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stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Finally the true love affair has begun


Orach: mountain spinach

Orach: mountain spinach

Having longed for a Solar Tunnel so much that it almost hurt, I examined every photo of them that I could find on the internet and finally became the proud owner of one back in September. What was holding me back from jumping in?

I have been using it since September as a holding station for overwintering plants. But as  Andrew, the owner of Solar Tunnels said.
“A greenhouse is for propagation and a solar tunnel is for growing things.”

I have planted an apricot and a peach tree at one end. I’ve also planted a Black Hamburgh grape at the other end. Its roots are outside the tunnel and the vine was fed through into the tunnel through a gap under the polythene cover. This means that the vine roots can take advantage of rain and not take up valuable growing space in the tunnel borders. I’ve also made an experimental hot bed where strawberries are basking.

This 10’x20’ space could actually feed the two us with a good selection of vegetables and some fruit all year. My three * polytunnel growing books confirm this, along with **Eliot Coleman’s The Four Season Harvest. All I needed to do was to plan carefully and follow instructions.

A glance at Joyce Russell’s The Polytunnel Book informed me that this month we could be eating Spring cabbage, Sprouting broccoli, lettuce, Kohl rabi, Spinach, Swiss chard, Kale, Fennel, beetroot and salad leaves from the tunnel. For February there are 13 varieties of herbs and vegetables and in January we could have been basking in a stream of another 13 tempting treats. I must admit that this is my favourite polytunnel book. Good sound advice based on 16 years of experience and her tunnel is the same size as ours.

This morning, cuddled up with the Min Pins in bed, I realised what had been holding me back. Fear and pride. Pure and simple. I just didn’t want to fail and blot my polytunnel copybook.

I’ve never been one to go with the flow. At school I bucked the system, I’m a degree level blagger. My best output has always been when I have been self-employed – my worst when I have been an employee. This morning I realised that I had to grow up and follow expert instructions – if only just on the polytunnel front! When I’m more experienced I can play with growing and experimenting. To do this now would not get the best out of every inch of the Solar Tunnel.

So this afternoon I sowed spinach, pak choi, lettuces and salad crops in a border sifted and prepared so carefully that I longed to curl up and snooze on it. I also sowed some little tester rows in the hot bed for germination comparison.

Feeling relaxed and hopeful I walked back to the cottage this evening. I might blame frosts, damping off and all manner of disasters but simply sometimes it’s just me that holds everything back. Don’t tell Danny! He will utter the “H” word again***. 
• The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round by Joyce Russell
• How to Grow Food in Your Polytunnel by Mike Gatter and Andy McKee
• Gardening Under Plastic: How to Use Fleece, Films, Cloches and Polytunnels (Cloche Gardening) by Bernard Salt – he includes some flowers too.
** Eliot Coleman’s book Four-season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long sits beside the loo so he’s always referred to as “The guy that lives in the loo.” Not disparaging at all. Key books live in our library beside the loo. Or on my giant bed where Joyce Russell’s book nestles.
***H = Headstrong

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1 Comment

  1. Jono / Real Men Sow

    Fiona, this sounds great! I have tunnel envy.

    Looking forward to reading more about what you’re going to grow in there.


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