CLADDING A POLYTUNNEL WITH A ‘MEITHEAL’ – 3rd wk in February 2015

Little did I realise when I headed to Co. Clare for a week of work experience with highly respected organic grower Jim Cronin, that I’d be helping to clad a new polytunnel frame with plastic. The task of fitting the plastic tightly had been a bit of a mystery before that, but not anymore!

Jim’s friend and fellow organic grower, Fran, had bought a 100 foot by 24 foot tunnel in kit form on the internet. When we arrived the frame was assembled, cemented in position and a trench 2′ by 2′ all the way around the frame had been dug in preparation.

Jim, Fran and friends were a ‘meitheal’ of 6, some very experienced, others on a very sharp learning curve (like me)! An invisible friend was the absence of wind. A breezy day can nullify the efforts of even a very good team of cladders.

The first job was to drape the plastic over the frame evenly side to side and end to end. Then the middle sections of plastic  on each side were buried in the trench. The technique is best understood from the photo hopefully. It involves a person standing on a stick wrapping an edge of the plastic sheet while another person shovels earth on top of the plastic, while a third person stands on this soil to weigh down the plastic which then becomes stretched and buried in the boundary trench.

Once the side edges are 80% buried, the final edge lengths approaching each corner are gathered so that the gable ends can be stretched while being wrapped tight around and nailed to the wooden door frames. The gable edges of plastic are also buried in the trenches

Jim stands on soil to weigh down and tighten the plastic cladding while Caoimghín is ready to shovel in more soil and Ali slowly releases the edge of the sheet underfoot to keep the plastic tight.

Jim stands on soil to weigh down and tighten the plastic cladding while Caoimghín is ready to shovel in more soil and Ali slowly releases the edge of the sheet underfoot to keep the plastic tight.

at each end. I guess, as with most things, practise makes perfect. The winter storms will let us know how we did in due course!

 

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