Extending the Season

March 12, 2010 at 3:28 am Leave a comment

By Alison Thompson

Nothing can revolutionize your vegetable self sufficiency quite as much as a polytunnel.  While the growth and survival of outdoor crops has a strict correlation with the weather, plants grown in a polytunnel or row cover have crucial protection from the elements, and can really help to extend the growing season by several weeks at each end.

A top quality commercially produced polytunnel can cost several hundred dollars, but it doesn’t have to be a budget blowing investment. You can make one on the cheap by building a structure using agribon, timber and sturdy PVC or copper pipe hoops.

Here’s a plan for a simple row cover that can be built in less than an hour, from Willi Galloway of  Digginfood.

Gardening with a polytunnel makes it easy to grow crops that don’t traditionally do well when grown outside in a temperate climate. In the height of the season, they are ideal for many tender plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, eggplant and peppers.  Whereas traditional greenhouses tend to be quite small, a polytunnel or row cover is much more spacious (extra hoops mean extra length), so the easiest way to cultivate is to build raised beds and then rotate crops as you would outdoors, helping to keep pests and disease at bay.

Make sure to close your row cover up tight or iris the cat may jump in!

To take advantage of the spring extension, plant an early variety of new potatoes and some root crops such as carrots and spring onion seeds, which can all be sown in three months before last frost—they’ll be ready to harvest three months later. Similarly, beets can be germinated in a propagator and then the seedlings transplanted into the tunnel in two months before your last frost date, for an extra early crop.

With your polytunnel, salad crops can be grown for both early and late cropping.  Sow seeds for a winter hardy salad in early October, (just in time to let them germinate and gain a little growth for overwintering) and by February and March you will be picking young salad leaves.  Then, later in the summer, plant lettuce, herbs and mustard greens to have great winter salad after frost hits. The four degrees of frost protection you’ll get with the polytunnel goes a long way, and with some careful planning, you’ll be in the green well into winter.

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Entry filed under: DIY Garden Projects, DIY growing, growing, guerilla gardening. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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