Things are pretty wintery out there today, but that said the evenings are getting noticeably longer and the daffodils are coming up which means it’s almost sowing time in the polytunnel. Here at Heather restaurant we always aim to keep the path from our producers to our kitchen as short as possible – and what better way than growing our very own fruit, vegetables and herbs? The tunnel allows us to extend the growing season and has the added advantage of allowing our gardeners to work, whatever the weather! Despite come construction-related delays last year (putting up a double-span commercial tunnel is not for amateurs!) we still had an amazing array of produce to supply our kitchen.
There’s was lots to do in the polytunnel this week, before the serious business of planting begins. We’ve already drawn up a planting plan for the season and decided on what crops to grow, sticking to some of the favorites from last year like beetroot, fennel and rocket and also trying out some new crops for us like heirloom tomatoes and kohl rabi.
While strictly speaking we should cleared all summer crops from the beds, there were a few left behind (nobody’s perfect!) BUT this oversight meant that we had the pleasant surprise of finding some nice fennel bulbs that had survived the winter just perfectly.
At the end of the growing season last year, we spread clover seeds in the tunnel as a ‘green manure’. Green manures are an organic method of fertilising the soil, and also protecting it over the winter months. Clover also fixes nitrogen from the air in its roots and when dug back into the soil the nitrogen store is released very quickly. This, combined with a thin spread of well-rotted farmyard manure should make for another very productive season in our tunnel.
Thanks to the micro-climate created under the plastic, the soil is warming up nicely and we’re now ready to start planting our salad greens at a time when it we still be far too cold to plant outside. Now all we need it some Spring sunshine to really get things going!