The Cottage Smallholder

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The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round by Joyce Russell with photographs by Ben Russell. A review.

The Polytunnel Book

The Polytunnel Book

I couldn’t wait to tell you about this book. It’s excellent, inspirational and practical. I’ve been reading it ever since it arrived a few days ago.

As you know I’m the proud owner of a solar tunnel. Unlike the average polytunnel the solar tunnel is beautiful, the covering is thick and sturdy and the doors chunky. It’s a great space to work in and hopefully will provide us with tasty crops throughout the year. Even though it seemed vast when it was constructed – 10’ x 20’ – space is at a premium. And I need all the help and guidance that I can find to use the tunnel to its fullest potential.

Now that oil prices are at a premium the cost of everything transported by road, train, car and plane will gradually creep up. Growing your own is no longer just an option for the dedicated gardener it’s a must for people who want to keep their outgoing costs down, invest in a more sustainable lifestyle and enjoy the taste of ultra fresh fruit and vegetables.

Eating seasonal produce is a good idea but with a tunnel you can extend the seasons and grow your own early asparagus, globe artichokes, and much much more. Extending the seasons is a great way of using your polytunnel to give you a bit of luxury in these turbulent times. Although primarily I’m planning to use the tunnel to feed us well all year, summer gluts of crops can be frozen or dehydrated for winter use and treats too. Sliced dehydrated strawberries taste divine and are just like sweets, dehydrated vegetables are great in slow cooked casseroles.

Recently published The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round is just what I need and more. With over 30 years of practical experience of growing fruit and vegetables, Joyce Russell certainly knows her stuff. This covers all aspects of growing food in a polytunnel. Initially there is an introduction to polytunnels in general. The bulk of the book is divided into a month by month planting and harvesting guide. There is a handy section called plants at a glance – focussing on a large range of plants that can be grown inside a tunnel. A handy trouble shooting guide and throughout the book – masses tips and tricks from an experienced grower.
Why use up valuable border space for early carrots when they can be grown easily in a 10” pot? If you can’t get fresh manure, straw soaked with urine will heat up well to create a hot bed for early strawberries or give your cucumbers and tomatoes a really good start. On this front I was delighted to find an unnoticed litre bottle of vodka by the back door – a bit of a strange colour – but whey hey! Luckily Danny tipped me off that he’d been saving his pee for the tunnel before I poured myself a large early evening tot.

I loved Joyce Russell’s ideas for presoaking borders to create a deep reservoir for tomatoes, the homemade cloches, small hot beds and above all, the gentle relaxed tone of the writing. The photos are wonderful too – taken by her husband the photographer Ben Russell. These are a treat just in themselves – taken in their own luxuriant polytunnel – I’m so excited that we have our own to play with.

The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round is packed with relevant pointers, ideas and practical troubleshooting manoeuvres. It is an absolute must for everyone who wants to get the best out of their tunnel and I’m certain that it would be informative and useful to the tunnel virgin and experienced tunneller alike. The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetables All Year Round is tip top book which will enable the reader to get the most out of their tunnel. Which will add the the enjoyment of growing food year on year.

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  1. Don’t forget to update your shop info, you still have dates for last Xmas posting on it.

  2. Found in local library this morning, but nearly a whole chapter missing (publishing error, not stolen!) so will have to let them know when I return it….such a shame as it’s unusual for them to get book so soon after publication. Good book though.

  3. LittleFfarm Dairy

    There’s a great Blog called “Farm in my Pocket” which is penned by the wonderful bloggers Hedgewizard & Digiveg (who incidentally have also written some excellent books on polytunnel gardening).

    Anyway Farm in my Pocket contains lots of useful free advice on polytunnels, with the latest post all about how to clean a polytunnel. It’s also very enjoyable and an amusing read!

    The link is

  4. Kooky Girl

    I have major polytunnel envy.

  5. I have a polytunnel and I know I do not get the best out of it the whole year round. I have just ordered this book- thanks Fiona – it looks great and will help me enormously. I will let you know how I get on although that might take a while.

  6. I’ve just had a quick flick through the book on Amazon and it certainly looks like an interesting one. I have added it to my ‘wish list’ but will wait until we have the garden to put a polytunnel in before I purchase it. Thanks for the info 🙂

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