Polytunnel Update

dotty caterpillar
Dotty caterpillar – not a silver y

Things seem to have been a bit slow in the polytunnel – It’s been a bit cooler and damper but I haven’t been out there much – just a bit of watering and thinning out the grapes.  The main excitement is the number of happy caterpillars I seem to have.  There are several large ones that I see in there: A bright green one, a dull browny coloured one, a dotty one with a waist stripe and one with stripes that match the stalks on the fat hen as it goes to seed.   I think most of them belong to  the silver y moth which I do see in there quite often.  They don’t seem to be doing too much damage:  They quite like the Yacon, but prefer the fat hen to the olive tree.  There are a few holes in the squash leaves but nothing the plants can’t shake off.

silver y moth
Silver y moth in polytunnel

Something has eaten part through one of my dahlia stalks – I think it is probably a slug.  they don’t tend to be too much a problem these days for established plants, but I do get a few helping themselves to my seedlings in pots by the polytunnel door.  The dahlia I grew from seed, which I am quite proud of myself for.  They have lovely dark coloured leaves, and are just starting to form buds.  The seeds are some of those that came from the Hardy Plant Society annual selection.  I had pretty good germination from most of those – probably because they were so fresh.  Dahlia tubers are theoretically edible, although apparently they vary a great deal as to tastiness!  I’m tempted to get some from Lubera who have selected a range of better tasting ones.  You get the flowers and then the tubers to eat, and can replant again for next year.  I have tried some raw a while ago now, and wasn’t particularly impressed, but then you wouldn’t eat a potato raw either would you?  I’ve mounded up the soil around the stem in the hope that it will re-root like a cutting.  There does seem to be another shoot coming from below the damage, but I may lose the flowers of that plant.

My fuchsia berry plant is looking a lot more happy now.  It is in the ground and has a fairly respectable shoot.  Hopefully it is getting it’s roots down to survive there overwinter.  I have pinched off the tip, since in it’s pot last year it grew a bit leggy and tended to droop down with the weight of the fruit – yes they were quite sweet and nice.  My outside fuchsia that came with the house also has quite nice berries.  You have to get them when they are ripe, or they taste more peppery than sweet.  The downside is that they tend to ripen gradually, so there are a few for a nibble but not enough for much of a meal.  I should propagate the bush a bit though, since it would be quite good as a boundary shrub.  It’s a bit late this year – maybe I’ll take some hardwood cuttings overwinter and see how they get on.  The fuchsia berry is supposed to be a bit more tender.  I did try taking some softwood cutting last year, but none of them took – I’ll maybe try again next year, assuming it survives the winter again.

polytunnel plants aug
Miscellaneous polytunnel plants – Yacon at front with oca between, physalis and squash behind

The Yacon seem to be doing pretty well.  I haven’t fed them barring the initial planting with compost, but have tried to give them plenty of water – probably still not as much as they want.  The single plant I put outside in the tea garden extension is also looking pretty good – the warmer start to the summer was probably to it’s liking.  I’m growing Oca for the first time this year (thanks Frances!)  I’ve put two in the polytunnel and one outside.  So far I would say that they don’t like it too hot.  The one outside seemed to do much better than the ones in the tunnel initially when we had all that hot weather.  More recently it’s been a bit cooler and less sunny, and the ones inside have cheered up a bit – a little leggy perhaps.  All three plants look lush and green at the moment.  Apparently they don’t make tubers until the days get shorter, which for us will be at the end of September or so.  At that point the extra protection of the tunnel may pay off, since it should hold off a light frost or two.  I’ve never eaten them so I won’t comment on that yet.

There are flowers starting to develop on my physalis – golden berry, and a few flowers on the courgette.  Those really haven’t done so well this year, but then I generally don’t have gluts to complain of!  The sharks fin melon is climbing well – almost to the roof with buds forming.  The japanese squash has delightful silver splashed leaves which are quite pretty, and again shows promise of buds.  The mashua isn’t looking too good still.  I think the hot weather was definitely not to it’s liking.  They are still really small and hardly starting to climb at all.  Some of the other plants will probably be too late to come to anything. For example the achocha, which I said last year needed a longer season didn’t get planted out early enough again.  Tomatillo and peppers I sowed for the sake of it, but really didn’t look after them enough to get much from them.  The plants are alive, but that’s about all one can say about them.  My sweet potato plants seem to be doing well.  I hope I’ve given them enough water.  When I grew them in our polytunnel in Solihull I think that was the main problem there.  They do have lovely dark coloured leaves, a bit like an ornamental bindweed.  I’ve just let them scramble over the ground, although they would climb given a framework.

