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Questions about the use of a polytunnel

ph1109ph1109 Posts: 32
My friend passed away.  :'(
I was given and have accepted the use of her polycrub (which is a strong solid version of a polytunnel) She spent lots of time there, it was very important to her.

However it is about 4 miles away from where I live. Aso I am not experienced and will need to start from scratch. I have just started with seeds and plants myself this year and I am definitely interested and keen to learn. I have time but not as much as she had. I could spend some hours each day in it during summer but not much more.

It would not be a problem to remove and replace the plants in it if necessary,  as long as I can keep something going on there and stay on top of it.

Inside she has a peer trea, 2 apple trees Kathy and James Grieve, LOTS of varieties of perpetual strawberries, 1 raspberry, LOTS of varieties of tomatoes, marigolds, carnations, and some leeks and onions - that is all that I can remember now. Outside she has veg patches which I can use if necessary and I have a plan with her veg rotation of the last years.
There is also a large flower garden.

So I was wondering what your thoughts are.
Is it possible to have a crub (polytunnel) that far away from where you live?
Is it enough to go there once a day in summer and not necessarily twice (for opening and closing its windows, controling air and temperature).
Will I need to get rid of some of the plants she has there now and which ones would that be, which ones are difficult and fussy and needs lots of attention?
What would be the easier plants, which ones are less fussy about temperature and ventilation  control and are easy for a beginner?

I have a book that tells you what to do each month but it doesn't speak about the amount of time/work or the level of difficulty.



  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,537
    edited October 2020
    It is a real honour that your friend has given you such a gift. You must try to manage it so that it doesn't overwhelm you at first, then you can spread your wings in future years when everything is more familiar to you.
    It's only a 15 minute drive, so probably do-able. Takes me nearly that long some days to get ready to get started!  Is the site secure? It would help if you could leave tools etc there instead of bringing them every time.
    What you keep depends on what you like and want to grow.
    I would think quite a few of those things don't really need to be inside, even given your location. Strawberries are completely hardy and take everything winter can throw at them without blinking, and the fruit trees are hardy too. Raspberries are also hardy, but may need netting against birds if outside. The protection probably improves cropping for the trees as it protects the blossom from untimely frosts and wind, and the shelter will speed up  growth and ripening and extend the season for many other things as well, but may not be essential. The trade off in yield may be worth it while you are learning and short of time.
    Leeks and onions will grow outside, but can suffer from pests and diseases, which may be why they are there. I grow onions and garlic successfully here, hope to extend to leeks next year. I'm surrounded by sheep fields though, and being isolated helps me escape many things that plague those who garden in closer proximity to each other :)
    Unless you really love them, I would think the carnations would be something that could go. If they are special varieties you may be able to find a local group or society whose members would appreciate them.
    In terms of care, all of those would be less needy if outside and in the ground, as watering is the most demanding part of summer care. Is there a  good water supply there? The polytunnel would need to be left open in any case from when the fruit blossom begins, to permit entry to pollinators.
    Tomatoes definitely need to be inside, and may even need extra protection, as they only function between 13C and 25C. Put a Max/Min thermometer on your shopping list if there isn't one there already! If you want to grow them, you may want to buy plants initially. Growing them, or anything else, from seed, needs early warmth, good light and close attention to succeed and you may be able to start some things at home. The tunnel will really come into its own when you begin growing things on.
    Tomatoes do need a fair bit of attention, tying in, removing sideshoots, which grow really fast if you aren't watchful, feeding and watering. I'm still a relative novice at tomato growing and this year wasn't the best to pick for my first serious attempt, as it was so hot and dry, even here, that I came perilously close to losing my spring-fed water supply, Toms don't appreciate water rationing!
    Here's wishing you luck and I'm sure others will be along soon with more ideas :)

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,020
    Lucky you and what a great way to remember a friend.   Perfectly do-able especially if you can install a seep hose on a timer to take care of watering.   It also depends whereabouts you are.  You may be able to leave it open in the warmest part of the year depending on night time temperatures.  Tomatoes won't like getting cold at night but will definitely appreciate automatic, regular watering.

    You need to prioritise which fruit and veg you want to grow and which are of little use or interest to you and then clear and plant accordingly.   Crop rotation is excellent but also involves applications of manures and lime to the beds depending on what will be grown there next.   Brassicas, for example, need plenty of calcium to grow well and fight off club root disease.

    I use my polytunnel for tomatoes, chillies and peppers here but with a shading net on for summer and doors at both ends open wide.   I also have a lemon grass plant in there.   In autumn, I move in my citrus pots and non-hardy fuchsias and anything else in pots that is borderline hardy.  If I get organised, I'll be growing winter salads and some herbs in there too.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • ph1109ph1109 Posts: 32
    Thank you, this is helpful.

    First of all I am in the Northern Isles of Scotland. The weather can be very bad - cold, gales, wet, sea spray and I don't think that you can grow strawberries outside in this climate!
    Onions and leeks etc grow outside - she has them in the veg patches, but I know they need to adapt in a coldframe first.

    She has a shed filled with tools and materials, there is a good water supply. She was a very organised and practical person.

    I know that she tried to get bees inside, but she also did hans pollination for the peer trea.

    I guess that tomatoes are always annuals? I might leave them out this time. 
    I love gooseberries and red berries, the correct name escapes me just now.

    Good to hear tjat this is not an IMpossible project, will need to do lots of reading though!!!
  • The strawberries will grow, but it can be hard to ripen the fruit! Mine were covered this year, with the warm, dry spring, but before more than a handful could ripen it turned cold and wet and the rest of the crop turned to mush, or got eaten by slugs :(
    I don't get sea spray, but I get the rest, plus heavy snowfall at times along with frost and ice, and I guess the spray may help you a bit with those.
    You mentioned marigolds too. Those may well have been planted to entice the bees in.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,020
    edited October 2020
    You need to watch The Beechgrove Garden which is on BBC Scotland on Thursday evenings and repeated on BBBC2 nationally on Sunday mornings.  It has finished for this year but the garden is near Aberdeen and they use polytunnels, cold frames and cloches to extend their growing range and season.  Carole, a main presenter, gardens nearby and also has polytunnels to enable her to grow good crops of cucumbers, tomatoes and so on but also salads and winter veg.

    There is a Facebook page with regular updates and they used to do factsheets but have changed that this year because of having to present from their own gardens. and follow the links.

    You may be able to find episodes on i-Player or You Tube.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,882
    It's a climate of it's own there, on any of the northern islands.
    To an extent, you'll have to wing it.  :)
    Is there anyone else around that you can ask - gardening clubs etc? I think that would be more useful to you.  :)
    Might be worth trawling the web a bit for any gardening books specifically suited to the conditions. The length of season is a massive factor, so the poly tunnel comes into it's own there, but the amount of daylight over winter is tiny. 
    I wish you all the luck in the world, and I hope you can continue to enjoy what your friend started.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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