The Poly Tunnel Problem

Last year, we were definitely going to mend our lacerated polytunnel. Then an unforeseen health issue arose, which took us out of action for months. This year, we researched our options, measured up and bought the required materials at the start of the year.

We got our aluminium base rails and polythene covering from LBS Garden Warehouse near Colne. Excellent service!

We watched YouTube videos, and as we suspected it was a lot more difficult and considerably more painful than the videos suggest, and of course the results don’t look quite the same. But apart from several helpful discussions with neighbouring allotmenteer John, some of his timber and elbow grease with cutting through metal, we did it all on our own. I didn’t think we would, how brilliant that we managed it!

Here are some photos to show the progress over two days, and our nearly-ready-to-plant in polytunnel. We only have to bury excess on the long sides, but as they are already tensioned through the rails, this is a less demanding job. We definitely think the extra expense of rails – and aluminium rails over wood – was worth it, given the two of us managed most of it with just a little help from our little helpers.

The aluminium rails affixed to the hoops
The aluminium rails affixed to the hoops
Unfolded polythene along side the hoops
Unfolded polythene along side the hoops
Inserting the tension rail to trap the polythene into the aluminium rail
Inserting the tension rail to trap the polythene into the aluminium rail
Cut through the door, and stretched and pleated the polythene around the door frame
Cut through the door, and stretched and pleated the polythene around the door frame
Tidied away for the night, with excess polythene from the front and back threaded through and weighted down
Tidied away for the night, with excess polythene from the front and back threaded through and weighted down
A rather taught looking skin
A week later: a rather taught looking skin that’s already weathered a storm
Digging the trenches front and back
Digging the trenches front and back
Backfilling with soil, and burying the excess a foot away from the tunnel
Backfilling with soil, and burying the excess a foot away from the tunnel
Covering the beds with the left-overs to help warm the soil. Hope we can start planting next weekend!
Covering the beds with the left-overs to help warm the soil. Hope we can start planting next weekend!
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Getting the spuds in

We are way behind this year! The cold weather has delayed us by so long, we have only just begun to reclaim our polytunnel growing – more on that later. Planning to work on that though has kind of put us out of kilter with seed planting. But we did get the seed potatoes out chitting early, the end result being very wrinkled looking seeds that may or may not have passed their best.

The snow lasted two weeks over March and April. Thankfully we’d used the milder weather mid-Feb to dig and manure the potato bed. All that January planning paid off.

Next job….how to re-skin a poly tunnel :-/

Snow 6th April
Snow 6th April
Getting the spuds in
Getting the spuds in
Potato bed dug over and spuds in the ground
Potato bed dug over and spuds in the ground

Bumblebees

Bee identificationBumblebee_Heath on FritillaryWe’ve been putting more thought into attracting pollinators through giving over space to flowers up at the allotment. Certainly in the gardens at home, front and back, when researching new options I look for the bee-friendly sticker on the RHS and other plant web pages.

We are RSPB family members, and the Summer 2013 magazine that arrived last week has a section on the RSPB conservation action for bumblebees (pp.46-54). This includes a handy identification chart for the 8 most common garden bumblebees.

I spotted a bumblebee visiting our Snake’s Head Fritillary this morning and rushed out with my phone.

I think, from what I recorded, that we had a Heath bumblebee or Bombus jonellus here. I’d like to be able to spot the difference right away, but the differences are so minute, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that accurate. I would like to record how many different species we have visiting our garden and allotment over the summer though (another post-phd dream!).

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