The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

We have got a Solar Tunnel polytunnel!


Photo: First peek at our Solar Tunnel

Photo: First peek at our Solar Tunnel

It’s all Lynn Keddie’s and Jackie’s fault. They both set the “why not get a polytunnel” seed in my brain.

Like everyone else we are becoming very concerned about the rising price of food. It just seems to be creeping up and up. If we invested in a polytunnel we could extend the growing season even further and might be able to become 95% self sufficient in vegetables and a lot of fruit. That is with the help of the freezer, the dehydrator and plain old fashioned bottled fruit and tomatoes. The fledgling flower selling business would benefit too.

I did loads of online research, got in a complete muddle and invested in The Polytunnel Handbook by Andy Mckee and Mark Gatter which explained mysteries such as ground plates and crop bars. This is an excellent introduction to polytunnels and a good investment if you are considering buying one and want to avoid expensive mistakes.  

I spent hours building my virtual polytunnel at various polytunnel sites. In fact I think that I was suffering from a bit of polytunnel madness for a while.

We considered buying one of those cheap and cheerful polytunnels but after a lot of thought we decided to go for a tunnel that would give us years of service. Ideally with straight sides to give optimum growing space. A strong metal structure and cover was essential. I didn’t want the faff or the expense of replacing covers every 4 years. I was keen to extend the growing season for as long as possible.

That is when I discovered Solar Tunnels. I kept on returning to this site as these tunnels ticked every box for me. Two people can erect it over a weekend. You can even add extra modules to an existing tunnel if you need more space. And if you move house you can take it with you.

There is a widespread myth that the Solar Tunnel is three times the price of an average polytunnel. So when I lifted the phone to speak to Andrew at Solar Tunnels I was expecting a pretty high price tag. What joy to discover that I was wrong. Once you’ve added all the ‘essential’ components, such as doors – the price of a basic polytunnel leaps up at an alarming rate. The Solar Tunnel suddenly was within our reach. Andrew does consider discounts for deserving causes and we did get a good deal on ours.

Our Solar Tunnel is 10’ x 20’ (3 x 6 metres) and was built over existing borders – hence the dahlias and cauliflowers in the photo.  It’s attractive and sturdy. Yesterday afternoon I was working in there as the rain beat down outside. Inside it was warm and snug even with the doors wide open. I’m delighted with it and look forward to many happy years of Solar Tunnel pottering and growing.

  Leave a reply


  1. I bought one of these off a swap shop site,disappointed that it was the smaller one not as advertised but it had already cost on diesel to fetch.Alas, the advertised sturdiness on its website did not prove to be.Wales must be rougher than the Falklands, as the wind twisted one end and tore the cover. A new cover is £300 .The twist bent back, but we are not impressed as our two other standard big polytunnels survived unscathed.We will probably recover with standard polythene some way, but I wouldn’t buy another.It is a windy site.

  2. Hi I have run guttering along the bottom of my solar tunnel and at one end have dug a 4ft x4ft x 4ft deep pit lined it with pond liner. I then run a irigation system by using a 12 volt leisure battery kept charged with a small solar panel and a strong 12volt pump jobs a gooden

  3. Kooky Girl

    Wow, you are SO lucky to have one of these. I so wish I had the space for one.. and year round growing too. Jealous, jealous, JEALOUS!!!!!

  4. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Just this week we ordered the plastic cover for our 12×20 DIY polytunnel. We’re going the cheapskate route — PVC pipe as hoops, reclaimed lumber as foundation. The only expensive part is the plastic itself, which set us back about $100 (US). We’re hoping to keep the price under $250. And have the thing actually work.

  5. …and I think I see lots of trays of seedlings already.

    I think this is a good move for you. Much less back breaking than the getup I have planned for this winter!

  6. I love my poly tunnel and you will love yours Fiona. You are right, it is lovely to potter in when it is raining. I find being in there such a stress reliever and so therapeutic. Enjoy!

  7. Toffeeapple

    Now I’m jealous. Not really, you’d put it to far better use than I would.

  8. Michelle in NZ

    How wonderful – straight sides so you can stand upright (as well as being able to grow tall plants).

    Such a great addition to your growing food and flowers. Just hope the darling Min Pins don’t find out how cosy it is inside the polytunnel!

    Sending care and huggles from me, with deep, loud purrrumbling from Zebby behind me on His bed (I am permitted to join him there) Michelle xxx

  9. Straight sides are a must, so that does indeed sound good. Happy gardening

  10. Magic Cochin

    Fantastic Fiona! Looks like a great place to hang out and potter on a wet and windy afternoon. I’d make sure I had a chair, table, biscuit tin and radio in there too 😉


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