Extend your growing season, says Kim Stoddart

This month I’m writing about a polytunnel growing course that is literally close to home, being run as it is from my own smallholding /training gardens near to New Quay in beautiful Ceredigion in West Wales. Borne out of popular demand (people kept asking me to run a dedicated course on the subject last year), the day covers everything you could possibly need to know to get great results growing under plastic.

With increasing weather extremes unfortunately part of our future, polytunnel growing really is a powerful ally in the battle against climate change. As well as delightfully extending the growing season, when you know how, these tunnels boost growing efforts no end and enable year round produce and shelter whatever the weather.

I start the day with refreshments and home baked treats in one of the polytunnels, demonstrating that these valuable indoor spaces can also provide an enjoyable area for entertaining as much as bountiful fruit and veg production. The course is tailored where possible to the needs of the participants but includes the basics such as propagation methods, watering options, layouts and polytunnel care and maintenance to make your fantastic indoor growing haven work for you. I provide a thorough explanation of how to extend the growing season to produce an array of produce all year round, including abundant salad leaves and herbs in winter.

Seed saving

Seed saving is also outlined (as it’s especially easy to do under cover) and I teach everything you could need to know to enable you to save from a wide variety of produce at home. I also share lots of my tried and tested time and effort-saving tricks and techniques, which save money as well as making the process of gardening more enjoyable in the process, many of which I’ve covered in my gardening writing over the years. For example I will show you how to make your weeds the plants you need with self-seeding. It’s a great way to obtain ample seedlings come spring with no effort whatsoever.

After more refreshments and a tasty lunch, I move onto demonstrating how a mixed planting system enables you to create a balanced eco system within your tunnel. Showing how in the process it can eradicate the need for crop rotation cycles and help to avoid pest build up problems which can otherwise occur. For example, a few carrots mixed in with a range of plants will be far less desirable to the pesky carrot fly than a whole planted block. Within this popular segment I also explain companion planting and how (and why) it pays to encourage a range of beneficial insects, pollinators and amphibians into your tunnel to help provide greater biodiversity and in turn, plant resilience.

Finally there’s ample opportunity for further questions over tea and cake, so I can ensure attendees go home empowered with the knowledge, confidence and skills to make their polytunnel-growing-efforts truly blossom and grow.

Course details

The next polytunnel growing course dates are April 7 and 28 this year. The hands on day (9.30am till 3pm) costs £95 and includes refreshments, tasty treats, lunch, handouts and a surprise gift to take home from one of our corporate sponsors.

Groups are kept small (no more than 10 people) so early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. As a social enterprise all profits go towards our work helping people on the autistic spectrum. For more information and to sign up for special offers see www.greenrocketcourses.com or call Kim on 07796 677178.

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