It’s on

Long covid had left me breathless even walking at normal speed. Pushing that envelope, my breathing has eased and now I can work as I used to. Although I’m overweight and unfit, working yesterday and today to the point of exhaustion, has given me a new lease on life. My hands and fingers ache, as does my back, but that fades when I think of the achievement, the goal I’m striving toward.

My father, 80 this year, helped to cut the carpet we used as hotspot tape, gave sage advice and really helped in the whole process. Rory, my son, is generous with his time and I love bouncing ideas off him. He has a dry sense of humour that is incredibly funny. Lynda our neighbor, who has also struggled with depression has been a stalwart, and Lewiss her son, helped out too. Fraser, who lives with the kids next door, is ever upbeat and worked really hard.

In the time it took us to put the cover on, the temperature inside the tunnel was about 40C and outside was just 10C with a wind that could cut a nipple off. I can’t wait to see what happens tonight when the temperature drops to freezing.

On a final note, the cover was supplied by First Tunnels. Their calculator is great, their packing and posting ensures the cover arrives in good shape and they threw in an extra meter. The cover itself seems great and I look forward to ordering more covers.

Prepping for the cover

Most of the trenches were dug using the mini-digger, I did need to dig about four or five yards of trench by hand. The tree roots held up work but nothing a bit of sweat could not fix.

The next job was to cut the door posts and fix the end water pipes to the door posts using metal strips wrapped around the pipe and screwed into place. The rest of the water pipe hoops were put in place and fixed to a batten running from door post to door post. The distance between each hoop, was measured at the base and same distance marked on the timber.

It’s now looking like it’s a polytunnel.

Mini Digger

Lynda, our neighbour, hired a mini digger and I was given a chance to use it for the afternoon. The hoops are 1.5m apart, and the digger was able to squeeze between them. I did manage to knock into one of the door uprights and dislodge one of the foundation pipes. Compared to digging two trenches 12m/40ft by hand, its a reasonable tradeoff for my poor operating skills.

The trench will be used to lay the plastic cover of the cold frame, and soil will be placed over it to keep it in place. A few you tube videos have given me an idea of what is required.

Sunday’s weather

Digging Holes

There is a lot of prep work needed when you build a poly-tunnel including a lot of it is digging holes. I’ve dug four holes, each 2ft back from the door and will be a corner of a raised bed. It will act as a support to prevent the door frame from bending inward. Postcrete is an instant mix that sets in 10 or 15 minutes letting me get on with more work.

Hail stopped play and went into my workshop and installed the stairs to the lower section of my shed; its mahogany and very very heavy. Rather than have an odd sized top step with the treads perfectly horizontal, I lifted the stairs so the top step is level and the tread slopes slightly downward. It’s a very slight slope.

A new Door

With some old fence posts donated by Brian Goodfellow, I’ve made a door for the East end. The wind from the North is really a north easterly so this gable end will keep out the cold. In hindsight, I may need a base board but making a slight change will be quick, everything is screwed together.

The orchard is beautiful, full of plum and damson blossom.

The mouse trap did it’s job but if there is one, there are normally more, so I’ve reset the trap. They seem to love lettuce so I’ve now nothing left. I’ll need to just take it on the chin and plant some more.

Not sure how squeamish you are but I’ve a photo of the bugger in the trap….

Layout of the Poly-tunnel

The layout has gone through several design iterations. My constraints that have been through various changes are: 3 ft wide path down the center, allowing easy access for wheelbarrows and wheelchairs. 2ft reach, so a 2ft bed if accessed from one side, and 4ft beds if accessible from both sides. Any side paths to be 2 ft wide’ just enough to get a barrow through.

The idea of island beds appealed, but I was shocked how much was pathway. By cheating a little, I made the edge beds 3′ not 2′ and had a long 4′ wide bed. This would be a pain, walking around the bed and I would make paths through the bed, eventually. This does use the least amount of wood. The key hole bed uses the most amount of wood but, it offers the most bed space that is easy to access.

Bed Area m2Bed are Sq Ft% bed area
The Poly-tunnel60645.834100
Islands with 3’ all round26.58286.10446244%
3’ wide beds + 4’ wide central bed39419.792165%
Key hole beds39.84428.83377666%

Mice

While I was away for the weekend, the little buggers have enjoyed a diet of broad bean seeds with seedling lettuce on the side. Crunchy peanut butter will be their last supper…. One of the courgette stems has split, and I’m blaming them too.

I’ve replanted a tomato and in the process planted it a little deeper and removed some side shoots, that are now under a dome and dusted with rooting hormone. I hope they root.

The plants outside are doing okay under fleece, we have a little wind and rain, the latter is welcome although throws a spanner in the works with regards to finishing the poly-tunnel

So far so good

The poly-tunnel has taken a few weeks to get to it’s current stage. The structure is not ready; the two ends need to be trimmed, the doors added, strengthened and ready to accept the poly-tunnel cover.

Conventional steel poly-tunnels have a tape that insulates the frame from the plastic cover helping longevity. We are using carpet, it’s new and donated by Bryan Goodfellow, our first member and my friend.

Below are a few images of progress