Thursday, 25 March 2010

The polytunnel

I love my polytunnel, which is obvious from some previous postings. It creates such a good sheltered environment for growing tender plants and extending the growing season for many other plants and vegetables.

It is a reasonable sized tunnel (21 x 32 ft), quite wide and squat, which means it is well ventilated. It was also, purposely, situated near to the house - in alignment with my favourite motto
'The Gardener's Shadow Is the Best Fertilizer'. That holds true for me, the closer it is to the house, the easier it is for me to see it and thus tend to it. It is also very handy on those rainy days for a quick run out to grab vegetables for the dinner.

Unfortunately, I have been informed by the planning department that it is an unauthorized development and due to it's size and location they will not consider allowing us to retain it.

In order for us to get our planning permission, for retention of the house, approved we must remove it and provide them with photographic evidence that it has been removed.

Needless to say, I am really upset about this. I understand that not everyone shares my fondness for polytunnels but this one is doing no harm. It has never been objected about in any of our planning applications. We are the only people who see it from their house and it is not spoiling a view. In fact, once constructed, the garage will block the view of the tunnel from the road.

I have even put planters outside to soften the current view of it.

I had hoped that the tunnel would be a great example of what people can do to grow their own food, at home, under cover. It has been this for me.

We put it up last May and I have loved every minute of time I have spent in it (especially on cold or windy days). It created such a special environment, so suitable for growing crops really well. It was very beneficial for insects - always being full of bumblebees - and was quite useful for drying herbs - and clothes.

So, rather than crying about the loss of it (which I feel very keenly) I will take this opportunity to remember the good times we've had over the past year.

Here's a reminder.

Here myself and Sam undertook the mammoth task of erecting it ourselves - not recommended. The bigger the team the better the end result - but we did a fine job ....

... as here it is, freshly up, with doors - enticing me to get planting. Sam's work is now done - so he's off for a tea break ....

... while I bask in the sunshine, wondering quite where to put all those plants.

By now, the beds are prepared and the first plants are in. This end looks south to the field.

This end faces the road.

Here was our first pea flower. It was a very exciting moment - even if the picture isn't that spectacular.

Now things are growing well. The grass like leaves are sweetcorn and nearer are the early peas.

Here is the corn a bit later on.

A patch of serenity.

The first cauliflower (not always grown in tunnels, but last year the tunnel was my garden as I didn't have time to prepare any more land). They came up a treat .. after pretending they were just going to be huge leaves and no head.

In the summer, planted a border with sunflowers, peas, beans, squashes etc along the east facing side of the tunnel. We have that view from the kitchen.

Here is one of the winter squashes. I was VERY enthusiastic about squashes and I paid the price, as the huge leaves tried to take over the whole tunnel. They grew well outside too.

Here we are mid summer. Friends were calling it the jungle at this stage :>)
We're looking south, to the rest of the field.

Still looking south.

Ah, the sunflowers. They were spectacular. We had Russian Mammoth yellow ones too, that went right to the top of the tunnel. They were fabulous (and the seeds tasted great too). The grassy fronds in the background are the sweetcorn.

More jungle.

A rare jungle beast finds time for a nap. (Technically the cats aren't allowed in the tunnel, in case they scratch the plastic, but they have a habit of forgetting that).

Some flowers, to attract the attention insect pollinators and gardeners.

A monster 'Blue Banana' Squash. We still have two left in storage - at the end of March! They lasted really well, but they are hard to get into. Best to bake them whole.

Finally, a couple of pictures I took last weekend. The tunnel is fairly empty right now, apart from some overwintered salads, kale and carrots - and the goji berries, blueberry, strawberries, parsley and onions. I'm not sure how they'll do when their shelter is gone.
It would be worse if we had to take it down later in the season.

Here's the spinach I planted last September. Very tasty.

I'm not sure how I'll manage without my tunnel garden this year. I understand that rules are rules, but I am concerned when the results can serve to hinder people from trying to 'do their bit' to grow their own and utilize their environment to the full.

We plan to take down the tunnel at 11am on Saturday this week, Saturday 27th of March (unless we have a sudden change of regulations, Divine Intervention or some form of miracle - well, a girl can still hope). If anybody fancies giving us a hand or sending us some good wishes - to soften the blow - we are most appreciative.

I don't know what the next step is. I can't think that far ahead yet.

At least I have some fond memories to look back on.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


  1. Oh Gosh, Ferris, this is just tragic! I have a few suggestions: call your local TV station and let them do a story about it. The exposure could help to change the situation. Your local government official, county representative or whatever could also be of help. The fact that you're growing your own food on your own property, there is no environmental hazard, it's not blocking anyone's view... all good reasons for you to be able to have your poly tunnel.

    Someone is adhering to the letter of the law here which is sad because there are times when laws shouldn't apply.

    Please keep us posted.

  2. Thanks for your suggestions Grace. It is a strange situation. I can see how the planning authorities are just adhering to 'regulations' There is also a possibility that I may be able to re-locate the tunnel.
    Yet, I do think that the government, at all levels, should be encouraging people to grow their own food and the seeming inflexibility of current regulations could really dampen possibilities of this for some people. That would be a shame.
    P.S. The tunnel is down - I'll put up a new post later today.


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