Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The winds have dropped and I have finally managed to plant out some seedlings from the tunnels and protect them with mini plastic tunnels until they acclimatise. Though we have growing space in our main tunnel, we do not really have proper hardening off space so seedlings have to go straight from the tunnel into the ground. The problem isn't really temperature - the tunnel is unheated so the nighttime temperatures are low - it is the wind which can dry out and damage the tender leaves. By covering the seedlings for a week or so with miniature tunnels they get well established and more able to cope with the Scottish weather.
The tunnels are a series of metal hoops - these come as straight rods with loops about 4 inches from the ends and the first year they are bent into beautiful arches which are then covered with clear polythene tied with criss-crossing string through the loops. Unfortunately storage overwinter always seems to distort the hoops and mine - which are now 4 years old - are very odd shapes and my tunnels hardly things of beauty.
The wonderful thing about the design however is that the tension between the string and the hoops allows me to push up the sides of the tunnels during the day to let air through and gradually harden off the plants. In this way they are far better than the extendable plastic cloches in gardening catalogues.
Each year I intend to use these tunnels in a more efficient way - warming up the soil early in the season, growing late salads etc. However the gales that whip up from the glen are always a problem as it is easy for the wind to whip the hoops out of my well dug soil. Perhaps this year I will make a very sheltered enclosed area with wattle fences and have a go at extending the season.