“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This wonderful statement is often attributed to Albert Einstein. True or not, it often haunted me at the start of each growing season when faced with the question of what to do in the polytunnel.
My problem was that I was always frustrated by the two, very large beds that sat along one side of the tunnel, the least sunny side at that. On the other side, the two large benches filled up with spare pots which seemed to grow in number and in random piles of chaos. While the raised beds were too wide to comfortably reach across, the piles of pots took up valuable growing space.
One of the things I enjoy the most about volunteering at Greener Kirkcaldy is the trust that people have in you. Staff listen to you and try to support any ideas you have.
I wanted to maximise the growing space in the polytunnel, while improving access to the raised beds. This would allow us to expand the variety of plants and make them easier to manage. What I wanted to do was a total refit!
And so, early in the year, when there wasn’t much gardening to do, our previous ‘tunnel vision’ of repeatedly putting up with the status quo moved aside to allow our new vision for the tunnel to become reality.
We dismantled the two raised beds and reused the wood (plus some extra bits) to make five new ones. Each new bed is the same length as the old ones, but two thirds the height and half the width, making them easier for people to access.
The beds still contain much more soil than your average growbag and so they ought to produce crops of an equal or better standard, while making it easier to manoeuvre around.
It also meant that we could rebuild the beds on the sunnier side and have beds along the centre, thus maximising the height available for taller plants (and produce more fruit).
We moved one of the benches outside to use as a potting table. While the other one remains inside and still attracts a chaotic pile of empty pots, it also provides an important space for seedlings in early spring and shorter mature plants later in the season. It also means that we have plenty space at the far end of the tunnel for some seasonal plants. This year we are trying small cucumbers and a variety of watermelon.
We did try melons last year but this year we are able to try both a cantaloupe, which was relatively successful, and this new variety.
By freeing up space, we now have a dynamic area that we can use differently each year. This year, we have cucumbers climbing at the back and some spare tomatoes grown in a growbag (to show you don’t need anything special to grow your own). We also have some jalapeños and some hotter chillies with the ‘Honey Bun’ melons standing on the upturned pots.
We will build another temporary climbing frame here to allow the melons some vertical space to grow.
This will also be an important space for overwintering some of our less hardy plants such as our figs.
A new polytunnel
If this was all we did to complete our new vision for the polytunnel, I think we would have been pleased enough. However, we were gifted a complete, brand-new polytunnel for the Climate Action Garden at East Fergus Place!
While we were busy resizing raised beds on a Friday morning at Ravenscraig, we sat every Thursday morning and poured over the instructions on how to go about erecting the new tunnel at East Fergus Place.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t much fun, especially to begin with. There were some arguments, heated debates and moments where we ignored the instruction book in favour of our own sanity.
However, we got there. While not as grand as the one at Ravenscraig, it ought to do the same job. We already have a line of tomato plants along one side and now that the staging is in place we will transfer several aubergines, peppers and chillies from Ravenscraig.
We have put down weed matting and we still need to add a covering, probably bark. When that’s all done, our vision will be complete! It will then be time to start setting our sights on the next big project, whatever that will be…
George McDermid, Gardening and Growing Volunteer
Find out more about volunteering at Greener Kirkcaldy’s Training Garden at Ravenscraig Walled Garden.|