Clearing the polytunnel for new plantings

This is the fifth in my series of blogs, 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.

As I explained in the previous blog in this series, Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd October were the key dates for me  clearing the polytunnel, so that I could plant on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Charles and I were hosting a no dig gardening course so I was working most of the daylight hours and on Thursday morning I drove to Yorkshire for a family wedding (I’m still in Yorkshire now, I was born here and so am making the most of a rare opportunity to spend a few days in this beautiful place). So those days worked best for me.

The next week or so is an ideal time for ‘the big changeover’ in your covered spaces – greenhouse, polytunnel or cloches.

First of all I harvested everything that was going to be cleared, including a lot of tomatoes……

I had 40+ tomato plants in here, plus some more outside – 35 would have been a more sensible number for our needs, as it turns out! I’m going to have a lot of preserving to do next week.

This is the tunnel after picking. The remaining tomatoes were mostly damaged in some way.


Next, I picked the side shoots from my Rosada plant and put them in a mug of water – this F1 hybrid is no longer available, so saving shoots is the only way to have plants for next year.

I’ll explain saving the side shoots in another blog soon. For now, your shoots will be quite happy in a mug of water.

As far as possible, it is a good idea to leave the roots in the soil; they feed the microbes and other soil life. I cut as close to the ground as I can. This is a Japanese knife from Niwaki.

Using the knife or secateurs, cut the tomato plant in shortish lengths for composting – I cut mine into about 6 inch/15 cm lengths, collect it all up in a trug and then put in the compost heap. Everything went in – blighted fruit, blighted leaves, the lot.

Aubergines, tired basil plants, melon vines and any weeds I found were cleared, chopped and composted.

TIP! Clearing involves a lot of repetitive movements. I ended up with a painful blister on my finger from the knife, which burst – ouch! Next time, I will wear a glove on my right hand to protect my fingers.

Not everything was removed. I’ve left the Holy Basil, Kiwana – still waiting for some to ripen!, some aubergines that are still fruiting, lemongrass, Blue Butterfly Pea, a sweet pepper,  a morning glory, some edible flowers and one tomato plant. I haven’t grown Kiwana before and frankly don’t have a clue if or when it will ripen!

The polytunnel looks rather strange now. Doesn’t seem very long since I was planting it all out … where did the summer go?

I mulch the polytunnel in the spring, so no further soil preparation is needed: the compost mulch feeds the plants for a whole year. If you didn’t mulch with compost in the spring then some soil food may be necessary – comfrey feed, chicken pellets, seaweed meal, rock dust, whatever organic fertility boosters you have.

Next, I made sure everywhere had a good soaking. I use a sprinkler for this because I can turn it on and then get on with other jobs elsewhere. The soil was quite dry due to not watering the tomatoes for several weeks (to encourage ripening), so the sprinklers were on for several hours.

The polytunnel is now ready to plant out.

2 thoughts on “Clearing the polytunnel for new plantings”

  1. Wow you have been a busy little bee , how big is your poly tunnel ? I have just cleared my greenhouse that took long enough😃. I really love your blog , so very helpful

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