But it’s not all doom and gloom – don’t give up on Polytunnel gardening just because it’s turning chilly. Any sunshine on a cold winter’s day transforms your bubble of polythene into summer all over again.
November Gardening – What To Do
The Polytunnel undergoes a lot of change in November, as its colours begin to fade and it becomes a little less productive than it was in late summer. There’s plenty to get on with to prepare for next year, and there’s still produce to savour and enjoy.
1) Keep it Warm
Now is the time to think about how you will keep plants warm in your polytunnel over winter if you have not already done so. Whether or not you will heat your polytunnel over winter will depend on what you are growing, and how cold it is likely to become where you live. Conditions can vary year on year, but often, you will still be able to grow a range of plants in your polytunnel all winter without adding any heating as long as you add a little extra protection. This month, think about adding extra protection for your plants in the form of:
- Mini polytunnels or cloches.
- Horticultural fleece or scrap fabric.
- Organic mulches such as straw or bracken to protect plant roots.
- Hot beds (with heat-producing composting materials).
- Additional thermal mass to store the sun’s heat and release it gently at night.
2) Keep Pests Away
To avoid a build-up of pests and diseases in the ground, clear away any old vegetable plants that have finished cropping and add them to your compost heap. Clear out the Polytunnel wash pots and trays, clean, mend and oil your tools and throw away anything that is beyond hope or reasonable repair! Cleaning your Polytunnel thoroughly will prevent unwelcome pests from hibernating, (especially in dark and dusty corners) and leaping into action next spring. Wash the polythene cover inside and out with Algon Organic to allow maximum light in over the winter and scrub any staging or benches. Ventilate on sunny days to prevent mould from building up.
3) Look After Your Soil
As the ground and raised beds become unoccupied, carry on with the winter digging and spread manure, compost or leaf matter to replace the goodness in it. You can always leave the soil pretty roughly dug and clumpy, the worms should break these up. Digging over introduces air into the soil avoiding it turning solid…and if it’s raining, there’s no better place to hide and get on with some digging.
4) Get Sowing
Now is the time to plant out your garlic, sow broad beans (Sowing now will give you an early crop next year) and harvest Winter Cabbages, Cauliflower, Kale and Brussel sprouts when needed. Early maturing Brussel Sprouts will be ready after the first frosts. Pick them from the bottom of the stem.
Remove runner bean supports/canes and clean any soil off them and store in a dry place. Looking after your canes means that they will last longer.
Growing the same type of crops on the same ground each year can cause a build-up of pests and diseases affecting that type of crop so start planning next year’s vegetable crop to allow for a good rotation of crops. Crops can be grouped as follows:
Roots, brassicas, legumes (peas, beans) and everything else (potatoes, onions, tomatoes). Move your crops around each year so that the same group of crops isn’t in the same area for more than one season.
Until next month, happy Polytunnel gardening!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK