Mulching and planting my no dig polytunnel

I love tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and chillis – having a polytunnel gives me the opportunity to grow these in abundance. Last Monday morning (23rd May) the polytunnel looked like this:


so I brought the laundry in and cleared the last of the winter lettuce, moved most of the pots outside and removed any emerging bindweed which creeps in from the right hand side. Having base rails was the best solution for the space I have in my back garden, it meant that I was able to have an additional 2 feet or more width to the tunnel, but the disadvantage of base rails over digging the polythene in is that the latter method also acts as a barrier to creeping weeds.

At the back are tomato and tomatillo plants waiting to be planted. Β Beside the rear door is a grapevine, in front are some overwintered garlic – on the left is elephant garlic. In the middle of the tunnel you can see two Grenoble Red lettuces which I am growing in order to save their seed, to the right are Rocket new potatoes. I left the self sown night scented stock because the scent it so gorgeous – here I had just begun sprinkling rock dust.


Remaining in the tunnel are some young plants in module trays which are remaining here until ready to plant. I grow a lot of beans because I’m also supplying some clients. These are climbing and dwarf French beans, runners, borlotti and Czar.

There were two compost heaps ready to mulch the tunnel: one plastic ‘dalek’ type with year old compost and a larger heap made from pallets and old wood. This heap had 3 year old compost on the bottom, two year old on top. Neither heap have ever been turned. The compost is beautifully rich, dark and crumbly. The ‘dalek’ composter simply pulls up, revealing a neat pile of compost. It also revealed some unwanted inhabitants, the ants were very alarmed!

Charles came to help with the mulching. The polytunnel wasn’t mulched last year so I thought I would give the soil extra treats – powdered seaweed meal and rock dust – to add minerals and zing to the soil. It looks a bit strange at first, as if I have spread concrete dust! Here Charles had added the first wheelbarrow load of ‘dalek’ compost.

_MG_8485Strangely, no matter how careful I think I am being with my composting, I always find unwelcome bits of plastic in the resulting compost. So we had two buckets when loading the wheelbarrows – one for anything that needs to continue composting such as sticks (these go in one of the current heaps) and another for rubbish – and checked the compost thoroughly before using it. We spread a good two inches of compost on the wider middle bed and the two narrower side beds, using my copper rake.

There was enough compost left to do the parts which we couldn’t mulch because they had pots on them. I was amazed that one big and one small heap could produce enough compost to cover all of the beds in here. This makes me feel confident that I can produce enough at home for the spring mulch next year – one of my plans for the garden is to try to make it as closed-loop and self sufficient as possible.

The mulched polytunnel!



I planted most of the tomatoes. I grow them up strings (made from baler twine) put under the tomato when I plant it and attached to more baler twine stretched across the crop bars – the same string that I hang my washing from. Most of these tomatoes are not tied up yet because I want to replace the top twine with fresh string.


Then we celebrated by sharing a cider.

Over the week I have continued planting the tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillo, some aubergines and cape gooseberries. There are still more aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers, melons, basil, other herbs and edible flowers to plant tomorrow and Thursday. The garlic here is a bit thin, I think because I planted it amongst the cabbage plants and it has got too dry – a lesson learned there. Some annual weeds are popping up, so I’ll hoe those tomorrow morning too. It’s good to hoe off weeds before they get too big, or even before you even see them. Charles was told this old gardeners’ Β saying: “If you hoe when you have no weeds, you’ll have no weeds.”

Here is the polytunnel this evening, a view from each door.

And inside the tunnel…

I’ve harvested the potatoes too, looking forward to some of these for tea.

Rocket first early potatoes
Rocket first early potatoes





17 thoughts on “Mulching and planting my no dig polytunnel”

  1. Looks so great Steph, I can’t wait to get a polytunnel when we move to allow us to grow enough tomatoes to make sauces and chutneys for the year! We used some of our homemade compost the other day, and I found two stainless steel spoon and a peeler, wondered where they were – clearly I keep throwing them away with my peelings haha. Interested to see more of the edible flowers you are growing, something I’d like to learn more about. Enjoy reading your updates, as ever. L x

    1. Thank you, Laurenne. It’s amazing what one finds in compost! I have an article about growing edible flowers in the current issue of Permaculture Magazine and also Permaculture North America, with recipes too, and will be blogging about my edible flowers as they grow.

  2. Looks great Steph,
    I particularly like the photo of your shadow adjusting its 1950s race day hat πŸ™‚
    I don’t have room in my garden for a polytunnel, sadly, so I’m trying aubergines in the sunniest, warmest part of the garden, against a sunny stone wall. You never know, we might have a heatwave! Other than that, I’m saving up for some larger cold frames… Maybe next year.

  3. Great job Steph, looks really smart. Plus some lovely homemade compost. I’ve just done the same in my greenhouse but on much smaller scale!

  4. The little white root on the potato looks like that little one is sticking one finger up at you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

      1. Hope you explain to it that as a potato that is its purpose in life. Either that or to become a child’s potato printer – and does it really want that.
        But I do like that you are breeding potatoes with attitude πŸ™‚ X

  5. Hi Steph,
    We’re thinking about getting a small polytunnel and also maybe not replacing our broken tumble drier? Having somewhere to hang washing in the rain would be awesome. Does is dry okay compared to indoors? Does the polytonal get too humid?
    Help us justify buying a polytunnel… πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Laurence,
      I make sure the polytunnel is well ventilated, the washing doesn’t make it humid. I don’t have a tumble dryer so if it is raining the only options are the tunnel or handing on clothes airers in the house! It dries fine – takes longer than it would on a sunny, breezy day of course. And unlike a tumble dryer you get tomatoes, cucumbers and winter salads, too πŸ™‚

  6. I’m going to pinch your idea of using baling twine lengthwise along the crop bars. I usually tie bamboo canes along there and then tie my climbers to that, but your way is so much easier. I’m writing this in February and looking forward to being as organised as you this coming 2017 season πŸ˜€ Jeanette

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