Growing Success’s and Failures in the Polytunnel

Back to Posts

Growing Success’s and Failures in the Polytunnel

By Spring 2022 the stormy weather was at last starting to relent and days were getting longer meaning we could open up both ends of the polytunnel at sunrise and close again just before sunset. Even in that January we were having internal daily temperatures of 24 degrees and it became apparent that we were going to be able to grow foods that we had never been able to even attempt in the past.

We firstly pulled our first ever crop of Garlics; around 40 or 50 bulbs or so. These weren’t bad. They weren’t huge but they were certainly more than edible. We also grew a very good crop of early potatoes that year, and also some stunning and huge cauliflowers. The grapes too were showing some good growth and we even had some broad beans without the pests (black fly) that we’d always previously encountered.

In fact, until mid summer that first year, there really were no failures…until the slugs and butterflies found the tunnel. I think it’s fair to say, that slugs were feral in the orchard that year with them attacking just about all that we grew. On one evening alone, under torchlight, I picked off over 200 slugs and snails.

Despite this, and despite being resolved to never using chemicals in the tunnel or orchard , we continued, sometimes leaving sacrificial crops. Summer harvests were plentiful with aubergines, cabbages, tomatoes, sweetcorn and leeks all performing well. Chillies were in pots that year and were moved in and out of the polytunnel and these gave us quite a good crop as well.

To ‘feed’ the soil we added seaweed when we could, as well as seaweed liquid feed (homemade) and also home made comfry tea from our own comfry plant which we added to water to steep for a couple of weeks and then diluting to use as a natural liquid feed.

We like to always have every inch of space used so as one crop comes out, we try and plant another in. If we can’t, we at least manure that area of ground to add nutrients back in, but generally, we occupy the space for 90% of the year. We of course utilise the 4 year crop rotation method too so any soil borne diseases can’t mutate to attack the same variety of plant in a second term.

We never have frosts in the polytunnel, and indeed rarely in the orchard at all as we are at a very high point just a mile off the Atlantic coast with constant jetstream, and even our spot within the village is, I was told by the previous owner, a farmer, sometimes 2 degrees warmer than ¼ mile at the top of the road where it crosses the centre of the village.

In 2023 we planted out chillies for the first time directly into the soil…and they were amazing, reaching heights of nearly 6 feet and with some rare varieties being grown. We harvested well over 10Kg of chillies that summer, most of which were used in our own range of chilli sauces, or stored for production of subsequent sauces and products. Another good yield of potatoes and aubergines, as well as an amazing yield of leeks were also forthcoming along with some more unusual crops like salsify and scorzonera.

But, in 2023 something weird happened. Slug damage just stopped. We’d estimate that the damage had reduced by over 80% from the previous year. We still weren’t using chemicals so why? Earlier that spring, when tidying the polytunnel, we found a young frog hopping around. We left him/her be and thought no more of it. Then, in October that year, the frog jumped out on us in the polytunnel, now a lot bigger and looking VERY healthy. We can only assume that this green backed creature had become an ally of ours in the polytunnel!

Share this post

Back to Posts