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On a Chalk Hillside June 2022

One thing leads to another –  relocating the original polytunnel and creating a soft fruit tunnel

Lets start with an update photo of the pots of seeds I showed you in my hotbed last month taken on 22 May:-

As you can see, many have germinated and are needing to be pricked out, whilst there are still some which haven’t yet germinated – always the way.  I turned the heat off a couple of days before this photo was taken, so whatever is not yet through will be put under the staging for the summer (and possibly the winter too) and we will see if anything comes of them.   
I am always spoiled for choice on June star plants in the garden.  This year I’ve chosen an Oriental Poppy  (Papaver Orientale) from 14 June 2021 – with self-seeded Geranium endressii round it – it’s a slightly pinkier version of the red Oriental Poppy I have elsewhere in the garden, which I bought from a Yellow Book garden one year without knowing what colour it might come out. 

Much like tree peonies, Oriental Poppy’s tissue-fine petals and enormous flowers are fleeting – in good weather lasting only a few days, in rain or storms even less – but their impact, oh my goodness!

Do you remember the original plan I mentioned several months ago, when indeed one thing led to another?  To remind us, here it is again:-

1)Empty, demolish and rebuild the compost bins elsewhere to give width;
2)Move the greens tunnel to the other side of the veg garden and eventually replace the netting with butterflyproof netting;
3)Redesign the entire vegetable garden, cutting new beds;
4)Put the old polytunnel in the newlook veg garden as a soft fruit tunnel with netting on it;
5)Erect new Polytunnel in new site at bottom of garden.  (This led to several other actions relating to flattening the ground, and terracing the earth above the flattened area, which you could see as part of redesigning the veg garden….)

So far, I have talked about us achieving 1); part of 2) – we’ve moved it but not done the net replacement yet; 3) has been talked about in plan, but not implemented yet, and this article is about 4).  AND completing 2)!  You may notice, that the past two articles about emptying the hospital beds and creating the evergreen hedge were not included in this original plan, but as one thing led to another became essential to achieving the last three steps.  
Returning to the photo of the gates in the hedge I showed you last month:-

You can see beyond them all three of the polytunnels in their new positions.  The hoops nearest to the gate, coming up the hill, are the structure of our original polytunnel that I told you about erecting under the birches in my article from March 2017.  Behind that you may see other hoops with a darker sheen?  That’s the net tunnel for winter veg I recently told you about relocating (together with moving the compost bins to accommodate it).  You can also see that on the left going across the garden is the new polytunnel in situ.  I shall tell you about erecting the new polytunnel next month.  This month I am concentrating on turning the old polytunnel into a soft fruit tunnel.
As you may have gathered from the previous articles, we were trying to achieve a great number of things in a very short timescale to ensure we had the means to grow our vegetable and fruit crops in 2019.  We were so under the cosh time-wise that before we had even dismantled the old polytunnel we had already measured, deturfed and planted up the space that was to be the raspberry tunnel in March.  This was because here horticultural deadlines supercede hard landscaping/building ones.  This is the site before we started preparing it in Feb 19:-

We had ordered bare root raspberry plants – fifteen summer, and five autumn fruiting ones which had to be planted asap on arrival.  We also had to move our existing Autumn Bliss raspberries from the original fruit cage in the orchard whilst they were dormant.  The bare-root plants we bought were ‘Glen Clova’ (summer fruiting), and ‘Zeva’ (autumn fruiting).  I had a bit of a struggle to dig out the Autumn Bliss raspberries as their roots were quite deep having been in situ since 2006, and I don’t think I got enough of their roots out to give all the canes the best start.   
A month later the patch was ready for the canes.  We created a structure for our raspberries to grow up – poles and wires as you can see below:-

The wires are set about 60cm apart the lower wire about 45cm from the ground, and the idea was that the line you can see being created above would be for the autumn fruiting ones, and the line on the other side which you can see me planting into below would be for summer fruiting.  (Naturally, what I am actually planting in that top section of that row is some of our Autumn Bliss canes as there were more autumn fruiting canes than summer ones):-

We started dismantling the old polytunnel on 11 April 2019 – here it is in situ between the Silver Birches and the orchard:-

You can see how green it gets in the shade of the silver birches each year, and we hoped that the new tunnel in a more open site would not suffer from this problem so much, making cleaning it easier each spring.
We tried to cut the plastic away in one large piece so we could reuse it for cold frames etc elsewhere, running the blade along at ground level all the way round:-

Considering how long it took us to get the plastic stretched over the hoops and secured when we put it up it came off a GREAT deal quicker:-

Whilst we obviously dismantled the frame somewhat, we tried to keep the end hoops together – as much as I could manage to move with himself, being as short as I am:-

Here is the frame going up in the new Productive Garden – note one of the fir trees I mentioned a couple of months back that we had relocated from the original hospital bed:-

Here’s a shot himself took up the ladder whilst fixing the topridge into the polytunnel frame – you can see the structures for the raspberries to grow on below and past the polytunnel frame the hospital bed:-

You might imagine I would be showing you photos of the door/endframe structures going on and of the netting at this point?  You would be wrong.  It was already later in April at this point, and we still had the new polytunnel to site and erect, and new beds needed to be cut for veg to be grown in.  We decided that as the raspberries would not produce fruit this year, we would leave the door/netting til the winter.   And what actually happened?  Well, I had ordered the netting for the two tunnels in time for them to be covered in April 19.  It sat and waited all 2019, all 2020, and on 6 April 2021 the two tunnels were covered.  Here, the net tunnel with its butterfly-proof mesh:-

HOWEVER let me show you a couple of shots I took this May of a cinnabar moth that I watched inside the tunnel fold its wings and crawl through this butterfly-proof mesh to the outside – obviously not contravening the trades descriptions act by being a MOTH!!:-
Inside:-

Outside:-

Just as well the yellow and black stripy caterpillars live on ragwort and NOT kales!!
The bird-proof netting was put on the soft fruit tunnel two days later.  Hopefully you can see the difference in netting from this shot showing you both tunnels,, with himself fixing netting onto the fruit tunnel doorframe:-

Why, you might ask, did it take so long to do the netting?  Well we had a drought in the spring of 2019 and consequently we did not have a very good survival rate of the raspberries, as we certainly forgot to water them enough.  Oh dear.  We had to buy more canes the following winter, and so the birdproof netting was not needed until 2021.   
That final photo also shows you the new polytunnel which I shall talk about putting up next month.

Sheila May

Posted by Sheila May

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