Salad Days

I think there’s that moment for a gardener, when you decide to take the plunge and plant out your first crops, when you’re hit by a wave of butterflies in your stomach. No matter how many years I’ve been growing my own, I still get that feeling. It’s a mixture of excitement, and worry that a late frost will ruin your months of hard work. Continue reading “Salad Days”

If You Build It, They Will Come

Note: Rousing music from the film Gladiator kicks in.  Deep manly voice….

”This was to be a great day, a day to go down in the Plot 23d history books. With the day booked off from work, the van loaded with tools and a rucksack full of treats purchased from the bakery (shhh.. don’t tell Soph!) I was a man on a mission. To create, to build, to protect all seedlings and bring new found warmth to all things growing.Today the polytunnel would rise from the ashes and stand as a beacon of prosperity.

My name is Agentus Adious, gardener of the allotment of West Hertfordshire, Commander of the Agents of Field, loyal servant to the true emperor, Monty Donilius. Allotmenteer to a murdered leek bed, husband to a patient wife. And I will have my vegetables, in this life or the next.”

Down to business. Over the last few months I’ve done a fair bit of research on the polytunnel, studying the pros and cons from the cheapest to the deluxe. For me it came down to this: what do I want to grow in it and where would it reside? poly 1

As I was going to use it on the allotment, I wanted something sturdy but inexpensive. It’s easy to opt for those sculpted works of ‘poly art’, but at £300-£400 a pop, I would almost be too nervous to leave it out in the rain! I wanted something with a sturdy frame that wasn’t so expensive that a fellow-gardener might relieve me of it under the cover of darkness! Besides, I thought that if this growing season does turn out to be a disaster in the polytunnel, then at least I can soothe my gardener’s pride by reassuring myself I didn’t spend too much.

Happy with my reasons, I began the online search and after losing hours of my life to the interweb, I came full circle and ended up back at the first website I looked at: Amazon. Free delivery, best on price and full of great reviews, I paid my money and let my imagination bask in the potential polytunnel glory of growing the largest aubergines this side of the Thames.

On the plot with my 30kg box of polytunnel bits, despite having the minimal of instructions, the thing looked fairly straightforward to construct. Even on my own, although they do suggest it’s a two-man job, I didn’t struggle too much.

To ensure the thing wouldn’t get blown away in a wild storm and end up doing an aerial tour of the surrounding fields, I dug a trench and sunk the frame into it. Then I anchored it down with pins and sandbags.The bags were given to me by my kind-yet-obviously-nosy plot neighbour who kept coming over in true ‘old boy’ style to offer words of wisdom, regardless of whether I wanted them or not. (This was the same ‘kind’ neighbour who I later overheard gossiping to another ‘old boy’ that ”that bloody thing won’t last long!”.  My, such loyalty!)Poly 2

With everything anchored, I covered the frame arches with anti-hotspot tape and then spread the cover over the frame, which turned out to be a little more tricky. As those frugal instructions had advised me: ‘Ideally this is a two-man job and shouldn’t be attempted on your own.” Nevertheless, with the cover on I took the skirt of it and sank that into the trench and then backfilled. To finish off, I laid heavy-duty woven weed-control landscape fabric for extra insulation and to prevent slugs and bugs coming up from the ground.  Job done! 6

I’m not going to be able to get back up to the plot until Saturday. I’m a little nervous and fingers are crossed that nothing terrible has happened to it in the meantime.  But all being well, I’m really excited about creating another space to grow vegetables.  What a great day! 🙂AdeSignature