One of the most frequent concerns voiced by new polytunnel owners or prospective purchasers is that they will have to replace their polytunnel’s polythene cover too often. Many who are concerned with sustainability are worried that the their investment will come at too great a cost, either financial or to our planet. They are concerned that, after their initial investment in a polytunnel, they will have to spend more on a regular basis to replace the polythene cover. The good news is that these worries are unfounded. You will have to replace a polythene cover far less frequently than you might imagine.
How Many Years Can I Expect a Polythene Cover to Last?
We recommend choosing a commercial grade polythene with 720 gauge (180 micron), as this thicker material will be sturdier and will tend to last a lot longer than thinner and cheaper options. A polythene cover of this type will usually last for at least 4-5 years. This is however, definitely the bare minimum that polytunnel gardeners should expect. Many polytunnels have lasted ten years, some even longer than that. If you take good care of your polytunnel cover, you can expect it to serve you for many years to come.
What Can I Do To Increase the Life of My Polythene Cover?
How long a polytunnel cover will last will of course depend to a large extent on where it is placed in the first place, and on how it is treated and maintained over time. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your polythene cover lasts as long as possible:
- Choose your site carefully. Try to avoid very exposed, windy sites if possible.
- If your site is very windy, consider placing a natural wind break to protect your polytunnel.
- Choose additional structural elements such as bracing and crop bars where wind is an issue, to provide a little extra protection.
- Clear foliage and branches from around your polytunnel. Make sure nothing will brush against your polytunnel that could damage or tear it.
- On stormy/windy days, check that no stray debris could come loose from the surrounding area and damage the structure.
- Use anti hotspot tape to protect your cover from the metal structure, which can heat up in warm weather and damage the plastic.
- Clean your polytunnel cover regularly inside and out. Be sure to clean at least every year, whether it looks like it needs it or not.
- Do not allow the cover to become slack – re-tension it as required as time goes on.
- If small damage does occur, repair these promptly to avoid the problem becoming worse.
The Second Life of a Polythene Cover
When a polytunnel cover does finally bite the dust, and is no longer fit for its original purpose, it is worthwhile remembering that it may still have its uses. Pieces of an old polytunnel cover could be used in a number of ways, including:
- To make mini polytunnels, row covers and cloches.
- To make the top of a cold frame for hardening off for outside growing.
- To make transparent hanging shelves or staging for use inside the polytunnel.
And for a range of other uses around the home and garden.
So – how long does the polythene cover last? Much longer than you might think!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK