What to plant in a polytunnel
In this video I go through the allotment year from the perspective of the polytunnel. I explain some of the key transitions and how to take best advantage of the space you have. Key to my approach is the use of layers of vertical space and using lots of containers for getting an early start and keeping harvests going late into the season. I also use large raised beds to provide more stable access to water and fertiliser.
- Winter: leafy brassicas, celery and salads. Over wintering flowering brassicas, carrots, peas
- Spring: early everything — potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, flowering brassicas, radish, seedlings, salads, celery, strawberries, peas, beans, beets, green garlic and carrots. Note a lot of the early stuff is grown in pots and will be discarded or moved outside by summer
- Summer: main crop peppers, tomatoes, ginger, chillies, cucumber, cucamelon, seedlings for planting in October
- Autumn: late beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy brassica greens for winter, over-wintering brassicas for spring, winter salads, spring onions, green garlic
If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We live in the north west of England, in Lytham St Annes, which I believe is the equivalent of USA Zone 8.
We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. I do most of the planning and seed starting. We each have our own plots, but we all help each other out.
Jennie’s plot has been designed as a traditional allotment, but we put a lot of focus on minimising the work we do there. It’s basically a plant and forget it plot, full of garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, brassicas, squash, beans and fruit trees. It’s heavily mulched to reduce weeds and easy to water.
Debbie’s plot is mostly full of perennials, it’s a garden plot. Again we did a lot of work to keep the weeds down and Debbie’s approach is inspired by the TV programme The Ornamental Kitchen garden.
My plot is all about experimental growing, maxium productivity and year round abundance. As with all of the other plots I did a lot of work to control the weeds, but it’s a high maintenance plot. I’m always planting, harvesting, experimenting and generally having a great time.
Collectively the plots deliver an amazing abundance of fruit and veg all year round. Debbie, Jennie and I are effectively self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit for much of the year. During winter we have enough surplus to feed a few more of our friends and during the rest of the year we feed up to 22 people.
This video provides an overview:
I do an update of the allotments, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here:
Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible. For more on self sufficiency check out these videos:
Debbie and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.
I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.
I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.