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Annuals only in a polytunnel / greenhouse

 
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My veg patch has so far proved something of a failure due entirely to the community of rabbits and alike that live in the woods adjacent to our property. They've enjoyed all its returns enormously so far. Its also too far from the house - I had little choice on placement as around the house is very shady / very mature already. This is of course far from ideal, both for my access and for ease of access for critters.

It was built while I was designing the rest of the site and its becoming clearer to me that the rest of the site, is more akin to a forest garden than anything else. I'm questioning having an annual garden at all at the moment, but the returns coming in months rather than years would be really nice to have.

Any veggie / annual garden I plant likely needs to be fenced and thinking back to Ben Falk's book he talks about fencing in crops, rather than animals which I think is something I need to look into. In doing so though, I was wondering if I could kill a number of birds with a single stone so to speak. Rather than just fencing, why not build a polytunnel? It would give additional security, longer growing season, a slightly controlled environment - and by containing the annual garden, I no longer have to dedicate additional space to that.

What are the downsides to having your annual garden, in this sort of environment though? As far as I can tell:

Expense - cost of the tunnel / greenhouse.
Irrigation - without direct rain access, one would need an irrigation system (although that could be delivered via rainwater catchment most likely).
Ongoing maintenance - the structure would need maintenance and replacement somewhere in the future.

Anything else? Just exploring the idea.
 
pollinator
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I'd add on 'insect pests' as a downside- my plants outdoors rarely have a problem as the birds eat the insects (as well as some of my berries). In the greenhouse I regularly have to spray soap solution and things to control aphids in the greenhouse- because the usual birds can't get in to maintain it for me. (I'm not having much luck recruiting predator insects inside the greenhouse- that might be an option!)
 
gardener
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I think you could do it with minimal additional cost over fencing alone.
I think you will still need fencing.

It would keep out deer, birds and squirrels as well.
I wouldn't expect a huge amount of season extension, unless you add extra layers, like two rows of low tunnels inside of a high tunnel, on top of of row covers.
Actually,  white row cover as the the rooftop would allow in precipitation .
Fencing underneath plastic sheeting goes a long way to prevent the pooling that tears up a lot of tarp structures.

If you have chickens, a structure like this could serve as a winter home.
Feed them compostibles all winter,  plant in the soil come spring.

I think you could get by with deer netting if you are only protecting plants.
For protecting animals, a combination of hardware cloth in places where racoons could reach  in to get a chicken, and poultry wire every where else should do.

 
steward
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I think it could work very nicely.  You might want to check out Edible Acres on youtube.  He has some "cattle panel" greenhouses that are pretty cheap.  Here's a permies link to some of the videos: Link  If the plastic is removed in the winter, the snow won't crush it (if you have snow).  If it's just holding out critters, chicken wire down low may be all the additional fencing you'd need.
 
Mj Lacey
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Mike Jay wrote:I think it could work very nicely.  You might want to check out Edible Acres on youtube.  He has some "cattle panel" greenhouses that are pretty cheap.  Here's a permies link to some of the videos: Link  If the plastic is removed in the winter, the snow won't crush it (if you have snow).  If it's just holding out critters, chicken wire down low may be all the additional fencing you'd need.



Thanks - yes I subscribe to Seans channel, I've had the privilege of meeting him at a PDC. He really is a nice guy.

If its a workable idea, why don't more people do this? There must be some horrible downside I'm missing!

No problem on merging, not sure why it went up twice apologies...
 
pollinator
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I have two 8m by 3m by 2m poly tunnels of the very cheap variety, they are on their second year and looking at them can probably manage three years when put in well (we have a lot of wind) a couple of points. a pollytunnel will NOT keep out small animals unless you do something about the doors, remember they have to be open pretty much all day and/or the sides rolled up so both of these need mesh or fencing of some type. In my climate it lets me grow tomatoes and peppers which I cannot grow outside, it also brings forward the harvest of carrots, peas, potatoes etc by around 3 weeks I have not tried extending into the autumn as we get autumn storms and I take the plastic off so it doesn't vanish into the next country.

As to watering, I find that tomatoes do NOT need watering in the tunnel once they get over a foot or so high, they have long enough roots. peppers and other plants do need water but not a lot (outside we do not water at all so your mileage might vary!)

One thing I do is as the tunnels are very light and only held down with soil on the plastic, (works fine up to gale force winds) we actually move the tunnels in the spring. so I plant potatoes, peas, courgettes, carrots, spinach etc in each tunnel in early may around 4 weeks before last frost, the tunnel protects it all and then by early June none of the plants there need protecting any more but are not all harvested, so we pick up the entire thing and move it off the plants, that means the tomatoes peppers and cucumbers can go in before everything else is done.

As to why I personally don't have "cattle panel" well it doesn't exist here and the alternative which is concrete rebar is expensive, also the price of plastic! wow costs more that buying a kit.

In short you will not regret a pollytunnel but you will need to critter proof it.
 
pioneer
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Mj Lacey wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:I think it could work very nicely.  You might want to check out Edible Acres on youtube.  He has some "cattle panel" greenhouses that are pretty cheap.  Here's a permies link to some of the videos: Link  If the plastic is removed in the winter, the snow won't crush it (if you have snow).  If it's just holding out critters, chicken wire down low may be all the additional fencing you'd need.



Thanks - yes I subscribe to Seans channel, I've had the privilege of meeting him at a PDC. He really is a nice guy.

If its a workable idea, why don't more people do this? There must be some horrible downside I'm missing!

No problem on merging, not sure why it went up twice apologies...



I don't think you're missing any horrible downside. It's just that not a lot of people even grow any of their own food I think. It's easy to lose sight of how few people do any of this. People that like to garden, plant food forests, are interested in compost and keeping animals, and the like, tend to converse with other people that also like those things. I would be interested to know the percentage of people in "first world" countries that grow anything other than grad and possibly a few ornamentals. I think that number is growing but I bet it's still a tiny percentage.

Bottom line, I think it's great idea and you should go for it. For every downside I can think of, I can think of at least two upsides.
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
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Trace Oswald wrote:[
I would be interested to know the percentage of people in "first world" countries that grow anything



Have a quick look at google earth, you can quickly pick up veg gardens/raised beds from the pictures, of course food forests don't show! But it's still pretty interesting to look at, in my little village there are 27 houses (ish) and I think 5 of them have vegetable gardens/raised beds. ALL have space for it.
 
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