Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The polytunnel in February

It has been a mild winter, but even so a touch of sun will raise temperatures in the polytunnel quite rapidly and it needs daily ventilation.

What's happening in there?

The autumn sown onions are looking perky and have had their first foliar feed, they get going pretty quickly now, I will expect to see progress on a weekly basis.
The winter lettuces are growing and can take being picked quite frequently now. I tend to use loose-leaf varieties and then can take as much or little as I require. Lamb's lettuce and rocket have self-seeded and will be available soon. I have sown mizuna and spinach and these have all germinated well.

Early sowings do need protection from slugs, which have also woken up with the warmth.
I have planted the first pot grown sugar snap peas and have sown some more pots for growing outside too.

The garlic that was planted both inside and outside the polytunnel is up and growing strongly.
Inside strawberries have been given their spring tidy and an organic fertiliser.

My cabbages that were in the polytunnel have been eaten, but the purple sprouting broccoli is just about to produce.

Most of the carrots from last year have been eaten but there are still some 'Autumn King' in the ground which will need using up soon, especially before the first sowing of carrots, but even before then they will start to regrown if not lifted and put in a cool place. Carrots which start to regrow will begin to go to seed and the roots will get tough.

The rhubarb is beginning to sprout. Last year I upturned a bucket over them and they produced a lovely sweet crop of first stalks. I will do it again.

Broad beans

It is not often that this part of Scotland can boast warmer temperatures than most of the UK, but it has been a complete contrast to last year.

The broad beans 'Jade', which were sown into pots in the greenhouse on 9th January, have been planted out today.
They have been hardened out, coming unscathed through the last few cold days, and are now under a micro-mesh fleece in the vegetable patch. The fleece will give them a little extra protection and prevent attack from hungry animals.

Autumn sown broad beans are not favoured here, the winters can be too unpredictable, and they rarely make any earlier crop than one started off in pots.
I will do another sowing in about a months time to prolong the cropping.

Early potatoes

The seed potatoes have arrived and are being put to chit. They will be planted when the ground begins to warm.

Meanwhile, to access some earlier potatoes, some of the smaller potatoes from last year's crop have been growing in pots in the warmth of the greenhouse. Now with the current warm spell and their subsequent growth, they are ready for larger pots and moving into the polytunnel. The polytunnel is unheated so they will need fleecing at night when frosts threaten. However the large pots provide some insulation and raising them from the ground will keep them warm.

Growing in pots is convenient and, if you use saved compost, cheap. I enrich the compost with an organic fertiliser and, apart from watering and fleecing, they require little care. Harvesting is a matter of weeks away, depending on the variety and weather. Generally speaking roughly 10 weeks from planting up. Just tip out the pot.

Last year we got enough from each pot to feed 5 people (all who like potatoes!) and, as they were salad varieties, they were not only tasty but saved a huge amount of money.
I have tried a variety of different pots and even small compost bags. My preferred potato growing pot is now the red Crystalyx sheep lick boxes. With 5 holes drilled for drainage they are just the right size for a meals worth, easy to use and find.