If you are considering buying a polytunnel, you might be trying to decide how large a polytunnel you should get. Making this decision can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Working out how to decide this issue involves asking yourself some key questions. Here are some of the things to consider:
How Much Space is Available?
Often, one factor above any other will determine how big a polytunnel you should get. Namely, how much space is available. In a typical domestic setting, space restrictions on the site will generally determine a maximum size for your polytunnel.
One you have found a suitable spot, and decided exactly how to position your polytunnel, determining which size of polytunnel to get may just be a question of measuring the space carefully. Then purchasing the largest polytunnel that will comfortably fit.
Believe me – you should, in most settings, get the largest polytunnel you can for the space available. No matter how much space you have inside your polytunnel, it is likely that you will always want more! I would strongly recommend that when choosing a polytunnel, you give yourself room to expand your efforts over time. You will be surprised by how quickly you will find uses for every inch that is available inside your polytunnel.
What is Your Budget?
Of course, there is one other factor that can limit the size of polytunnel you can opt for. That is, of course, how much money you can afford, or are willing, to spend. A polytunnel can be a great investment, and it can save you money when used for food production in particular.
There are plenty of ways to save money when starting a new garden. And the polytunnel is not somewhere to skimp. Consider investing in a good polytunnel and it will pay back your investment and more over its lifetime. But naturally you will have to be realistic about what you are able to spend up front.
What is the Polytunnel To Be Used For?
While most people purchase a polytunnel for food production or other plant growth, there are, of course, a range of other ways that you might use one. There are a number of practical and logistical issues that might determine the size of polytunnel you need.
For example, if your polytunnel is to be used for livestock, of course you will need to think about how much space each animal needs. If it is to be used for storage, or to keep a vehicle inside, taking measurements of items for storage or the vehicle will of course give you the minimum dimensions you need.
How Much Would You Like/ Do You Need To Grow?
If space and money are not barriers, then how large a polytunnel you should get may depend largely on your needs or wishes. If you are choosing a polytunnel for food production, or other growing, then this of course involves thinking about how much produce or how many plants you need or want to grow.
Answering this question might take a bit more work. And though you may not get a precise answer, thinking about the issues and asking the questions below should help you to narrow down your options and get a clearer idea of what you need, and should buy.
How Experienced Are You As a Grower?
Your skill and experience level will obviously make a big difference to how much it is sensible to take on all at once. Growing your own year round in a polytunnel is easier than you may think – even for absolute novices. But invest in too large a polytunnel and you may find things overwhelming. Sometimes, it may be better to get a smaller domestic polytunnel, even if you have a larger site, so you can do less, but do it better.
What Is Your Personality Type?
Of course, there is no rule against aiming for the sky. And even as a beginner, you may decide to start out with ambition and get a larger polytunnel from the outset. One other factor to consider when making your choice is your personality type. If you are a natural risk taker, with an ambitious personality, you may relish the challenge of a larger polytunnel when someone more risk averse would feel overwhelmed.
Are You Aiming For Self-Sufficiency?
In addition to examining yourself – your experience and personality – you also need to clarify your goals. One big question to ask yourself is whether you are aiming for self-sufficiency when it comes to food, or at least to fruits and vegetables. If self-sufficiency, at least in certain foods, is your goal, then this will obviously have a bearing on how large your growing areas need to be.
While you may well grow food outside as well as in a polytunnel, the size of your polytunnel will likely determine how much food you can grow – especially during the winter months.
The food you will need to provide for all or most of your diet will depend on a wide range of factors. It will of course depend on whether you will be eating an entirely vegan diet, a vegetarian one, or just trying to be self sufficient in produce as a meat eater.
How Many People Should the Food Your Grow Feed?
Whether you are aiming for self-sufficiency or not, thinking about how many people are in your household, or how many people you want to feed on a regular basis, is another factor that will be crucial in determining how large a polytunnel you should get.
Is Your Polytunnel for Commercial Use?
Of course, you may well be using a polytunnel to grow food not just for yourself and your household or community, but also for commercial sale. If you are a market gardener than of course a larger polytunnel will usually be required.
(A larger polytunnel will also typically be required if you are using a polytunnel commercially in other ways. For example, if you plan on creating a restaurant or cafe space inside a polytunnel, then thinking about the number of covers you wish to work with could be a good place to start when deciding how big a polytunnel to get.)
Which Growing Methods Will You Use?
One key thing to remember when thinking about the size of a polytunnel is that you can fit more into one than you might initially think. The growing methods that you choose can be chosen to maximise your yield and make the most of the space.
In a polytunnel, you may well just grow in the ground. You might grow in raised beds. You might grow in containers instead or in addition to the above. Polyculture planting schemes – companion planting techniques – is one way to make the most of the space. You might also consider vertical gardening techniques. Or even grow plants in water rather than soil and create a hydroponic or aquaponic system.
The method or method you choose to use will also help you decide how large a polytunnel you should choose.
These are just some of the questions that can help you decide what size of polytunnel you should get. Do you have any more suggestions to help people trying to make this decision? Please feel free to share these 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.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.