If you’ve been reading Thrifty Lesley for any length of time at all, you’ll know how I love to grow fruit and vegetables in my small suburban garden. I have a standard sized greenhouse and am always struggling for room. I’ve often said how I would love a huge polytunnel, but what I didn’t realise was that I could get one that fitted exactly on one of my raised beds.
What is a polytunnel?
A polytunnel is a series of hoops covered in a strong polythene cover, they come in lots of different sizes, including this one from First Tunnels, which is 4 feet (1.22m) wide by 10 feet (3.05m) long. You can use them to extend the growing season, early on, when frost is still a threat, and later on when frost is hovering again, typically by a couple of months. They work much like a greenhouse, keeping your seedlings away from the ravages of birds, insects and extremes of weather. And at the other end of the year, they can keep your cropping plants growing, when those in the open garden have given up for the year. If I had an allotment, I would definitely want a big walk in one up there.
A couple of my friends have large gardens and both have not one, but two greenhouses. In one greenhouse, salad crops are grown and I was amazed to see rocket halfway up the glass walls in February one year. It had kept on growing all winter. Once I have my tomatoes planted in the greenhouse, I don’t really have much room for anything else.
Lots of exciting parcels
Imagine my excitement when lots of sturdy packages arrived from First Tunnels holding the makings of a 4′ by 10′ polytunnel. We carefully undid all the beautifully packed parcels and laid it all out. The instructions are extensive and easy to follow, setting out all the pieces you should have, and what to do with them and where they all go. Although you’ll almost certainly need two people to assemble your polytunnel as parts of it are quite heavy. My husband is good at making things and soon had the tunnel frame up.
We should have known from the weight of the individual parcels, that once combined into the assembled polytunnel, the finished item is quite heavy and is certainly not in danger of blowing away. The weight of the tunnel holds it in place, it isn’t fixed. Having said that, it would be pretty simple to move the assembled tunnel to another place in the garden. And indeed, I am thinking of doing just that, moving it to the top of the longer veg bed during the winter, ready for next season. Again, definitely a two person job. Couldn’t do that with my greenhouse!
A perfect fit
I was delighted to find that this sized poly tunnel would just fit in my back garden. I have two vegetable beds of the same width, but one longer than the other by a few feet. The polytunnel is the perfect width for my veg beds, and just a small amount longer than the shortest bed. Mike adjusted the polytunnel to fit and it was really easy to do.
A sturdy item
The Super Therm polythene covering is 200 microns and looks and feels really sturdy and like it will last a long time. That goes over a frame that won’t rust and the timber supplied is pressure treated, so everything is made to last. The polythene cover is guaranteed for 5 years against breaking down through exposure to sunlight, so it won’t be going brittle any time soon. The extensive instructions say how to fix the sides, but we have changed that a bit. Mike fitted battens to each long side, and one on top, leaving the sides loose – I tuck them neatly under the side battens when the sides are down. This means that I can roll up one or both sides for easier planting, watering and weeding, and to allow the bees and other pollinating insects access to the flowering tomato plants inside. The First Tunnel polytunnel comes with two sturdy metal supports to prop the tunnel open for ventilation if you didn’t want to do this.
I have planted 4 extra tomato plants in there and they’re loving it. I’ve put several plants of rocket in and am eager to see how they do over winter, I pick from them all summer long for salads. I usually get a basil plant from the supermarket and put it in a big pot. They are thirsty plants and I’m constantly watering it, plus it has to be in the greenhouse as the slugs eat it when it’s outside. I thought I’d try it in the polytunnel and it’s grown enormous! AND the slugs aren’t eating it. I’ve been watering and feeding, but no more than I usually do, and it’s grown much bigger than it usually does, result! Lots of the basil has been used in pesto, salads and sandwiches, and you can see just how big it still is.
There are some cut and come again lettuce seedlings in the greenhouse that will be going in later on, and I’ll also get some winter lettuce and try that
As well as the plants I have in there, you can also grow plants in a polytunnel that need a longer amount of warmth than an English summer usually provides, things like aubergines or chillies.
I love that my plants are protected from extremes, whether that be rain, cold, wind and the very strong sun we’ve been having lately. I’m looking forward to trying out all sorts of different plants under the protection of my First Tunnels polytunnel and seeing what things I can grow that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to
I am grateful to have received a poly tunnel for free from First Tunnels in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own