In polytunnel gardening, it is a good idea to plan ahead. It may seem like a long time away, but next spring will arrive sooner than you think, and with it, the so-called ‘hungry gap’. Sow seeds now to make sure you can still eat a variety of home grown produce next spring.
What is the Hungry Gap?
The hungry gap is the time in the spring when you can no longer eat food stored over the winter because it has run out or begun to spoil, yet spring-sown crops are not yet ready.
The good news is that with a polytunnel, you can still have food to eat, even at this traditionally difficult time of the year. The somewhat more problematic thing is that in order to eat from your polytunnel during the hungry gap, you will have to be organised. Planning ahead is essential and starts right now – in August.
What Should I Sow in August To Eat in Spring?
There are a number of crops to sow this month which will overwinter in your polytunnel and which can be eaten in the spring. These include:
- Spinach & Chard
- Corn Salad
- Pak Choi & other Asian Greens
- Spring Onions
- Spring cabbages
Sowing these vegetables this month will give them time to put on some growth and become established before the colder weather arrives. For lettuces and spinach and some other greens, the cooling weather after the end of this month will make these plants less prone to bolting and going to seed than those that are grown in the spring.
Be sure, however, to choose the correct varieties for overwintering, and be sure to add additional protection in the form of cloches, mini polytunnels, row covers or horticultural fleece should a particularly cold spell of winter weather arrive.
A polytunnel makes it possible to eat home-grown food throughout the whole year, but you do have to be organised and make sure that you are thinking ahead as well as enjoying the bounty of food that you will be able to harvest from your polytunnel this month.
You may have to make some tricky decisions regarding summer crops, and pull plants that are still productive (courgettes for example) in order to make space for the plants that will feed you over the winter and through to the hungry gap in the spring.
Let us know in the comments below how you plan ahead in your polytunnel. Have you managed to sow seeds this month that will feed you and your family in the hungry gap?
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.