drunk flies
Drunk flies on outside Alice bramble

The bramble has not done so well this year as previous years.  As I mentioned in a previous post I’ve had a lot of flies eating the berries (Alice outside remains a complete wash out!).  The flies get so drunk that you can put your finger right next to them without them all flying off.  I’ve still had quite a few berries – enough to make a batch of bramble and apple jelly (clear jelly not jam with bits in), but nowhere as many as previous years.  The bramble and kiwi look very precarious also.  I had to cut some of the support ties for the kiwi at the start of the year, and haven’t got round to replacing them properly.  I had used old tights – the legs make pretty good strong soft bindings.  unfortunately the weight of the vine had made them go thin, and they were cutting in to the trunk quite a lot.  It was actually difficult to extract them as the kiwi was growing around them.  I have started to use strips of pond liner (plenty of that left from around the mice holes!)  This seems to stay more ribbon-like so doesn’t cut in.  It’s a bit more difficult to tie in a knot (especially when supporting a heavy trunk with your third hand!), but seems to be kind to the plants and lasts pretty well.  Tyre inner tubes are also pretty good, but I’m not sure whether they will have the same light resistance as pond liner.

tomatoes aug 12018
Promising tomato trusses

The tomatoes have done really well – lots of lovely trusses have set nicely.  None are ripening yet, but I remain hopeful for a reasonable harvest in the end – so far looking like my best yet here.  Some of the plants have dark spots developing on the older leaves, which I think is a sign of nutrient deficiency.  I probably haven’t fed them enough – just a bucket of comfrey tea between them when I can remember to do it!  It’s actually also the same comfrey residue – so there’s probably not much nutrient left in it.  I should have some time off later this week so will try and cut some fresh comfrey leaves then.

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20 thoughts on “Polytunnel Update

  1. you seem to have done well and got a good mixed crop of food, it can be disappointing when things don’t grow as well as we would like, I like though that each year is different, I am also enjoying eating things in season and having a more varied diet, buying food often means being presented with the same diet all year round,

    don’t dig the oca until at least a month after all the foliage has died down, that’s what I was told and have read, also have a good dig around I have several growing where I had them planted last year so I clearly missed quite a few, you can let the oca flower it has pretty little yellow flowers,

    the musha you sent (thank you), was climbing to the roof in the side porch when I had it in pots because of the frost we had this spring, when the weather was better because they had entangled themselves so much I had to cut them back to separate them to plant them out, sadly they have not grown back much, I’m hope full and looking forward to new winter crops,

    I didn’t get to sowing the seeds, will next year, how are the pines? did they grow as they were taken from the ground in bad weather conditions, I hope they have survived,

    Frances

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    1. No sign of oca flowers yet. It’s a pretty plant. The mashua should take a bit of cutting back – you’ll have to find the best spot for them with trial and error. I can’t remember which seeds I sent ?vetch They were fresh so should last a wee while if kept dry. They may take a bit of waking up – try presoaking for a day in warm water and then in the fridge in damp sand or compost for a couple of weeks before sowing. They’ll then think it’s spring and germinate nicely.

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      1. the seeds are a grain, I couldn’t remember the name this morning and was too lazy to check my seed box and see, they are perennial buckwheat, they look like grains of rice, I want to find a permanent place for them but need to make sure it is completely wild horried grass free first, I’ve been finishing clearing the area I have made the main veg garden, then I want to put down weed supressing fabric and make raised beds, I’m steadily getting there, thanks for tips on chitting and sowing, Frances

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      2. Just a warning then Frances. Although the original seeds were sold to me as perennial buckwheat, they haven’t come back so I’m not sure the identification was correct. They are definately a sort of buckwheat, but I wonder whether it’s another annual one – still quite robust and seedy but maybe won’t come back year after year, except through seeding. I’m sorry about this.

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      3. thanks for the extra information on the seeds, I’ll sow them next spring and then we will see what happens, I know some plants that are considered perennial in other areas are annuals here, it is all relative to climate, Frances

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    2. Certainly some of the pines are alive and growing thank you! I need to go round, soon see how thay are doing, and clear away the grass to give them a bit of breathing space over winter. Maybe they’ll get mulched – I have quite a bit of cardboard again….

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    1. Thank you. I try and be a ‘warts and all’ blogger. This record is mainly for me but I’m happy if others find it helpful. Sorry if it turns out a bit wordy, or if I repeat myself sometimes.

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  2. My courgette plants have died without producing a single fruit. I don’t know what the issue is as the butternut squash are romping away.
    Like you, I’ve found that the blackberries are smaller this year. I did see ‘normal’ ones in Cornwall last weekend but I dare say they get more rain, anyway.

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    1. The courgettes do seem to sulk when they first get planted (mine as ever were tiny and stunted anyway!) Usually it’s slugs munching through the stems that get mine. One of my three plants just gave up, one doesn’t look too bad and may just possibly get to fruit, the third is hanging in but is unlikely to do anything for me now

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    2. Not sure what the problem is with my bramble. The one outside fruited beautifully but the flies have spoiled them all. The one in the tunnel may not havd liked the warm weather we got earlier, or possibly it’s to do with the fact I generally leave the main stem as a cordon, rather than letting a new one shoot up every year.

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      1. I should imagine the warm weather will have had some bearing in one the brambles but letting new shoots grow might help next year.

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      2. I’m going to stick with the current pruning regime this year, and see how next year goes. At the moment I’m inclined to blame the weather!

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