It is amazing how a thin piece of plastic can change the growing conditions. Wind chill and cold temperatures outside, inside toasty warm.The polyhouse is 7 x 4 metres and contains around 15 square metres of in ground growing space and a propagating area. The beds are 80cm wide –one goes around the edge and then there are 2 beds in the centre.Between the beds are narrow 30 cm paths made from tiles and pavers. These help define the beds and add some thermal mass as well. Increasing the thermal mass using water storage works well to collect the passive heat when the polyhouse is hot and releasing the energy when it cools.
Gardeners are the guardians of the plants in the gardens they create. In the natural environment of the plant world is created with beauty and purity. In the polyhouse the gardener has to provide the same wisdom to bring about a sense of beauty , develop a healthy ecosystem and reflect order throughout.This is an artificial environment established to grow plants.
Tips to ensure a healthy growing environment in the polyhouse.
The polyhouse is the opposite to the composting area and as growing is the opposite to decaying the inside of the polyhouse has to be kept clean.
- All dead plant material should be removed to the compost .
- Keep windows and walls clean remove algae and grime.
- treat woodwork to prevent decay .
- Keep clear of things that do not belong.
Winter watering is best done first thing in the morning and leaves need to be dry by sunset to avoid plant diseases.A good rule is to water every sunny day-as it increases humidity , sunny days increase air temperature and raise evaporation of the soil.
During the warmer months the watering is more demanding and the drippers and sprinkler are both utilized for humidly , temperature control as well as irrigation.
SOIL I prefer to grow my plants in quality soil of good tilth, developed by adding quality humus rich compost. The biodynamic preparations are all used, after all I’m growing our food and to be of any value to our body and mind it needs to be nourished by the earth.
Soil in the polyhouse is a challenge to manage as there is no rain to develop the soil and artificial watering is never the same. The soil has a tendency to compact with artificial watering and hot +30o C cause the soil to mineralize especially if there is not enough moisture available.
Because this is an artificial environment I always add fresh compost to the beds before each crop. The compost has to be broken down to humus as growing is the opposite to decaying.Artificial environments can cause all sorts of problems if the soil is not managed. The soil needs some light cultivation every now and then to counter act the compaction.I use a ho-mi or just my fingers to lightly tickle the soil.
Over summer a heavy straw mulch is required to protect the soil. This should be removed when the weather cools.
USING BIODYNAMIC METHODS IN THE POLYHOUSE. The soil is enriched with biodynamic compost as well the full range of preparations are use . In practice the best way is to treat the polyhouse at the same time as your doing the outside gardens.When seedling are transplanted dilute liquid manure (mostly nettle,barrel compost and casuarina )is watered on for the first 3 days.
In addition use a range of sprays to support and strengthen growth forces.The plants are offered forces inherent in spray materials which work to overcome the deficiency of sun forces in the polyhouse.This results in maintaining plant growth healthy enough to shrug off diseases and undesirable insects.
The sprays are used in small amounts –a light mist spray is sufficient.A weekly spray of either valerian (BD507) nettle tea,camomile tea, casuarina.Each is stirred biodynamically for 10 minutes. I stir a couple of drops in 250ml water in a little bowl and use a simple household spray bottle.
ECO SYSTEM As we are working with an artificial environment it important to develop a balanced ecosystem to overcome weakness that occur. The bigger the diversity of plants the better- always add some flowers.Observe and encourage all forms of life which live in harmony with our cultivated crops, wild life like skinks, frogs, spiders, wasps and other beneficial insects can all be welcomed and given micro environments where they belong. Put containers of water and somewhere to hide like a rock or pipe.
THE GARDENER The plants and their environment is entirely dependent upon the gardener. Good observation of the growing plants soil and fulfilling their needs.The gardener needs to have a picture of quality produce to aim for.
While not growing out of season but by enhancing the conditions and growing the same seasonal vegetables you can have a good supply of fresh green to go with the other vegies growing outside. Working in the polyhouse is pleasant during our cold winter,getting it right is rewarding. Over the years I’ve seen my tunnel garden develop into a productive garden and using the above principles have never had either fungus or insect damage to my plants.