As you get to know your polytunnel, and improve your organic gardening skills, you will discover a whole host of little tips and tricks to make your life a little easier. If you are new to polytunnel gardening, you may be offered tons of advice by more experienced gardeners. But to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, here are our top 7 polytunnel gardening hacks, to help you make the most of your garden.
1) Harvest Water From Your Polytunnel
Harvesting rainwater is one of the best and most important ways to make the most of the natural resources at your disposal. You may already be harvesting rainwater from the roof of your home. By affixing a simple system of guttering along the sides of your polytunnel, you can harvest rainwater from this structure too. Not only will this allow you to access water for your plants close by, the barrels or butts will also store heat, releasing it later and keeping your polytunnel a little warmer during the night.
2) Mulch Leafy Veg with Grass Clippings
Organic mulches will help you to return nutrients to the soil in your growing areas. One quick and easy way to add nitrogen is to mulch green, leafy vegetables, which have high nitrogen requirements, with grass clippings from your lawn mowing. A thick layer of grass clippings around brassica and other such plants will also help to retain moisture and reduce watering requirements.
3) Deter Flies with Bags of Water
Have you ever thought about using water to deter flies? Flies can sometimes be an annoyance in a polytunnel. Hanging bags of water may keep them away. Though there is little scientific evidence for this, many people do swear by it, so it may be worth a try. You could also try this method in a fruit cage or greenhouse.
4) Use Bran To Protect Seedlings From Slugs
Gardeners will often give you their methods for organic slug control – most are partial controls at best. In an organic polytunnel, creating a good natural balance in the surrounding ecosystem is the best way to keep slugs at bay. However, barrier methods, such as placing bran, egg shells or sheep’s wool around seedlings could be worth trying if there are particular plants that you really want to protect.
5) Plant Onions & Other Alliums to Deter Carrot Fly & Other Pests
One proven method for pest control is companion planting. Planting onions and other pungent-smelling alliums around carrots and other crops can help to confuse and repel pests such as carrot flies which could otherwise decimate a crop. Aromatic herbs can also be beneficial for companion planting for pest control in a polytunnel.
6) Make Your Own Biodegradable Plant Pots
Some seedlings are easier to transplant than others. Some do not like root disturbance and for those plants, it can be easier to transplant them if you have biodegradable pots that you can simply place in their entirety into the growing areas in your polytunnel. Make your own biodegradable plant pots quickly and easily from cardboard toilet roll tubes.
7) Use Weeds To Make Home-Made Plant Feeds
One final hack for polytunnel gardeners involves making the most of the often neglected resources at your disposal. Rather than discarding weeds, use them to make a multi-purpose home-made plant feed by allowing them to decompose in water and using that watery mix to feed your polytunnel crops.
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.