Plan B + 2: Repair and Renovation

Eventually every garden reaches the stage where the distinguished patina of age decays into senescence. This probably applies to the croft gardeners too, but in the summer of 2021 it was evident that parts of garden were in need of some care and attention. Over the years we have learnt that, in our harsh environment, we need to use stainless steel screws and fixings, and heavy grade fencing timber. We also have a rabbit problem, so we have had to put in some extra gates and fencing to make the vegetable garden bunny proof. Therefore, once we had finished building the enclosed garden, the Head Gardener moved on to repairing the fences and replacing the boards around the vegetable beds.

By the end of August, the gardeners were in need of some rest, recuperation and rejuvenation, but one more task remained. The large fruit cage, had also been damaged by the storm which destroyed the original polytunnel, and was unlikely to survive the winter gales. It was condemned as beyond repair and demolished. This left an 12 x 6 m space and exposed the small fruit cage and the orchard to the full strength of the southerly and westerly winds.

Yet another garden dilemma and design conumdrum. During the summer I had been using one of the greenhouses by the house to grow vegetables. I had intend to use it mainly for growing salads, winter vegetables and herbs and it had not been designed for vine crops such as tomatoes or cucumbers. Therefore, it was not a difficult decision to decide to build another polytunnel.

A new type of polytunnel had recently become popular in the islands, locally known as crubs they were based on a design developed in Shetland. They comprise a polycarbonate shell fixed to a series of polyethylene tubes (recycled from the local fish farms). We were initially sceptical, because of the lack of ventilation – just the door and a small window at either end. However, after interrorgating almost every polycrub owner on the island, the decision was made.

We would have liked to have modified the design, but it was a “take it or leave it” package. Although it was an expensive and unsatisfactory option we decided that what we didn’t like we could change. However, we were adament that we would be responsible for the interior.

Vegetable garden plan

One the tunnel was erected we replaced all the boards with heavy timber coated in bituminised paint, replaced all the nails with stainless steel screws, replaced the door and window and added mesh screens to keep the birds out. Inside we built three long raised beds, a work bench and watering points at each end of the beds. A little excessive? Not when the Head Gardener is a perfectionist. He is still muttering but I’m too busy gardening.

8 thoughts on “Plan B + 2: Repair and Renovation

  1. It certainly does look sturdy. I think we need something like that as we get a lot of wind here too (not as bad as yours but nonetheless a problem!). You are lucky the Head Gardener is so talented at building things. Good luck with this first growing season in it!

    • I’ve been using the polytunnel all winter to grow spinach, beetroot and salad leaves. I’ve also planted a couple of sections with garlic. We;ve had an unusually cold winter, so I’ve been really pleased with the results. I’m hust waiting for the Head Gardener to remove the wood he’s been drying over winter for his latest project so that I can plant the tomatoes!
      The polycrub system has proven to be very successful in the Outer isles – particularly good as it recycles the pipes used by the fish farms.

  2. That’s quite a set up and it looks sturdy and ready for planting. Those tomatoes and peppers are gorgeous!

    • We were very pleased with the first year, and I’m all set to plant my tomatoes. All we need is some warmth and calmer weather.

  3. I like your poly tunnel, it says industrial chic to me and I like how it’s made using locally available recycled materials.

    • I wasn’t too sure at first, but it has grown on me. It has the look of a “Uist shed” and sits surprisingly well in the landscape.

  4. ‘The distinguished patina of age decays into senescence.’…? I suspect most of us would be largely oblivious to this turning point in our gardens (and ourselves?), or at least reluctant to admit it, Christine, so well done for acting it! Your new polytunnel is an interesting concept and sounds as if it has already been well tested in the islands, but I am pleased you have been able to modify its design to accord with your experiences

    • It is difficult to keep the patina of age in a garden without it all falling apart. I subscribe to the idea that gardens evolve, I’m just trying to keep the evolution of my garden to a keep that I can keep up with. I’m fighting the idea that age is restricting my gardening, but I’m not about to grow old gracefully, even when my knees hurt!
      The new polytunnel is still a work in progress and offers some interesting opportunities for growing new plants.

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