• Kay

Incarcerated Cannas - But a Tidy Polytunnel

12 MAY 2019

I am determined to get lots done today because yesterday was lost to excessive bassoon playing. However, I have to start today by playing the bassoon in Church for the morning service. Aideen is not coming with me as she has decided to practise all day as she is trying to memorise the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto! Meave is in Milan and Diane was unfortunately unable to come back from uni for the weekend as hoped.

Yesterday, Patrick made a start on new supporting framework for the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons in the polytunnel. Last year, the Hazel supports we used collapsed just a couple of days before the NGS Open Day because everything was too heavy for it. I generally allow my Tomatoes to do their own thing and they tend to become huge plants - however, they stay healthy and produce lots of tomatoes which is great… until they fall over!. This year we are determined to avoid any such catastrophies and if Patrick has anything to do with it, the new framework will be solid and will support anything I can grow on it.

Patrick and James then spend hours yesterday trying to put the roof netting on the Fruit Cage. However, this was not easy – the pyramidal shape of the roof does not go well with using square nets and it proved impossible to get it to fit correctly in one piece and follow the nice curved liens of the framing itself. Then they tried to do it in separate sections but that was very difficult to cut and fit and then looked extremely messy and not good enough. In frustration, they abandoned this job to put their thinking caps on and come up with a good solution. As an alternative job, they went into the polytunnel and completed the support framing, setting the posts in concrete and fixing all the cross rails.

Today, I ask Patrick to finish off the polytunnel support framing whilst I was at Church so I can start planting in there as soon as I get back. This involves taking out all of last year’s supports, which as a result of the collapse, was a combination of wood and metal with lots of twine put in as an emergency fix. The new framing would be done with hazel poles and Patrick cuts about 80 of them from the Cob Nut trees in the Orchard. They are stuck vertically in the ground and tied securely to the support framing.

However, I had come up with a potential solution to the dilemma for the Fruit Cage roof. I remembered seeing a commercial fruit cage with a roof like ours and suggested searching Google for photos of it to see how it might have been done and fixed. When we found it, we could see that the netting was probably purpose made to fit the roof shape like a tailored hat with the seams on the framing lines. We resolve to contact the company and see if they have these “hats” for sale as they are of very similar dimensions to our own framing.

On returning from Church, I start clearing out the middle bed in preparation for planting as Patrick has installed all of the poles. However… one problem,,,a large Canna plant in a very big pot has been trapped in the middle bed behind the poles! Grandad attempts to help me by dragging the pots down to one end of the bed where there is a wide enough gap to release it. It takes quite a long time to clear the bed and start on the planting. I am moving all of the pots into the new Cold Frames which practically fills them all up. I have a few clear frames left at one end which I am reserving to plant out some of my melons. I still have the whole side bed full of plants, which I need to move in order to plant the chillis, peppers and aubergines – where are they going to go?

Finally I start planting and I start with the Cucumbers- I plant these in pots, with the bottom removed, set well into the soil. This raises the base of the plant above ground level and seems to help prevent the stem rotting. It also gives them their own bit of fresh compost. The Cucumbers need supporting wires and tying to the poles, quite a fiddly job as they are very long (they were overdue to be planted) and very delicate. The Melons are given the same treatment as the Cucumbers as they are susceptible to the same problems. The Melons look a bit miserable, having been knocked upside down by Minxy, “Queen of Cats”, the previous week. I then plant out about 55 Tomatoes – 18 different varieties- which is a crazy number , but I find it hard to reject plants and we do seem to be able to consume most of the harvest. The tomatoes leaves are beginning to yellow because they have been in the tray for too long, but they will soon pick up now that they are in the ground. I have some spare plants, maybe I could pot them up for the Open Day.

Just in case anyone is wondering – the caterpillar saga on the box hedging still continues. I am picking off about a hundred of the little creatures every morning, whilst spreading my Garlic & Chilli potion on the hedge. Today I have done my removal work before Church. I finish the day long after dark, tidying up the polytunnel with a good sweep out.

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