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Author Topic: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
Stringfell-
ow
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Post Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: December 24, 2012, 14:31
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Hi,

Having read both of your books I have found them very helpful in making decisions pre-purchase. I obtained an allotment this last September and have started to clear the ground with a view to buying a polytunnel in just over a years time (lots of horsetail which will be mulched with a black polythene layer for a whole year!)

I am considering a 12'x 25' tunnel and I wondered if you had any recommendations for the bed layout? I'm presently thinking of three 3' wide beds running the length (25') of the tunnel - one on the north, one on the south and one between (in the middle of the tunnel), with two 18" wide pathways seperating them. Is this wise? I'm concerned about tall plants being grown in the middle bed, when maintaining rotation, shading plants on the north bed.

Thanks for any help offered and yes, unbelievably my Xmas shopping is complete! Merry Christmas.

andymckee
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 2, 2013, 23:18
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Ooh, do be careful with that horsetail - even a year under black plastic may not be enough unless you put maybe 6 thicknesses of cardboard straight onto the soil, THEN the mulch, THEN the plastic. Do read up on it!

As you've realised, 12' is too wide for two beds, so three would be best - if you're OK with 18' paths then this is a good arrangement. Shade isn't too much of a problem in a polytunnel because it diffuses light quite a bit.

Provided you don't overcrowd your hot weather crops (never a good idea anyway) you should have no problems.

Check back when you're ready to buy your tunnel - we usually run a First Tunnels voucher offer in the spring!

Stringfell-
ow
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Posts: 3
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 4, 2013, 13:31
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Many thanks Andy - are 18" paths a potential problem in some way?

The horsetail has been studied in quite a bit of depth! Got some very valuable advice from Charles over on his Charles Dowding website forum. Seems it's best to lay thick cardboard on top of rotted compost/ manure, followed finally by black plastic sheeting! The cardboard lasts much longer this way. Feeding and cleaning the soil that way over a whole year. Will still need some trowelling out following that, but drastically reduced.

Reassuring that shade should not be a problem - that was my main concern :-) I'll check back to see if you have any offers on nearer purchase time - thanks again!

andymckee
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Posts: 21
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 4, 2013, 14:13
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Cardboard on mulch? I read this a while ago which suggests Charles may have changed his mind. Perhaps check with him direct?

18" paths are fine except for wheelchairs and wheelbarrows, but they make for a bit of a compact kneel 'for the taller gentleman'. You also have to be a bit more careful if you have tall growth on both sides of the path (say, melons and tomatoes) as you can end up edging between them sideways. Nothing a bit of twine can't sort out though.

Stringfell-
ow
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Posts: 3
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 4, 2013, 21:08
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Hi Andy,

Thanks again - that is an interesting link and worth reading. Light exclusion seems to be the key so the damn thing tires itself out trying to constantly grow in darkness - that's the theory anyway. It's a blighter, no mistake, so I'll cover with as much manure, cardboard and black plastic as I can muster, for at least a year!

I'm definitely a 'smaller gentleman' but I may still widen those paths slightly - many thanks for your view on this. I'm looking forward to getting the tunnel up and running (eventually) and will be referring to your books regularly.

pushingupd-
andelions
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 19, 2013, 19:23
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Hi, we're the authors of the site which is referenced above.

There is mention that CD might have changed his mind on Horsetail. Charles doesnt discuss HT per se in his books but does describe tenacious perennial weeds such as Couch, dandelion, etc; HT gets sucked into the general conclusion and this is not correct.

The article on our site describes the one organic method for HT removal and that is several layers of thick card first, then mulch. It is not necessary to cover with plastic. HT might find its way through in a few places (joints in the card) and successional pulling should remove this in 3 attempts. We have grown successful crops on our beds in the first season with no HT returning whatsoever.

To mulch first, then a covering of card, will fail and serve to only strengthen the HT. The article mentioned above - shows this happening.

The no-dig organic approach described above does work with complete success but it is necessary to be particularly thorough with the initial ground preparation. We have 'carded' our paths and I could imagine many wouldn't go to this extent. If you decline to do so, the HT will return but constant removal should get it on the retreat. In this case - feed the paths with a lawn feed. HT does particularly favour a moribund soil and that is the reason it is there in the first instance.

A large worm population will revitalise a dead soil and you'll need mulches, card as feed and some shredded paper in the bed to encourage them to stay.

good luck

andymckee
Administrator
Posts: 21
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Post Re: Polytunnel bed layout advice?
on: January 19, 2013, 23:16
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Thanks for clearing that up. I shared a lunch with CD at an event a couple of years ago and he told me more or less what you've outlined above.

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