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How polytunnels support crop growth all year round

13th August 2019

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There are people up and down the country looking to use the garden as a route towards self-sustainability. The growing and planting of crops ensures a regular supply of healthy food, which is both organic and fresh to the plate.

One route to year-round produce is the rotational planting of seasonal crops. This requires a confident knowledge of conditions and planting cycles. A clever alternative is to use polytunnels to support people in growing crops all year round.

Charles Dowding, who has explored and shared new cultivation techniques since 1983, is convinced of the value of polytunnels in his own garden: “I am so impressed by the solidity of First Tunnels’ framework and the tightness of polythene achieved here: I shall worry less in high winds! Plants are growing strongly, and ventilation is good to the middle, even with a 42ft length.”

Affordable and effective

The alternative to a polytunnel is a greenhouse. A greenhouse may be possible for the few with the available land and the spare cash. However, with tight finances and a small square of land, a polytunnel is a more accessible route to year-round planting. It means in those wet winter months a keen gardener can cultivate salad crops and vegetables, hiding away from the rain. In the summer months, you can lift the sides to offer increased ventilation in the summer.

The flexibility is why Charles Dowding favours the polytunnel: “The straight sides give me so many options for the two side beds, not only for summer’s taller plants but for easier access to harvest winter leaves, right up to the sides.”

Protection from extreme weather

When using a polytunnel the gardener is creating a micro-climate that allows them to grow fruit and vegetables that would otherwise falter in their climate. Although your polytunnel can get as cold, if not colder, than outside, your planting will be protected from the harsh winter wind. This allows you to opt for some winter salad crops that would otherwise not cope in the garden. The polytunnel helps the gardener reduce the exposure of plants to some of the more extreme of winter weather.

Approximately 80 per cent of all soft fruits that you will find in the supermarket are grown in polytunnels. It is also a common place for the growing of tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, salads, carrots, cauliflower, peas, beans and onions. It is seen as a positive alternative to food miles, where seasonal food is transported long distances. For the home gardener, it can reduce these food miles to almost zero.

With concerns about the planet, this all-year round growing can support protection of the environment. As well as providing healthy food to sustain a better lifestyle for individuals, it also reduces the processing and transportation needed. On top of this, the plastic coverings of polytunnels are biodegradable. They have a life of 10 years before needing replacement but will not add to the problems of plastics in the environment.

Sustainable protection of the individual and the planet

The polytunnel is an accessible tool for gardeners of all abilities to strive for self-sustainability. It allows the gardener to imagine popping out to the garden on Christmas morning and picking the soft fruit for the cream-topped pudding. We don’t always have to be good!

This is a promotional blog post provided by First Tunnels

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