October is the month when production of greenhouse tomatoes, aubergines and peppers usually comes to an end. With falling temperatures and longer nights, growth is slowing down and your plants will be less able to ripen fruit. Remove all flowers as they are unlikely to set usable fruit in time for them to ripen this late. Thin out some of the fruits already set, especially the smaller ones. Stop shoots from growing any more by cutting off their tips. The above actions divert all the plants’ resources into filling the remaining fruit, so you get bigger, riper, tastier fruit instead of many small unripe ones. Do this earlier or later depending on your location and how mild the autumn is.
With the rising humidity, disease control becomes more important by the day. So make sure to remove any dead leaves, spent plants, weeds, rubbish and dropped fruits from the greenhouse. Open the vents or doors on sunny mornings, but close them up earlier in the evening before it gets too cold. Feeding should have ended in September, and watering should be reduced to match the plants’ lower needs. As a rule of thumb, don’t water until the soil surface is dry. Avoid wetting the leaves.
By about mid-October it can be too cold to ripen tomatoes well. If so pick all the fruit and ripen them indoors in a dark, airy cupboard. Don’t leave them on a sunny windowsill: if they once get heated above 35°C (95°F) the red pigment is destroyed and they stay pale and blotchy. Some people put a ripe apple or banana with them to speed up ripening with the ethylene gas it gives off. Remove plants when their fruits are all picked, and clean up the greenhouse for the winter.
We recently built a canopy structure for Hannah’s Garden in Birr (formerly Ward’s Garden Centre), it is the kind of structure that customers ask us about for numerous applications. This type of structure can be used in Industry to keep pallets out of the rain, for livestock, for Garden Centres to avoid plants getting too wet (and of course customers too), it can be used for drying timber, hanging up your washing line, a car port (we have had people ask for this including for Vintage cars) – etc. etc. (I feel a competition coming on here for readers to think up practical suggestions of what it could be used for). This structure is the same design as our standard 6m wide Model but with extra height and a heavier frame than normal to carry the extra height. Thanks to our well equipped workshop and stock of steel we are able to customise our Polytunnels where the need arises.
Why not visit Hannah’s Garden when you come to Birr? It is on the Tullamore Road opposite Lidl.
If you like your early potatoes early and you have enough room, why not plant some in your greenhouse in January? They could be ready for harvesting as soon as May. Yields can be modest, but the flavour of fresh early potatoes is unbeatable. Choose seed potatoes of an early variety, and stand them on a warm bright windowsill indoors to start sprouting. Keep the eyes facing upwards so the emerging shoots will be straight and tall.
When the sprouts are about five centimetres tall plant the seed potatoes in the greenhouse, either in the ground or in large pots. Some compost or well-rotted manure could be added to the soil, but not too much if slugs are a problem. When planting take care to trickle soil gently down between the sprouts to avoid damaging them. Some growers who use pots plant the seed potatoes in half-filled pots and add more soil as the sprouts grow up, always leaving their tips exposed to the light to speed up growth.
Keep the soil moist but not wet, ventilate the greenhouse (or bring pots outside) on warm days, and protect the plants from frost and slugs. Add soil around the bottoms of the stems to stop light from greening potatoes near the surface. You can start eating the potatoes when flowering is over, but the potatoes will continue growing bigger until the foliage dies down. They taste best when freshly dug, so unless you need the space or have a slug problem dig them only as you need them. Bon appétit!
A Polytunnel is a low cost way of covering a large area but it also has practical advantages – for example being completely safe.
Polythene has come a long way over the years – while we guarantee our 900 gauge cover (which maximises durability and light transmission) for 6 years we have had many customers achieve life spans of more than 10 years – some even 12 to 15 years and believe it or not the longest life for one of our polythene covers so far is over 20 years.
Many things affect the lifespan – you don’t want the polythene too tight or too loose. If you use chemicals that might shorten the life. The main thing affecting the life of the cover is the sun – how many hours of daylight the cover receives.
Our 900 gauge polythene is manufactured to include the maximum grade of UV inhibitors the manufacturers offer.
We selected this polythene for its mechanical characteristics, it is supple so can be stretched as easily as lighter covers – and being supple it actually is less likely to be damaged during installation.
