82. Polytunnel city

by | Jul 23, 2015 | Gardening bore | 0 comments

‘Let’s build a greenhouse for the tomatoes,’ we said. ‘Just a small one,’ we said.

You might wonder why, when we live in the land of hot summers, we felt such an urge. Well, reader, last year we had a pretty wet summer (warm, but wet and stormy) so Rob hastily erected a plastic covering for our tomato plants. It was ugly as sin but it certainly did the job; we had our best tomato year ever, despite the rain. Meanwhile, our neighbours’ open-air tomatoes were ruined by blight and hailstones.

This year, we thought we’d take it one step further and build a more permanent, polytunnel-style greenhouse. It’ll be great, we said. Just a small one, we said.

Yup, we ended up with the biggest polytunnel ever built in a back garden. It’s eight metres long. It’s three metres wide. It features more plastic sheeting than a whole series of Dexter.

Rather than buying a greenhouse kit, we made it ourselves out of plastic sheeting and bendy central heating pipes, all for about £50. The result is, um, something that looks like a £50 greenhouse. But it’s survived some heavy wind and it doesn’t leak, so that’s good.

Wouldn’t you know it, as we went to all the trouble of building a greenhouse, this summer has been crazy dry and hot. Some days it’s 50°C in there. At the start of the summer, we used to go in regularly just to obsess over the temperature. (‘Look, it’s 30°C already!’ Nerds.) Now, in July, it’s basically a no-go zone after 9am. But the tomatoes keep on thriving, so we’ve decided to stop worrying about it.

Building it together was fun. If fun means spending your entire Easter weekend sweating and swearing at the man you love. We had some strange looks from the neighbours when we started bending pipes and unfurling an acre of plastic. Then, as it took shape, we got the odd ‘bravo, extra’ from them (‘extra’ meaning very good). Then they said they might build one themselves.

Then they built two.

It’s probably the biggest compliment any Bulgarian has paid us since we moved here. I mean, Bulgarians love giving advice, especially when it comes to the garden. To pass an idea onto them is … well it’s kind of like a Mongolian moving to Britain, teaching everyone a much better way to play cricket, mix Pimms and queue, and then being awarded an honorary knighthood and one of Mick Jagger’s daughters. It’s that epic.

Of course, the downside of becoming gardening gurus is that we now have three damn polytunnels to look at. And, man, are they ugly.

‘Let’s build a greenhouse.’
‘Just a small one.’
‘Is it a bit wonky? It looks a bit wonky.’
‘Let’s never do this again.’


Four months on. ‘Tomatoes!’


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