Posts Tagged ‘polytunnel’

AFTER DRAINAGE WORK, WE HAD FIELD PLOUGHED – 4th wk in April 2015

Our preference has always been to disturb the soil as little as possible, by using mulches and sowing green manure seeds wherever bare soil is created after harvesting a crop, for instance.

However, after the disruption of getting drains put under the top soil and the compaction of the associated machinery, we succumbed to the need for a tractor and plough to turn the rough ground and begin to make it even enough to harrow and sow. This is the area where our polytunnel is to be located so site preparation is needed for that development too. DSC07126

Thanks to our farming neighbour, Sam Hawkins, who made time to plough the 1 acre field with his own tractor and plough.

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HOEING FOR FERTILITY AS WELL AS WEED CONTROL – 2nd wk in March 2015

It may still be too cold outdoors for hoeing. Growth is not yet vigorous and the soil may still be too damp. However, in a polytunnel conditions are drier and warmer. So, while doing my organic work experience in Co. Clare with Jim Cronin, hoeing in the tunnels was all in a day’s work.

Jim asked us to hoe the paths as well as the raised beds. He explained that the loose soil on the paths can afterwards be pushed up on to the beds. This all helps to add more friable fertile soil to the beds, where it can be used by the plants being grown.

Hoeing is not only about weed control then, it also gets air in to the soil surface to spur on soil activity and plant growth.  However, the commonly seen wooden sides used to edge raised beds would stimey this path hoeing idea. I had thought about putting in wooden edges on our own raised beds in Tacumshin, when we get a polytunnel

Hoeing paths and raised beds keeps both weed free, but also shifts fertile loose soil to when veg are growing.

Hoeing paths & raised beds keeps all weed free, but also shifts fertile loose soil to when veg are growing.

. Now I have a positive reason not to go to all that trouble – thanks Jim!

SOWING ‘GREEN MANURE’ CROPS IN POLYTUNNEL ON BARE SOIL – 4th wk in February 2015

I recall writing in some detail about suitable times to grow various ‘green manure’ crops in the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ ( pp. 195 – 9). Now I realise, after working with organic guru, Jim Cronin in Co. Clare, that sowing these soil improving crops can be an almost weekly occurrence. This applies

Bowl of 'green manure' rye seeds ready for broadcast sowing by hand along vacant veg bed in polytunnel

Bowl of ‘green manure’ rye seeds ready for broadcast sowing by hand  along vacant veg beds in polytunnel

especially when growing in polytunnels where soil temperatures are generally higher than outside.

Whenever Jim has cleared a patch of soil, a green manure is sown, even if the patch will be required to plant vegetable seedlings in a fortnight’s time. If one sees bare soil – scatter a few seeds of rye or phacelia or red clover. This is a good rule of thumb which lies at the heart of maintaining good microbial life in well managed soil.

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!

 

DUCKS FOR SLUG CONTROL IN POLYTUNNEL – 3rd week in February 2015

During a week of work experience on Jim Cronin’s organic farm near Killaloe in County Clare, it was interesting to learn more about the role ducks can play in keeping slug numbers down.

Ducks cannot be let in to polytunnels unsupervised. Before long, they would get a taste for lettuce or any tasty leafy vegetable if left to their own devises. However, when the veg beds are being prepared, especially in the early spring, a few ducks can diligently search out hundreds of slugs and slug eggs. The ducks tend to focus on where the plastic sides meet

Domestic ducks on slug  and slug egg patrol in the polytunnel on vacant veg beds.

Domestic ducks on slug and slug egg patrol in the polytunnel on vacant veg beds.

the soil. This is the type of damp area where over-wintering slug eggs tend to be most plentiful.

Once the ducks have found all the slug eggs they can, it is time to drive them out of the polytunnel before they turn their attention to any precious crops which may be growing nearby in the tunnel.

Having ducks brings many benefits to organic horticulture. However, at times it is necessary to prevent the ducks from getting access to where the veg is growing. Like humans, they are omnivores and they find organic veg tasty too – and who can blame them?

STORING WATER FOR USE IN THE POLYTUNNEL – 2nd wk in April 2014

Dr Ollie Moore, Bruce Darrell, Emer and Grace O'Sullivan discuss keeping a polytunnel mproductive, with water tank in the background.

Dr Ollie Moore, Bruce Darrell, Emer and Grace O’Sullivan discuss keeping a polytunnel  productive, with water tank in the background.

Recently met up with Grace O’Sullivan, community activist, ecology teacher and Green campaigner and her daughter Emer, at the Eco-Village in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. It was a very educational day with  tour of the kitchen garden experimental plots. Bruce Darrell, who is in charge of this research project is testing plants comparing seed sown versus module sown varieties. He is also combining plants like runner bean and potato etc to see how they interact and grow side by side.

We were accompanied by Dr. Ollie Moore, who is an organic correspondent for The Farming Examiner. Useful techniques were also to be noticed such as keeping a water store in or near the polytunnel.

GROWING CARROTS IN A POLYTUNNEL – 2nd week in September 2013

I was surprised to see carrots growing in a polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim, on a recent visit. Klaus Laitenberger in his excellent book ‘Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’ mentions that growing carrots under cover like this ensures an earlier crop than just growing outdoors. Growing carrots indoors also ensures no carrot root fly attacks.

Klaus, who lives not a million miles from there, says November is when first sowings of early carrots can be made in a polytunnel or greenhouse. However, he prefers to wait until January to start sowing. Before this, he places black plastic on the seedbed for a few weeks to help warm up the soil first. After sowing, Klaus places fleece over the growing crop to protect it from the cold. Another key to success is choosing the most appropriate variety. Klaus recommends Amsterdam Forcing, Buror F1, Napoli F1, Rocket F1 or Ya Ya F1, which

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

is a Nantes type.