Usually the end of February and early March heralds a dramatic increase of activity in the greenhouse – but the unusually cold weather means last week was more about snowing than sowing!
We haven’t had a proper snow fall for some years so it was very exciting. We had been warned that the bad weather was coming: preparations were made, ensuring all necessary car journeys were completed by Thursday. I had to reschedule Thursday evening’s talk as I wouldn’t have been able to make it in my small car, we have plenty of food and looked forward to the snow.
( I live in a small market town, not much bigger than a village really, but knew that the shops here would still be stocked and I can walk to them. It’s not quite the same for people who couldn’t stock up before the bad weather, the elderly and those who wouldn’t have been paid until the end of the week and so had to go out in the snow trying to get groceries in stores with shelves stripped of the necessities or couldn’t afford to heat their homes. The snow days were fun for us: I could still work from home too, but must have been very hard for those on zero hours contracts who lost income, or with no heating or electricity cut off by the bad weather. It’s difficult to know what to do to help, but next time I am in a larger town I’m going to buy groceries for the food bank collections as they most likely have very reduced supplies now).
Snow is great for covering up all the bits of the garden which look untidy!
Two full ‘snow days’ means a rare opportunity to go out walking with my sons around Bruton. They spent most of the days outside with friends, building sledges, finding giant snowdrifts – my 21 year old even stayed out one night until 1 am building an igloo (of sorts)!
On Wednesday, before the snow properly reached Bruton, Charles and I travelled on the train to London which had already had several inches of snow. We attended the Garden Press Event – a fascinating show filled with new and interesting garden ideas, products, seeds and plants. Travelling home, the snow was blowing into Paddington station – by the next morning the station was closed; we were very lucky with our travel plans!
Before the snow, earlier in the week icy winds dramatically reduced the temperature day and night – it didn’t get above freezing. Even inside the polytunnel, temperatures plunged to -7 ºC. I’d forgotten to add extra insulation to the doors when preparing for the low temperatures, which are half mesh for ventilation, which didn’t help matters. Even the brassicas were frozen and droopy.
To warm things up, I covered the doors with a double layer of polythene (off cuts from the polytunnel cover) and the beds with 30gsm fleece. See where the snow came in whilst I was doing this!
Every morning we fed the birds and put fresh water out for them. New visitors to the garden included field fares and red wings, which usually remain in the fields. I discovered a black cat in the back garden contentedly eating the stale cheese we had put out for the birds, which wasn’t quite the plan!
On Saturday, as the thaw began, I noticed that the night temperature in the polytunnel was around 0 ºC but by day had climbed to around 27 ºC! So i removed the fleece, but not the door insulation.
After two days under deep (for Somerset) snow, herbs started to emerge unscathed.
There were a few minor casualties – I think I trod on those poor radish. My outside tap froze and broke, despite extra insulation, so we had to replace that on Sunday.
But most of the plants had survived remarkably well, even the Florence fennel and dill, which are usually killed by freezing temperatures. I am astonished by the Blue Butterfly pea (Clitorea Ternatea) which I was sure would be done-for as it is a tropical plant, but has bounced back and will need pea sticks very soon to support the growth. Not so sure about the lemon grass, that looks dead but I am giving it a chance to recover.
Self sown weeds are emerging in the polytunnel, including poppies and violas – lovely in themselves but as they are not where I want them to grow (I need the space for summer crops) I removed them and any damaged leaves on the plants. 2 1/2 trugs full, for the compost heap.
The weeds and damaged leaves provided welcome bulk for the current compost heap. I’m going add some ‘browns’ next before more ‘greens’.
After the tidy up. There’s so much growing here – I’ll list it all at the end of the blog.
I couldn’t get into my greenhouse for a few days, it was frozen shut. The seeds were happy enough, on low heat and are popping up beautifully. They’ll be coming off the heat later today (Tuesday 6th) to make room for more the aubergine seedlings that need pricking out and new sowings. I am a little behind thanks to the snow, but everything will catch up.
Outside I can see birds busy with beaks full of nesting material. After days under thick ice and snow, the frogs are busy falling in love again and spring has sprung in my polytunnel. The mystery potted fruit tree in the foreground is blossoming and the small dwarf apricot at the back, in bud. I’ll leave the polytunnel door open each day now, so insects can get in, but may also hand pollinate these blossoms.
What’s growing in the polytunnel now (that I can remember!)
Beetroot for leaves (it will bolt before making roots)
Flat leaf parsley
Rapa di Sensa
Kale Cavelo Nero
Carrots – just a few
Kale red Russian
Lemon grass (if it is still alive!)
Dazzling blue kale
6 thoughts on “My polytunnel in early March”
Hi Steph .
Really enjoyed seeing these realistic pics, some things have come through very well considering the hard frosts .My allotment is not too far away from yours in Shepton Mallet.I am just starting out on a no dig organic adventure and really looking forward to it. Having grown more flowers in the past and still do.Interesting to see your large polytunnel as here for some reason we are restricted to only 6×8 shed , greenhouse or tunnel , which I feel is a great shame !Haveing seen your stash of Confrey feed I am encouraged to make a lot more !! also concentrating on making good compost .
Thanks Linda, glad you have found the photos interesting. I haven’t finished the blog, need to add some more photos and the words 🙂 It was posted in error whilst I was uploading the photos – I was distracted by my son (!!) and pressed ‘publish’ rather than ‘save’… It should be finished by mid-morning, just need to get the chores done first.
Looks great Steph. I just cover the soil and leave it my ” Poly” for the winter with some sweet pea and ammi majus seedlings sheltered inside. Your list does include lemon. Surely you don’t keep a lemon tree in there over winter do you ? Interesting if you do.
Yes, and the lime – but they are fleeced & bubble wrapped when the temperatures fall. I used to bring them into the house but it made them unhappy – leaves fell off, they got bad aphid infestation.
Hi Steph, I love all your pictures and the story about how you and Charles went to a plant show and got back before the storms. I come from Buffalo NY and know the feeling well of getting tucked into the house, stacks of wood for the woodstove and plenty of food! I too work from home as an artist so I like when it snows for the change to the landscapes, but happy to see it melt so it won’t hurt my plants too much! I live in Northumberland now and love it, but we’re searching for a place to live where we can afford a bit of gardening space too. One of these days I’ll buy the book you did with Charles and maybe others he wrote; it seems you two are a great team! Thanks!!
Thank you Mary. My cousin lives in Buffalo, I have never been but hope to one day.