Our 900 gauge film is thermic – providing enhanced growing conditions and is clear as you can see from the photo which we find most customers prefer.
We have this cover in sizes from 2.5m wide up to 12m in width on jumbo rolls which we cut to your required length. Wider covers are available but in a lighter gauge (800 gauge).
Call our sales office if you would like a quote for a replacement cover on 057 912 0424
Mr Tanguy de Toulgoet, is re running his training session to help people make the most use out of their Polytunnels. It is on the 24th of October and he is in Durrow, County Laois.
As before he will teach on plant production, herb drying, companion planting, winter storage and much more.
The cost is 50 euro per person, it is a half day course and starts at 10am and finishes at 1pm.
People who mention Polydome will get a 20% discount on the cost of the course.
Here is a link to a leaflet about it: Course Leaflet
We recovered one of our Verticlair Polyunnels from Filclair, I think this photo is lovely. As well as manufacturing Polytunnels we are agents for Filclair from France who we source Multispan structures from. The Verticlair has straight sides and this particular structure has a fully automatic roll up side ventilation system. A great Polytunnel cannot make a good gardener out of you put it is a tool that a good gardener can do great growing with.
A recent construction we did in Dublin was a 4.5m x 8m Polytunnel. This Polytunnel had ‘side purlins’ fitted which are an optional extra providing extra strength particularly against wind. The customer also ordered a large number of raised beds which we also supply. This Polyunnel also has the optional attractive finish of having the ends of the tunnel without pleating and folding the polythene. This feature is made possible by having an aluminium rail fitted over the end hoop so that a separate cover can be fitted to the gable end (and fixed into the rail over the end hoop as is the polythene on the roof).
We are pleased to configure our Tunnels to suit each customer from a wide range of options.
A Polydome customer asked recently: “What books are available on using greenhouses?” Since you need to know how to get the best from the greenhouse you buy, it’s worth checking out. And it’s good to read up on crops and techniques you haven’t tried yet.
One of the best-selling books is Dr. D. G. Hessayon’s The Greenhouse Expert. One of a large series of titles on gardening, it is widely stocked in bookshops and garden centres and normally not too expensive. It is well laid out, and the comprehensive index at the back allows you find whatever information you need quickly and easily. Ornamental and flowering plants are covered in detail and vegetables and fruit in less detail. On the debit side, it is geared almost exclusively to glasshouse gardening with only a nod to polytunnel use.
For polytunnels you might try The Polytunnel Book by Joyce Russell (published by Frances Lincoln). It is well laid out and illustrated, and highly practical, with a good but slightly complicated index. Subtitled fruit and vegetables all year round it does what it says on the cover. Flowering and ornamental plants don’t figure at all.
Many more titles are available in bookshops. Bear in mind that books published for the United States market relate to climates often very different from ours, and quote figures in inches and pounds.
There’s nothing like browsing bookshelves and seeing a book’s contents before you buy, but you could try online sites such as the Royal Horticultural Society’s bookshop at http://www.rhsshop.co.uk/category.aspx?id=10000100 or the likes of Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/177-7057071-0199916?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=greenhouse+books , or type ‘greenhouse books’ into a search engine.
Greenhouse users (both Polytunnel and Glasshouse) need to know what the temperature was when they weren’t around to check it. Did it get too hot yesterday afternoon, stressing the plants and stopping the lettuce seeds from germinating? Did it get too cold last night, and should I have closed the vents a bit more? Did I overheat the greenhouse last night? A maximum and minimum recording thermometer will answer those questions. Both digital and traditional analogue types are available. Analogue types are generally cheaper and simpler to use, and need no power source. Instead of a single tube and bulb with mercury or coloured alcohol, they have a U-shaped tube with a bulb at each end and a column of mercury in the middle. A temperature change pushes the mercury down one arm and up the other. The mercury pushes a floating pin along each tube as it moves and leaves it behind when it moves back, showing how far it went since you last reset it. The thermometer is reset by tipping it up on end or pulling the pins back with a small magnet. Digital models are reset by pushing buttons as per the user’s manual. For best results place the thermometer or its digital sensor at the level of the plants and shade it from direct sun, which overheats it and gives a false high reading.