Our frequent rainfall keeps Ireland green and beautiful. However, since you’ve put up a tunnel and blocked it out, now it is up to you to keep your plants hydrated!
Water, along with oxygen, sunlight and soil, is a basic need of all plants, even though their requirements can vary considerably. From one type of plant to another, from tiny seedling to full-grown, from pots to open soil, and from overcast days to sunny ones this job can keep you on your toes!
There is no correct answer to this, but you want to keep your plants somewhere between waterlogged and parched! If the soil feels dry below the top inch or two, it is probably time to water. If plants start to droop or lower leaves begin to yellow they are too dry. When you see moulds and mildews appearing on the soil surface, it is likely too damp. Intuition for this develops quickly enough.
Morning vs. Evening
This is a point of debate. Most everyone agrees that in the heat of the day is not the best time to water. However, if a plant is wilting or is a tiny seedling drying out, it is always better to water than let the plant suffer damage or death. The advantage of evening watering, particularly in very warm weather, is that the moisture can be retained overnight and will evaporate the next day once the heat soars again. The advantage of morning watering is that if you have a hearty nocturnal slug and snail population you can discourage them from slithering along on moist soil munching all of your plants overnight by keeping things at their driest then.
Manual vs. Automatic
This is another point of debate and probably something in between is ideal. Automated systems can be put on a timer and adjusted throughout the season. This is ideal to cut down on time and effort, but it is always wise to monitor the situation and not fully depend on automation. Manually watering allows you to reach every plant and give more or less in specific situations, but it does require a dedication of more of your time. Polydome does supply irrigation equipment, including simple battery-powered automatic timers.
Overhead vs. Underneath
Overhead watering, including overhead irrigation lines and the use of a hose, does have the advantage of washing down leaves like the rain. However, some plants work better with underneath watering, from watering a tray under a pot to using capillary mats or low-level drip lines. Reason for this vary, but this often suits plants that are prone to mildews or blight from remaining damp or leaves that scorch from being watered in the sunlight. In a protected structure where there can be less natural wind and ventilation, this is often an ideal solution. An example of this is using low-level drip lines for tomato plants to avoid blight or feeding potted cyclamen from a capillary mat to keep their leaves healthy.
In the winter, having a roof that keeps excess rain out is a great advantage to many plants. However, the surrounding areas outside the tunnel moisten the areas near the edge, so this is something to bear in mind.
So, the next time it rains, enjoy the raindrops! They are little droplets supporting life!
April can be quite a roller-coaster of weather events. Night-time frosts and heavy hail showers intertwined with beautifully warm sunny days keep the daily greetings interesting. However, these ever-changing conditions can be a challenge to manage in a greenhouse setting at a time when so many seedlings are just getting established. So, this month we will discuss ways to counter some of these extreme swings.
Ventilation to let in fresh air is essential in any greenhouse. Plants require a steady supply of CO2 as they turn it into oxygen, so they can’t exist long-term in a closed off environment. Ventilation can also be used to adjust the temperature and humidity.
Temperature requirements vary between plants, but as a rule of thumb night-time temperatures between 12 and 19C and day-time temperatures between 21 and 26C are considered optimal for growth. Once temperatures go beyond 29C plants can suffer distress. A simple thermometer can be useful in monitoring this.
Ways to increase night-time temperature include closing vents overnight (preferably before sundown) to retain the daytime heat. Covering sensitive plants with frost-protection fleece or bubble-wrap can further help retain heat and protect from overnight frost.
Ways to lower temperature during particularly warm or sunny days include opening all doors and vents, the use of fans or shade netting and watering the path or other solid areas. These processes can be automated by temperature-sensors or timers.
Too much humidity sets conditions for moulds and diseases, which can be lowered by simply allowing a better flow of air via ventilation.
Inadequate humidity is usually only an issue in Ireland during a heat wave but can still lead to plant distress. Adding moisture by watering is the obvious antidote. Since day-time watering can lead to sun-scorch, watering is best done either in the morning or in the evening. But in intense heat, watering the ground or solid surfaces during the day can be useful to both slightly lower the temperature and increase humidity.
Ventilation in polytunnels can be achieved by opening end doors and netting can be used to keep out birds and animals if necessary. This is adequate for certain shapes, especially very small tunnels. For longer areas, netting along the side(s) is more effective. Roll-up sides allow even better climate control by covering and exposing the netting as needed.
Fortunately, plants are resilient enough to withstand natural fluctuations in conditions. So, with a little bit of extra care, they can really thrive in the enhanced environment provided by your greenhouse. And so can you!
It’s March and high time to start some seeds! Here are a few tips for success.
1)Unless you are sowing directly into the soil, having a bench that is the correct height is a must. This saves your back and also allows you better precision when sowing tiny seeds that are difficult to see.
2) Next, follow the instructions on the packet. Not all seeds are sown in the same way.
3) There are several factors involved in triggering a seed to germinate. These include light, temperature and moisture. At this time of year, the temperature is too low for certain seeds, so using a heating mat or heating cables in sand can speed up germination, resulting in a stronger plant.
4) It is a good idea to label everything clearly as you go along. This can avoid confusion later on when the little darlings start to emerge and you don’t know who is who! It is also a good idea to record when and what you sow in a notebook or diary for future reference.
5) A seed is a tiny miracle that contains everything it needs for life. However, once the outer coat has been broken down, the emerging seedling is very vulnerable until it has formed sufficient root to acquire moisture and nutrition for itself. At this stage it is vital that it isn’t allowed to dry out. Here are some ways to ease your seedlings through this delicate stage:
*Pre-water the growing medium well.
*Partially cover seed trays with polythene or glass (allowing some air flow) to retain moisture.
*Gentler forms of watering such as using a watering can with a rose, overhead irrigation, drip lines or capillary matting are preferable to using a garden hose on young plants. (Of course, the more vigorous plants like peas and beans will withstand much more than a delicate cactus seedling.)
6) Did you know that keeping your young plants up on shelving isn’t just for convenience? It also serves to protect them from pesky mollusks. Yes, slugs and snails. They love damp, dark corners to hide in during the day, saving their energy to come out and graze all night. So, keep your root babies as far away from them as you can!
Best of luck to everyone who is setting out to sow seeds for the first time or the 50th time!
As the days start to get longer, a new season is here and signs of life are starting to appear all around us. The sight of snowdrops and daffodils remind us that the years march on regardless of what else is happening in the world around us.
On beautiful days when the sun gives that early spring glow we can feel that the year has turned and are tempted to sow something. The reality is, though, that we can still have plenty of wintery weather ahead of us at this stage and it is too early to start anything without protection.
This is the time of year where a polytunnel really shines. As the sun comes out, there is a bit more heat and gentle growth in your greenhouse. With a heated seed bed, you can begin to start your tomatoes, peppers, lobelia, lettuce, onion or pea plants. If you are into bedding plants, you can start lobelia, salvia or sweet pea. Electric heaters or frost protection fleece will help protect your young seedlings from the elements even further.
It is also at this time of year that having a well-built polytunnel really pays off. There is nothing as discouraging as seeing all your young plants destroyed due to a damaged structure after a windy night.
Polydome polytunnels are built to last and withstand the unpredictable Irish weather to give you peace of mind.
So enjoy the season and being one step ahead of the elements!