Prepping is something that most of us here in the UK tend to associate with gun-toting Americans in underground bunkers. But if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it is that the unthinkable can happen, and we should all be prepared.
During the pandemic, many of us have seen immense disruptions to our ways of life. Some have been far more affected than others, or course. But some things we have all had in common. Pandemic related shortages, border issues and other problems have shown us, time and time again, the fragilities in society’s systems. Many, many people have recognised just how lucky they are to have some outside space, and interest in grow-your-own gardening has surged.
Growing your own food, as so many people have discovered, can be a hugely rewarding process. But it can be challenging too. Investing in a domestic polytunnel can make it far easier to grow your own food – not just over the summer months, but year round.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a ‘prepper’, in some ways at least, you are prepping with a polytunnel when you start growing food under cover in this way.
Why Prepping With a Polytunnel is a Good Idea
When you invest in a polytunnel, you are reducing your reliance on fragile systems. Our complex and extended global food systems are hugely vulnerable to a range of factors, both environmental and socio-economic in nature.
When we are able to grow at least some of our own food, we are reducing our personal reliance on these systems, and reducing our own vulnerability to future shocks. When you grow your own food, you are less likely to be concerned by bare supermarket shelves, or shortages of fresh produce.
Of course, global food systems also contribute massively to greenhouse gas emissions, ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity losses. When we take things into our own hands, we are helping to combat climate change.
Prepping by growing food in a polytunnel does not just mean that we are part of the solution to climate change rather than part of the problem. It also means that we have a kind of insurance policy which will help us as our climate continues to change.
Weird weather and extreme weather events can make home growing outdoors more of a challenge. When growing in a polytunnel, however, out crops are, at least to a degree, protected from outside influences. So we are more likely to meet with success, even in unpredictable conditions.
Improved Prepping With a Polytunnel
However, even in a polytunnel, there are strategies we can employ to make sure that we are even better prepared for whatever the future may throw at us.
One key thing that we can do is make sure that we are as self-reliant as possible. Some gardeners may well rely on external inputs to build and maintain their food producing gardens. But by gardening organically, in sustainable and eco-friendly ways, we can avoid external inputs and make sure that we can successfully maintain our gardens from within, and obtain yields which are as high as possible.
- Rather than relying on mains tap water, we can harvest rainwater on our properties – catching and storing rainwater harvested from our polytunnels and from the roofs of our homes and directing it in efficient and effective ways.
- We can set up sustainable composting systems, which allow us to recycle nutrients and return surplus to the system. (And also reduce food waste.)
- We can also utilise organic matter to create and maintain a healthy soil, adding the mulches which are a key feature of sustainable, no dig gardening. And make our own liquid plant feeds to maintain fertility using weeds, and the plants that we grow.
- By reusing, recycling and upcycling, we can avoid the need to buy new things for our gardens, and can instead use natural or reclaimed resources to meet our needs. We can make our own paths, fencing, trellises and supports, and bed edging, for example.
- We can take charge of our own plant propagation, saving our own seeds, taking cuttings, dividing plants etc..
- And we can learn how to cook from scratch, and preserve our produce, to make sure we make the most of all of the food that we grow and can eat a varied diet from our polytunnels all year round.
In a polytunnel, we can learn crucial skills which will boost our self-reliance, and help us to garden in more sustainable ways.
Another key element in preparedness in a polytunnel is diversity. Through using and embracing diversity, we can avoid putting all of our eggs in one basket. We can strengthen the growing systems – creating stable and resilient ecosystems – and we can increase our chances of meeting with some successes, even when not everything goes according to plan.
Embracing diversity might involve, for example:
- Choosing to grow as wide a range of plants as possible.
- Grow multiple varietals of specific crops.
- Creating polycultures (groups of plants which work well together) rather than just growing one specific crop type in each growing area.
- Using companion plants between, around and among our key food producing crops.
- Branching out from annuals to grow a wide range of perennial crops, instead, or in addition to common annual fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Embracing biodiversity does not just help us avoid putting all of our eggs in one basket. It can also help us to manage our gardens most successfully for the long-term. Biodiverse planting schemes, for example, help us attract the wildlife essential to successful organic gardening. And they can be a key component in organic pest control – helping us reduce our losses.
Becoming better ‘preppers’ in a polytunnel is one of the best things we can do to make sure that we are able to meet as many of our own needs as possible, whatever the future may bring. The steps mentioned above are just some of the things we can do to make sure that we are prepared as gardeners.
Are you prepared as a polytunnel gardener for whatever the future may bring? Share your tips and strategies with us by following the links below.
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.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.