remove any potential flying debris from the vicinity, such as lightweight garden furniture or buckets to avoid subsequent damage. I have run courses before in my First Tunnels structure whilst 50 mph gusts raged outside, so strong and resilient is the tunnel.
It’s important to always have some repair tape on hand in case of accidental damage to your tunnel skin. As soon as you see a small tear, a near immediate repair should be made to avoid the damage becoming more acute over time. The longer a tear in the plastic is left, the more likelihood there is of the wind getting behind it and making the rip larger and harder/more costly to repair over time.
Box Out – About the Climate Change Garden Book
Co-written with Soil Association magazine editor, Sally Morgan, the book aims to empower you with the knowledge, skills and confidence to become a climate change savvy gardener. It can be purchased via the First Tunnels website at /www.firsttunnels.co.uk
Kim also runs polytunnel growing and get climate change smart courses and is offering First Tunnels customers 20% off all 2020 bookings made before the end of November 2019. Just mention First Tunnels when booking via https://www.paypal.me/Polytun to take advantage of the specially discounted price of £76. See www.greenrocketcourses.com for more details.
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK