If you are going away over Christmas, your polytunnel might not be the first thing on your mind. Though you can grow your own food year-round in a polytunnel, things will tend to be a lot quieter for a polytunnel gardener at this time of the year. This means it can be a good time to get away, before the sowing and planting begins again early in the new year. But before you go, make sure your polytunnel and the plants within it will be protected while you are away. Here are some of the main things to think about before you head off for the festive season:
Consider Watering Needs If You Are Away For Long
If you are going away only for a few days, it is unlikely that your polytunnel plants will require any water while you are away. Watering needs drop significantly over the winter months. That said, if you are travelling away from home for a week or two over Christmas, you will need to make sure that your plants get water while you are away. You might be able to ask someone to drop in and take care of this for you. But a polytunnel irrigation system could make caring for your plants easier throughout the year.
Keep Plants Warm With Extra Protection
The weather over Christmas can vary considerably. Some years, the weather can be relatively calm and stable, while other years the weather conditions can be extreme. If you are travelling over the festive period, it is always best to expect the unexpected. Think about how you can add extra protection for your plants in the form of mini polytunnels, cloches, fleece, bubble wrap or mulches, and make sure you don’t come back to frost damage if a sudden cold snap hits while you are away.
Deter Pests By Covering Vulnerable Plants
Row covers and cloches can also help to protect vulnerable plants from bests such as rodents, slugs and snails while you are away. Rodents such as mice and rats can sometimes be a problem, especially when food is scarcer for them during the winter and they may enter a polytunnel to feast on your winter food.
Clear Overhanging Branches or Overgrown Foliage Nearby
As well as thinking about the plants in your polytunnel, it is also a good idea to think about whether your polytunnel itself will be safe while you are away. You do not want to come home to discover that your polytunnel cover or structure has been damaged in a winter storm. Before you go away this Christmas, take the time to clear all the branches that might puncture or rip your polytunnel cover, or any damaged tree limbs etc. that could fall onto your structure in extremely windy conditions.
Make Sure Garden Furniture and Other Items Are Cleared Away
Another danger to a polytunnel structure in windy or extreme weather conditions are loose items blowing around close by. Before you go away, make sure that all your garden furniture and other loose items are tidied away, so there is not the potential for them to rip or otherwise damage your polytunnel if they are blown into it while you are away from home.
Any more tips to share? Please share them in the comments 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.