InTheMarket.ie Guide to Polytunnel Growing in February
While it is still Winter and we have been getting reminders from Mother Nature on a weekly basis about that with these nasty cold spells. We all hope that we will catch a break in Ireland soon and get maybe nice dry, balmy February and March. However, even with the poor weather, there is a lot to do in the polytunnel as spring is almost around the horizon.
A sunny day in February is a fantastic time to cover a polytunnel if you’re planning to buy one this year so that you can start planting early spring crops far earlier than you could outside.
If you already have a polytunnel, February is a fantastic time to clear it out in order to get ready for March’s official start of the growing season! As a result of the winter harvest, there will be spots here and there where you can fork in some compost right away. Wash all of your seedling pots, staging, and equipment in a solution of warm water and a non-toxic, biodegradable soap. In order for everything to benefit from the lengthening day, clean the cover both inside and out if it is an existing Polytunnel.
Plastic is more flexible when it is warm, but as long as the sun is out, even on a cold day, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it warms up inside as soon as you pull the cover up over the hoops. You won’t need to re-tighten the cover later in the year because it will be flexible enough to tighten after just a few minutes.
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Every February, it isa good idea to start a few seeds to see what you can get away with. Early harvests benefit from a sunny windowsill, a cold frame, and some horticultural fleece cloches. If you reside in the north of the country, you might want to think about beginning a few seeds indoors under lights. While this isn’t the “greenest” option, it will allow you to start a lot of vegetables in a small area indoors without incurring a significant increase in electricity costs. And you’ll only need to do this up until March, when you can begin transporting items to the tunnel.
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Put a cold frame, a fleece cloche, or a little polytunnel in the tunnel to house the young plants for the first two to three weeks to protect them from the unexpected cold, which can be a significant shock to them. It’s unlikely that the temperature within the tunnel will drop significantly enough to pose issues once April arrives.
Even in the colder months, regular ventilation is crucial because mould spreads quickly. Even while it’s less prone to cause issues in the winter, it’s still present, and low growth rates, low light levels, and a chilly, wet atmosphere don’t help. In the winter, don’t ever leave the tunnel unattended. When it’s not too chilly outdoors and is very sunny during the day, I occasionally open the doors, but if it’s overcast and quite cold, I keep them closed. Try to open the doors as soon as you can in the morning as the weather heats up and close them once more 30 minutes before the sun finishes shining through the tunnel. In this manner, you’ll get plenty of air.
Put a cold frame, a fleece cloche, in the tunnel to house the young plants for the first two to three weeks to protect them from the unexpected cold, which can be a significant shock to them. It’s unlikely that the temperature within the tunnel will drop significantly enough to pose issues once April arrives.
What to Grow
Get some “first early” seed potatoes and begin “chitting” them by placing them outside in egg boxes close to a window with good light so they may start to sprout. Plant the potatoes in the tunnel once the sprouts are about an inch long. Sometime in the second half of April, you’ll be rewarded with the very earliest of early releases. You can begin planting aubergines, peppers, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and anything else on the “harvesting” list below in addition to continuing to sow broad beans, garlic/elephant garlic, peas (round-seed kinds), turnips, and all of the other seeds on the list.
Beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, coriander, daikon, kohlrabi, lettuce (and other salad greens), mizuna, pak choi, radish, rocket, spinach, spring onions, turnips.