Gardening Magazine

Polytunnel Envy

By Jules
I was privileged enough to recently visit a garden that has been tended by a couple for the last 50 years. It's your classic secret garden, hidden just off the high street of a Hertfordshire village and I bet that most of the village residents don't even know its there. It has all the elements of a garden that I would love - beautiful old walls to trap the heat and act as backdrops for fruit cultivation, small meandering meadow areas with mature trees underplanted with daffodils and paved paths weaving beneath arches framed by climbers.
And in one area of this beautiful garden is an amazing vegetable and fruit plot. Potatoes growing in sacks in a greenhouse big enough to house my entire garden, rows of mange tout merrily waving their tendrils in the sun and then - the polytunnel envy set in. It's fatal, I should really stay away from other people's polythene-lined supercharged, super-heated growing spaces. I just don't have the space for one - unless we fastened the top of the arch to the back door and it ended at the larch hedge on our boundary. It would be like that scene from ET where the government scientists rig up a plastic walk-in tube stretching from the front door to a van - you'd never see the outside world again. But sadly I'm not sure the chickens would be very happy with that. Anyway, back to my gardening jealousy. The owner of said amazing garden structure explained that he uses his polytunnel to grow an array of veg, starting them off much much earlier than you'd be able to in an open plot and just look at the result!
Polytunnel envy
The broad beans are not only about 4 times the height of mine, they're also in full flower and complete with visiting bees. Although they look like they were autumn sown, he actually sowed them in situ in February. Behind the first row of Aquadulce Claudia is a row of peas that are not quite visible in the photo. With leaves a good 3 inches across! It makes my 2 inch tall efforts in the suburban veg plot look a little lacking. Roll on the suburban smallholding...

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