A polytunnel can be very useful in a range of different settings. Polytunnels can of course be used in domestic and commercial settings. But there are also interesting community uses for polytunnels.
In this article, we will talk a little about how community groups might use a polytunnel to create value and utility in different community projects or schemes. All too often, a sense of community has been lost. But we should all realise that we can’t all just wait for someone else to do something about it. If our communities are lacking – we can take things into our own hands, and strive to enrich and enable our communities in a range of different ways.
Before we look at interesting community uses for polytunnels, it might be useful to think about the types of different community scheme that might be beneficial for bringing communities together and building resilience. Community leaders, or individuals living in a community, might aid those living in an area by:
- Creating community gardens or allotments.
- Setting up ecosystem restoration or conservation schemes in an area.
- Providing meeting spaces for communities to get together and collaborate.
- Establishing food hubs which make it easier for communities to access fresh, affordable, locally grown food.
- Creating spaces of shared learning or shared resources.
Community Uses for Polytunnels in Food Production
The first and most obvious way that communities could make use of a polytunnel is of course for food production. In community gardens and on allotments, polytunnels can be useful for:
- Seed starting and propagation.
- Protection of more tender or exotic plants.
- Providing some level of protection against pests and problems.
- Winter cultivation and year-round growing – expanding growing efforts outside of the spring and summer months.
- Giving a structure in a space from which rainwater can be harvested.
- Providing space to store pots, tools and other equipment.
Polytunnels can be versatile growing spaces, and can be used in community gardens and on allotments in a range of different ways, as shared resources which can help increase yields, grow more, and grow in more eco-friendly and sustainable ways.
Community Uses for Polytunnels in Plant Propagation
It is not only through gardening and food production that we can enhance our communities. Conservation and ecosystem restoration are vitally important for our future, and communities can come together to protect and enhance the natural world around them.
By preserving or reinstating wetlands, woodlands, forests, or meadows, for example, communities can help mitigate and adapt to climate change, and help tackle biodiversity losses. The scale of the challenges we face can sometimes feel overwhelming. But working together, there is almost no limit to the things we can achieve.
And communities can come together to turn towns and cities into green and pleasant places too. Nature should not be something distant and other – it must be integral to our lives and to the communities in which we live. Creating rain gardens, improving public parks, and sowing wild flowers, for example, can dramatically enrich urban environments and urban lives.
Often, a large number of plants need to be propagated to enable ecosystem restoration or community greening schemes. And a polytunnel can come in very handy for such protects. They can serve as a place to propagate many plants through seeds and cuttings, and to create tree nurseries for vulnerable young trees and shrubs before they are ready to be planted out into their final growing positions.
Polytunnels as Meeting or Event Spaces
Whether for gardening groups, restoration groups, schools, churches, youth groups, or other community groups, polytunnels can provide spaces to meet and hold events out of the elements.
Polytunnels are affordable structures that can be erected not only to nurture plants, but to nurture people too. Having a place to meet out of the rain can make a polytunnel an extremely useful addition to many community sites.
A polytunnel might also be a cultural space, to enhance the creative lives of a community – a space to put on art shows, musical events, and more…
When people have spaces where they can easily come together, in a variety of ways, it is easier for communities to coalesce around shared goals, and find common ideals.
It makes it easier to find innovative solutions to many problems, and to determine the best pathway forwards to real action and lasting change.
Polytunnels as Community Food Hubs
One key way to bring people together involves gardening, of course. But food can also bring people closer together in other ways. Many communities struggle with access to good, fresh, local, sustainable food. And erecting a polytunnel could be one interesting way to create a space that can serve as a food hub – to bring food producers and consumers together.
A food hub might be a local store, where farmers, market gardeners and even small-scale domestic growers can come to sell their produce and products, and where local people can access the things they grow and produce at fair prices.
A food hub might also be a restaurant or cafe, offering good, sustainable food to people living close by. When a community is given the opportunity to eat together, this can build bridges and bring people together. A polytunnel could be an affordable way to create a space for people to dine.
Community Uses for Polytunnels in Skill Building and Co-operation
People in a community can also be brought together by learning together – not just gardening but also a wide range of other skills. Polytunnels could potentially be used as venues for workshops and skill-building events in a range of different arenas.
For example, a polytunnel might become a multi-functional space where people can learn skills in upcycling and repair, bicycle maintenance, natural crafting, and so much more.
Polytunnels are also versatile structures which could be used as places for community swap shops, tool libraries, and other spaces which allow for greater community collaboration.
Of course, these are just some ideas. But they should help you begin to see why a polytunnel is a cheap and relatively affordable structure that can help your community grow and thrive in a huge range of different ways.
If you have interesting stories to share about your community, and how you are using a polytunnel in your scheme – do reach out and share them through the links 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.