Now the weather is beginning to warm, many of the winter salad crops and other winter vegetables may be shooting for the skies and beginning to go to seed. It is time for many of these to be harvested and cleared out ready for the transplantation of your summer crops. Clearing space in a polytunnel and making way for summer crops is one of the main jobs in your polytunnel this month.
Out With the Old – Clearing Out Winter Crops
Make the most of the spring sunshine by harvesting crops as they begin to bolt. Some may be past their best and will make a good addition to the compost heap. While others still offer plenty of edible yields. Kale shoots and flowering buds, for example, make an excellent stir-fry, akin to sprouting broccoli. If you keep chickens, they will appreciate the salad crops that have begun to flower. While for the last couple of weeks you may have been nipping off the shoots to encourage a longer period of edible growth, now it is probably time to clear them out and let them go. It is time to clear out those earlier crops and let the summer crops have their day.
Preparing the Soil – Adding Compost/ Organic Matter in Your Polytunnel
Once you have cleared areas of your polytunnel for your summer crops, which may be sitting on your windowsills ready to go into the polytunnel when the weather warms enough, it is a good idea to take some time to care for the soil in your polytunnel. Rather than digging in compost and well-rotted manure or other organic fertilisers, it is a better idea to top dress the area and allow the soil ecosystem beneath to flourish undisturbed.
Preparing Structures & Supports for Summer Crops
Another job before the summer crops go in is preparing supports and other structures. Make them ready to receive summer plants such as tomatoes, squash and French and runner beans. Crop bars can be used to suspend cordons for your tomato plants and trellis structures for vining plants. These are best placed before your seedlings and young plants, to avoid any accidental damage to the plants that may occur during construction works.
When To Transplant Summer Crops into Your Polytunnel
Once the soil is well topped up with nutrients, and all the supports and structures are in place, the only thing that remains is to make some decisions. When will you transplant indoor-grown seedlings and young plants to your polytunnel. When exactly you do so will depend on the climate and conditions where you live, as well as the weather conditions on a given year. It is good practice to at least wait until the average last frost date in your area has passed. Use your common sense and look at the weather forecast! See what temperatures you might be likely to experience in the next week or two. Err on the side of caution and be ready to protect plants if a late frost or cold snap threatens.
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.