Polytunnel: job done (549)

by Max Akroyd

Welcome to my home...

That’s it. I’m as happy as a gardener can be about a load of soil with no plants in it. The foundations are in: and the poor state of the soil means that these thirty square metres of bed space are indeed just the basis of a growing medium. But at least the ground is unlocked and ready to receive the treatment: lime, water, and piles of organic matter between now and April when the first batch of tomatoes will get transplanted into the polytunnel.

I have to grow the tender crops hard and fast because a gloom descends upon the polytunnel in October. The lowering sun is blocked by the adjacent trees until they lose their leaves about a month later. A necessary compromise: any other location in the garden would mean no polytunnel at all because the Finistèrian autumn winds would destroy it.

I can now plan ahead polytunnel-wise and try and ensure some return on the most expensive plot I’ve ever owned. Once the soil has some heart, the next big challenge will be defending against the mollusc batallions of slugs and snails. They regard the tunnel as a kind of holiday camp. Organically-speaking I have a few options: beer traps (waste of beer), late-night hunting expeditions (sorry, sleeping)… or there’s always organic slug pellets: in my experience these are indeed harmless to all animals including, unfortunately, slugs.

So, if there’s a tricky job that really needs doing, my noble personal code of sheer laziness dictates that I should get an animal to do it. In this instance, Indian Runner ducks. The area around the polytunnel which, handily, includes a little pond will be fenced off and a platoon of these plant-friendly/slug unfriendly creatures introduced. I’ll probably have a few hens in there too but will keep them and their scratchy claws out of the tunnel by allowing access into it only from the pond. This is either fiendishly clever or I’ve been spending too long working on my own in a plastic tunnel. Either way it gives me the excuse to get some ducks in the new year.

Early, early rhubarb

Almost as a reward for my efforts, there’s some new shoots of rhubarb to harvest; in November! I thought I’d take them before the frost does…