January is a quiet time for tunnel growing and an ideal opportunity to sit back to relax and reflect. However, it can quickly become the most exciting time of the year as you begin to plot and plan for the coming year. When we make plans, we are filled with hope and excitement. We all know the best of plans can go a bit awry at times, but looking forward to a new season is always exciting!
First, I would look at what it is you wish to reap from your polytunnel or garden. Would you love lots of beautiful flowers? Your favourite salad items? Hearty winter veg for storing? Make a list of what you would like, and then check to see what growing conditions they require. The beauty of a polytunnel is that the growing season, yield, and produce quality are greatly increased. They can be increased even further using extras such as a heated bed for seedlings, frost protective fleece, or internal cloches.
Then it is time to look for seed or planting material. You may be able to source them locally, but there is also an astonishing variety of seed available online. You could wow your friends and neighbours with unusually coloured varieties of tomatoes, French beans, courgettes or even strawberries that you would not find in your local supermarket. There is nothing like salad leaves, spinach or sugar snap peas that have just been freshly harvested from your own efforts.
Don’t forget to look at the final size of what you are going to grow, including the height. Taller plants can be supported best in the centre of your tunnel unless you have straight sides. Also, some plant combinations make better companions than others. For instance, tomatoes work well with garlic (to repel aphids) or basil (to improve flavour) but won’t thrive as well next to cabbage or kale and shouldn’t be placed near potatoes as they are both susceptible to blight.
So, it’s time to get out your pen and paper, plot out your beds and start dreaming! Then make your dreams a reality. Life is an adventure and so is polytunnel gardening!