Pretty perfect polytunnel

It is almost a year to the day that we started on this polytunnel episode. I am so pleased with the result.

Meet our first indoor growing space:

Polytunnel with raised beds in early Spring (April) 2013

Polytunnel with raised beds in early Spring (April) 2013

We knew from the start that for this polytunnel – the closest to our home – we wanted to include raised beds. It’s a growing space for home grown veg and herbs (rather than trees) and for sitting in on rainy days. We’ve worked in spaces like this before and by just raising the growing space a little it makes it so much easier on the back and knees for sowing and harvesting. The beds are sized so that every bit can be reached from the aisles. The double depth middle bed is two arms lengths deep. It’s also double the height of the side beds.

Breakfast in the polytunnel

Breakfast in the polytunnel. Note the eggs from our chooks!

We had a plentiful supply of well rotted horse manure so these beds are extra fertile! I just can’t wait to get those heavy feeding veggies like squashes planted out (they are in the propagator at the moment).

Before we had finished all of the beds we gave it a trial run as a breakfast space. It’s so warm in there. The perfect start to the day.

You can’t see it in this picture, but in the middle bed we have dug down about 30cm below the soil level and added sticks and new manure as a kind of low hugelkultur (Sepp Holzer) to add long-term fertility to the bed. Then layered well rotted manure and soil on top. We didn’t build a full height hugelkultur because of the shadow it would create in this east-west aligned tunnel, especially in the winter months.

Polytunnel raised bed building team

Polytunnel raised bed building team: Me, Craig, Holly and Wilkie.

We’ve finished creating the raised beds!! Meet the raised bed building team. Thanks guys!

Let’s get growing.

Long cold stratification

There was a time when the salad compartments in my refrigerator did hold things to eat. Nowadays they are more likely to contain small cloth bags filled with sand and seed mixtures bound tightly at the top with cotton threaded with a seed label attached. I’ve been stratifying seeds. Tree seeds to be specific and most recently Small leaved lime (Tila cordata) , Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).

Seeds from the fridge (stratifying)

straight from the fridge. Note the roots through the canvas - whoops

The thing is they have been in the fridge since June and July last year (2012) and I’d not so much forgotten about them, but wasn’t expecting to see anything until Spring so hadn’t checked. When I went looking for some onions yesterday I was surprised to see many small roots poking their way out the canvas bags.

My first thoughts were “wow that’s so good”. Then I was annoyed that I’d picked them up so clumsily and worried that I may have damaged some of the roots, then concern as I looked at the roots forcing their way through the woven cloth as I wondered how I was going to remove them from the bags to plant them out.

Tilia cordata seeds

Craig inspecting the small-leaved lime seeds

Well, that was last night. Today we found out just how many had started to germinate we’d be able to free from their fake winter climate when we sowed them in their root-trainers. 540 seeds sown! Small-leaved lime and Hornbeam. The Witch-hazel has gone back in the fridge as it was showing no signs of growing yet.

Hanging seed trays

Out of mice reach?

Last year the mice took quite a few of our larger and medium sized seeds out of the root trainer pots as they were all on the ground. So a cunning plan was needed. We’re trying hanging the root trainers from the polytunnel crop-bars.

I hope it works.

Tree nursery – it’s a start!

Between 30,000 and 50,000 – that’s the number of trees Craig thinks we’ll need for the forest gardens according to the back of the envelope calculations he did the other day.

Our growing tree nursery

Our growing tree nursery

It’s a good job we’ve already made a start!

It is a real joy to see our little tree nursery grow. It is amazing just how fast the trees are growing.

I know I mentioned them on the last post, but I am really enjoying the Stone pines (pinus pinea). I love the way they catch and store water with their needles …

Pinus pinea catches and stores water

Pinus pinea catches and stores water

Gingko biloba germinating

Gingko biloba germinating

Now the Ginkgos (Ginkgo biloba) are starting to germinate and vie for my attention too…

Not to mention the Wych elms (Ulmus glabra) which have just the most brilliant leaves ever…

And the Hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna) and Beech nuts (Fagus sylvatica) we collected from our hedges last year … all good stuff.

Plenty to keep me busy.