Polytunnel Progess

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The FoodSmiles team has been building a new polytunnel! When we moved in to Hammonds End Farm, we were fortunate to be offered the use of three polytunnels that were on the space... although one of them had lost its skin, and another had an acacia tree growing through it! With a bit of TLC though, we managed to recover and repair all of them and made really good use of them in our first year, growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
However, at the end of last growing season, on a particularly windy day, 'polytunnel 1' finally gave up and blew away in the wind, so since then, with the help of some fundraising through members, supporters and grants from a County Councillor, we bought a new polytunnel and decided to build a new one ourselves. For the last two months, we've been working really hard to get this built and ready for crops next year.
We first prepared the site for the new polytunnel - it's in a different place to polytunnel 1 - by flattening the ground as best we could. We then needed to dig two rows of eight holes, each hole two feet deep, that were perfectly parallel, evenly spaced and at right angles to one another - a throwback to GCSE Pythagoras!
The next week we constructed the hoops, and fixed them together and strengthened them with a centre rail, storm stays and side rails using a ratchet spanner.
After that was building the doors and door frames for each end of the tunnel, which we did from scratch using timber, screws and nails. We needed to dig more holes at either end of the polytunnel so the doorframes could be sunk into the ground in the right positions.
This bank holiday weekend was the final push; we planned to build the timber side rails (which will help us to harvest rain water), aluminium base rails (to attach the polythene to) and to fix the polythene. We encountered a few challenges though - the pressure treated timber side rails were a bit too much for our cordless drills to cope with, so we couldn't bolt the rail to the frame. We also discovered pieces from the kit were missing! The connectors that fix the base rails to one another were missing so the base rails couldn't be constructed. Also, in typical bank holiday fashion, it was raining so the polythene couldn't go on.
Despite the setbacks we made significant progress by building the timber rails (see the photo) and preparing the aluminium in position, so a huge thank you to everyone involved, who has donated and gave their time and energy to get to this stage! We have also enjoyed many picnics together over the last few months getting to this point where we shared food and had a good laugh about the progress we've been making (or lack of)!
We're very excited by this new build as it means our members will receive even more in their veg boxes next year. We're also pleased to know that 'Polytunnel 1' can be recovered, and our dedicated member Richard has done a fantastic job in getting this ready. This means next year we will go from having two polytunnels to four, significantly increasing our growing capacity.
Next weekend, we're having our second annual Harvest Festival, where we will be celebrating another year of success and growth with all our members and supporters. If you're interested in seeing the polytunnel or anything else on the site, do pop down any time from 12-6pm on the 12th for a picnic, barbecue, music and games. We look forwards to seeing you there!

- Tom Carman