|Polytunnel in early June|
|The grapevine freshly planted|
Lemon verbenaThis delicious tea herb (which is also great in gin & tonic) doesn't really work outside here but loves it in the polytunnel. It dies back over winter but sprouts again the following spring.
Summer cropsIn the summer, about half the polytunnel is given over to tomatoes since we are in an area prone to potato blight and thus have to grow our tomatoes in containers inside.
|Polytunnel in May|
TomatoesThe first summer I squeezed 30 of them in, but this year we've scaled back to 17 plants since it is nice to have a variety of things. Some are very early tomatoes (Matina) to start the season as early as possible and then it's a mix of cherry tomatoes, beef tomatoes and normal size heirloom tomatoes in different colours (though black definitely seems tastiest).
Herbs that like it hotSeveral varieties of basil, which is a good companion plant to tomatoes, and some lemongrass.
|Courgette Latino, harvested in late May|
CourgetteAn early one, sown in mid March, that is planted out into the polytunnel in late April and gets to stay there, plus a couple of early sown ones that get planted outside in early May with protection.
CucumbersWe keep our varieties of cucumbers apart and the tunnel is home to the Crystal Lemon cucumbers that look like lemons when they are ripe.
Oriental leavesSuccessional sowings of komatsuna and pak choi.
Peppers and chilliesAny leftover plants that don't fit into the conservatory.
Experimental cropsAnything that needs the extra heat. This year, it's chickpeas.
Since it's too windy here for climbing beans (at least above hedge height), we've planted some in the polytunnel, in a spot vacated by early spring salad leaves such as red mustard and pak choi. In July, we'll also sow some dwarf French beans for a late crop.
|A nice bowl of early broad beans|
Broad beans AquadulceSown in the first week in November, the indoor plants beat the outdoor plants by a good three weeks. We had broad beans from mid May onwards. Definitely worth having three or four broad bean plants in the polytunnel!
Peas Douce ProvenceAlso sown in the first week in November, the peas suffered quite a few casualties, but the remaining plants had peas from April onwards - just enough for a delicious little snack every other day. Next time we'll put these in the middle of the polytunnel to give them a better chance of making it.
Lettuces Valdor and Winter DensitySown in September and October, these hardy lettuce types were ready to harvest in March. Quite a few were devoured by slugs so beer traps will have a permanent home in the polytunnel next winter. We'll increase the number of lettuces this year since they are all going to be eaten long before the tomatoes can be planted out. Might as well fill the tunnel over the winter!
Hardy salad leavesSown in September, hardy salad leaves such as rocket, mizuna, pak choi, red mustard gave us lovely fresh salad in the winter months. The rocket even self-seeded inside the tunnel so that we had a continuous supply throughout the winter.
Early spring crops
|Early Wonder beetroot, harvested in early May|
Beetroot Early Wonder/BoltardySown in early February and planted out into the polytunnel in March, these were a good three weeks ahead of the outdoor beetroots. The ones we sowed in November bolted so starting them early in the year seems to be the better option and not any slower.
Pak choiSown in late February, early pak choi does a lot better under cover and is ready to eat in early May.
LettuceThe first sowing of lettuces such as Salad Bowl Red, Merveille des Quatre Saisons and Little Gem also goes into the polytunnel, but it's not usually long into spring before the lettuces prefer the cooler outside conditions.
It took us a couple of years to decide on getting a polytunnel in the first place. Having got one, the question of course becomes, "Why didn't we do this sooner?". The increased range of growing options is nice, but the biggest plus is definitely the closing up of the 'hungry gap', when winter crops run out before new season ones are ready, that comes in late spring with outdoor-only growing.