Planning the next stages for an abundant polytunnel

This is the fourth in my series of blog posts, explaining how to grow vegetables and herbs which can be sown now to see you through the winter and spring – no hungry gap in 2018!
I have added the category No Hungry Gap, so you can find all of the blogs easily using the search facility.

Final harvests, preserving, watering, planting, sowing… there are so many things to think about at this time of year that I can start to feel overwhelmed. When there’s a lot to do and a deadline approaching, it is easy to spend time flitting from one task to another, never quite finishing anything properly: this is when having a clear plan can really helps me keep focused, confident and stress free!

My deadline is October 15th: this is the last day that I can do any gardening before going away until the end of the month. Last year I was still picking tomatoes on October 15th, so your deadline is possibly a week or so later than mine.

Yesterday I wrote a list of everything that needed to be done between now and then… just the priorities, there isn’t very much time!

  • finish pricking out
  • final harvest of cucumbers and peppers
  • clear cucumbers and peppers
  • bring potted chilli and stevia plants into the house*
  • final harvests of basil, tomatoes, melons, aubergines
  • preserve them!
  • harvest seed from marigolds
  • pick and dry marigold and calendula flowers
  • clear all plants (except anything I’ve decided to leave)
  • watering
  • planting
  • sowing carrots and radish
Garden and allotment
  • harvest beans for drying
  • harvest squash, beetroot, sweetcorn
  • move a dalek compost heap closer to the house for the winter
  • bring all tender potted plants into the house*
  • hoe and weed
  • check and secure cloches over brassicas
  • plant front garden raised beds
  • plant garlic
  • things I’ve forgotten … there is bound to be something!

(* I’m bringing the pots into the house whilst I’m away because they are far more likely to be remembered and watered than if I leave them in the greenhouse, which is what I’d usually do until the temperatures drop significantly. The other occupants of my house love to eat what I grow but are not especially interested in otherwise being involved!)

These are the key things for me to remember for my own garden – I have a separate list of things that need to be done for my work gardens. I’m not including anything that can wait until November, for example clearing the bean poles or chopping up the sweetcorn plants for the compost heap. Your list will be personal to your garden but hopefully mine will help to inspire it.

Now, search for a free blank calendar template online and print, or draw your own. It needs to have enough blank spaces for the days until your deadline.

This might be a bit over the top, but I do love any opportunity to use my box of pencils! I also gathered different coloured markers – not necessary, but cheerful.

Next, fill in the days of the week and the appropriate dates. For such a short timescale it isn’t necessary to put in the month too, unless you want to.

Choose one colour to block out any days that you know you won’t be able to do any gardening at all. Here I’ve used green. This visual aid was so useful because I hadn’t realised how many days I would have to block out; it was a bit of a shock to be honest but has helped me plan my time more clearly.

The red box is the day I am flying off, definitely no gardening then!

Now decide when you are going to do things and write them into the calendar. I haven’t included things like when I’m working, or have to wait in for the new washing machine (why did mine have to break at an already busy time?!) because I felt it would get too muddled. That kind of information is already in my diary, which I’ll be using alongside this.

I’ve decided that for me, Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd are the key polytunnel clearing and planting days. Monday is the absolute last day of the tomato plants, which feels a bit sad. I know that tomorrow (Friday) is a really busy day doing other things, so I’ll have time for making pesto but not much gardening, whereas the weekend is an ideal time for me to so all of the other clearing, harvesting and preparing. The weather forecast isn’t great for Sunday or Monday but that is not a problem as this work is all undercover.

This leaves October 10-13th to do all of the outdoor jobs. I haven’t specified dates for tasks then because I don’t know what the weather will be. I can decide this nearer the time.

I kept my calendar quite simple due to time restrictions (dealing with piles of soggy laundry thanks to the demented washing machine didn’t help here…) but it would be nice to make more decorative one.

So, today (Thursday) after work I knew I was pricking out, harvesting basil and dehydrating. The pricking out is now all finished for the year (!!!) it was mainly parsley which took a long time to germinate. I watered the seedlings too and checked for slugs under the module trays. And here are some of the tomatoes I have in the dehydrator….

I harvested basil – the poor plants are looking very old now, but there are still some good leaves.

A busy time ahead, but it does feel so much better knowing that I have a clear plan of action.

In the next post, I’ll be explaining ways of clearing and preparing the polytunnel – and then, planting!






8 thoughts on “Planning the next stages for an abundant polytunnel”

  1. Loving all the detailed advice – Now I just need to keep up with you (Very excited to be on a course next week !!!)
    What dehydrator do you use/recommend? I’ve not had one before and am not sure what features are important to look out for.

    1. You’re coming on Wednesday, how lovely! Charles takes all of the bookings so I never know who is coming until the morning 🙂

      With dehydrators it depends on your needs. I have a Stockli which I like because it has a small footprint, not much bigger than a dinner plate, and 10 removeable tiers – one can use just any number of tiers, so if just drying a few trays of herbs then 3, all the way up to 10. Charles has a 9 tier Excalibur – he has more room! It very much depends what your needs and budget are – both of these are quite expensive. I have friends who have had great success with cheaper models. Lakeland do a smaller one which several people I know have great success with.

  2. Excellent idea planning the month ahead on paper. I usually start with good intentions & end up off piste. I hope this will help me yo stay on track. Thank you Stef , hope you have a lovely restful holiday you deserve it. Xx

  3. What a brilliant idea , I am just going to draw my paper up with the dates and jobs and get started on them . Thank you for such a wonderful idea . Have a fantastic holiday Stephanie , you deserve it , you work so hard xx

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