Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Polytunnel Disaster

As any of you that have been reading this blog over the past year will know one of the highlights of the past twelve months has been the purchase of a polytunnel. It has allowed me to grow a greater variety of crops over a greater period of time. My tomato harvest this year beat almost everything else in garden for quantity and taste. I had planned to start sowing a few seedlings in the next few weeks and instead of cluttering up every south facing windowsill in the house would start some off in the polytunnel, but then disaster struck!

I had been working away for a couple of days and the weather had been pretty bad. Snow hit large parts of the country this was followed by a few local floods and strong winds. By the time I returned home last Friday the worst of the weather had passed. Even though it was getting dark by the time I arrived,  as usual I had a look around the garden to see if much had happened while I had been gone. As I walked around the corner of the house I was confronted by a scene of sheer devastation.

The wind had blown the entire thing away! My first thought was how annoying the whole thing was, after a long week this was all I needed. I didn't think it would be too hard to track down, something the size of a polytunnel should easily be spotted. I expected it to have blown around the back of the house or into a corner of the garden, or the worst case scenario that it was in a neighbours garden. The brassicas that I had been nurturing for two months in the hope that as soon as the days started to get a bit longer would shoot up into something harvestable had been savaged by the weather and nibbled by the chickens.

After a while looking it became clear that it was certainly not anywhere near the garden. I gave up for the night. At the end of the garden are fields sloping down to a river so I thought I'd go to the bottom of the hill in the morning and have a look around.

Again though, even in the morning it was nowhere to be seen. I had looked on foot and in the car and it had completely disappeared. I had no idea where it could of gone so I turned my attention to tidying up the beds that had now been left exposed. As I did a familiar voice called down the garden 'are you missing something?' It was the local farmer, we had met a few time whilst we had been out walking. He would always be driving some sort of machinery but would always pull over and turn the engine off for a chat when he saw us. It turns out that all my searching had been in vein. the polytunnel, or what was left of it was in his sheep shed. He said he was astonished when he saw it in the morning and wasn't too sure what it was to start with.  Maybe something to do with the state it was in, it really wasn't looking much like a polytunnel by that point. As a consolation he did say it's the worst wind that he's seen in ten years up here, bearing in mind this is the Brecon beacons things must have been bad. He kindly agreed to drop it back over the fence in case I could make use of anything that was left. I was prepared for the worst but was still bitterly disappointed when I saw it.

The veg that was left would a least need some sort of protection so I decided I try and make a mini polytunnel or a large cloche to at least try and cover it over. This wasn't easy as most of the poles were bent so even when the screws were removed they would rarely come apart without a struggle. Add to that the bitterly cold temperatures outside and it resulted in a rather miserable afternoon in the garden.

The end result wasn't too bad though, it does some sort of job and provides the protection that I need. to say I am a little paranoid about it blowing away again is an under statement. But if I did had to remove it when the wetaher gets too bad it would be pointless having it there at all. Out of some of the bent poles I made foot long pegs and staked it to the ground, so with a bit of luck it's here to stay this time.

I mentioned in a previous post that it would take a couple of years worth of tomatoes and chillies to make the polytunnel pay for itself. Turns out that didn't happen, what I have gained is an idea of just how harsh the weather can be up here. The polytunnel was great while it lasted but I certainly won't be rushing out to buy another one. The idea is that the garden pays for itself including the ducks and the chickens in terms of manure, eggs and occasionally meat. I may have to go without tomatoes this year but you can be sure there will be something equally as exciting in their place.

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