Most people grow annual crops in your polytunnel but many also grow perennial plants, which will not free up space in your polytunnel after they are harvested but will instead remain year after year. In this article, you will find some things you should consider when maintaining a perennial polytunnel bed in autumn.
This is the time of year when the summer crops fade away, the days shorten, and we look ahead to the next season in our polytunnels. The weather to come may be cold and the nights may be long, but there is still plenty to look forward to in the months to come.
Autumn is a time of contemplation – when it is a good idea to think about the long term in your polytunnel. While annual crops may demand most of your time – spend some time and effort this autumn maintaining the perennial beds in your polytunnel.
Feeding the Soil of a Perennial Polytunnel Bed
One of the most crucial ongoing tasks in your polytunnel, whether you grow annual crops, perennials or a mixture of both, is maintaining good soil health. Clear annual beds may be easier to maintain in some respects, as you will have plenty of space to add organic matter. Perennial beds, however, should also be mulched in much the same way.
In a ‘no dig’ system of soil maintenance, beds are top dressed rather than being turned over or dug. Leave the soil ecosystem undisturbed while feeding it well and it will continue to help you to grow healthy plants for years to come. Make sure to mulch any perennial polytunnel bed well in autumn, taking care to keep the mulch off plants, yet covering as much of the soil as possible.
A good mulch will not only feed soil and plants, but can also help to keep plant roots warm over the coldest part of the year.
Harvesting & Pruning Perennial Plants
In addition to taking care of the soil before winter arrives, autumn is also the time to harvest many autumn fruits from fruit trees or fruiting shrubs, which can often form the heart of a perennial polytunnel bed. Once such harvests are over and done, autumn is also often the right time to prune any such plants as required. Herbs may also form part of your perennial planting schemes – autumn is the time to harvest many of these to keep plants in shape and to dry them for use over the winter months.
Dividing Perennials & Increasing Plant Stocks
While perennial plants will usually require less maintenance than annual ones, and will often pretty much take care of themselves and last for years, there will often come a time when perennial plants are aging and past their best. Maintain a good yield from perennial polytunnel beds by dividing older perennial plants. Not only will this keep the plants healthy and productive, it can also allow you to easily increase your plant stocks and prepare for the years to come.
Comment below to let us know whether you grow perennial plants in your polytunnel, and how you are getting on.
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.