Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Monday 5 January 2009

Tidying the Polytunnel

I have shamefully left tidying up my polytunnel until December this season...one of the many casualties of my being preoccupied with my Forest School portfolio evidence gathering and dissertation writing I am afraid!

I don't grow much in the polytunnel in winter, I have some herbs and a few different salad leaves on the go but we tend not to eat much salad stuff in winter! I DO use my poly tunnel to overwinter various pots of herbs and patio plants, and also as a sheltered place to put Fudge the Guinea Pig in his run though...

And of course, once I get my tomato, pepper, aubergine etc plants on the go in January they need to go into the polytunnel (inside cold frames to protect them from frost) to grow big and strong!

As you can see it is all a bit of a mess

THIS is the damage the cats have done to my roof!

I will have to wait for drier weather before I can use my magic polytunnel fixing tape to mend these holes as best I can as it is too wet at the moment!

As New Year rushed rapidly towards me last week I made a decision; I could NOT allow the New Year to enter my life with a messy polytunnel...the New Year means its the start of the growing season here, so how could I plant anything knowing my growing place was such a tip?

So despite it being an average of -3 all day here for the last week, and a cold -7 ( thats celsius, by the way!) at night, I spent the last few days of 2008 outside cleaning up my beloved polytunnel. I viewed the freezing hands and feet as suitable pennace for leaving it so long!

loo roll tubes, various plastic containers and coffee bags waiting to be used as planters for parsnips, seeds or to be turned into bird scarers

Milk or water bottles cut down to be used as water reservoirs in the summer, planted in the ground small hole first next to thirsty plants.

Sid the Cat having a snooze. (It was - 2 inside the PT when I took this shot!)

I have a mesh panel in the door which is great for air flow in the hot summer but needs covering in the cold winter....

So I covered it with an old compost bag split lengthways, to keep in what little warmth there was....

Tender herbs and patio pots sheltering from the cold...

covered with fleece to protect them from the very cold we are currently experiencing.

Me having a break from the cold...I brought out a flask of hot coffee each day for the 3 days I was clearing the polytunnel, I know I am only 30 secs from the house BUT it saved me an hour or probably more ( 2 coffee breaks, each one taking more than half an hour to go inside, take off my boots, boot socks, hat, outer gloves, inner gloves, x 2 fleeces etc, drink coffee made for me...then put all the out door gear back on)

and I actually enjoy drinking a hot drink outside whilst I am working....

Re-covering the floor needs doing here, a job to be done soon I think!

I get loads of strawberry plants growing everywhere all the time inside the polytunnel...I recycle them..but thats another post I think ( so watch this space....!)

As always, I have chicken helpers around, whatever I do....

Lots of stuff to cart away to add to my compost bins!

All done! I have a tidy polytunnel again!

I have all of January to get on with other stuff now, as I have completed an important, major, outdoor job and can cross it off my list knowing that WHEN I need to use the benches or the floor it is all there, ready and waiting for me....

It feels good....



  1. Oh, I would love to have one of those. Maybe someday. I love the idea of using the loo paper rolls for seed starting! I may have to try that. What type of seeds to you put in them?

  2. Well done you, for braving the sub-zero temps to do that job!! I'm sure you're really pleased now though, looking at all your hard work! I'm toying with the idea of replacing our old (almost falling down!) shed with a small greenhouse this year, as I would like to get a head start and grow some stuff from seed - plus, it would serve as a great place to 'escape' to, where no one could find me!!!

    Willow xx

  3. Your post reminds me of what work we have to do before the growing season, mainly building four new raised beds. We covered a large area in bark last September and now have to order the wood and get cracking with the hammer and nails. But it is so COLD outside!!!. But I will be brave. Margaret

  4. Well done you - all tidy and ready for a new growing year.

    Do the tomatoes etc that you sow in January need extra heat either for germination or once they have germinated or is a cold frame in the polytunnel enough? I'd love to get mine going as early as possible this year to try and get a better crop before blight hits.

    Rosie x

  5. I am very envious of your climate! I'll be lucky to get into my polytunnel in March. Well done on the clean up. It looks great.

  6. Hi I have just come across your blog and while looking enviously at your polytunnel noticed something in the 12th photo down - just in front of the cardboard box - which looks like a giant mole! What is it?

  7. LOL

    Rachael I think you are refering to one of my hens? That is Sweetiepie, who brooded and raised the Sweetie Six Silver Dorkings.

    If you click on the photo it will enlarge and thats what is in front of the cardboard box!

  8. I see what you mean though! It DOES look a bit like a mole! her tail looks like a moley snout coming up out of the soil!

    Well spotted...

  9. This is absolutely wonderful!

  10. Granny Two Shoes thank you!

    Fullfreezer, I use the loo roll inners mainly for parsnips as they have a long tap root which grows very fast and a long tube means that as soon as they have all grown 2 proper leaves I can plant them, tube and all, in a hole in the persnip bed.

    It also means I know where the parsnips are and they dont get lots in the weeds, as they are in a collar of tube!

    But they can be used for beans or anything where you plant it into the soil, really!

    Rosie, I plant all my tomatos, peppers, aubergines etc in heated propergators in our porch, it is double glazed but unheated. When the plants are a good size I used to have to keep them on windowsils until the danger of frost had passed, as the PT is unheated BUT in 2008 I put my cold frames inside the PT and put the plants inside the cold frames with the lids on at night. They had pleanty of light so didn't get leggy and I had a terrific crop despite the poor levels of sunlight we had tin 2008.

    So I shall be planting my first pepper and tomato seeds mid jan, and following with a succesion of seeds during Feb. I find peppers need longer than aubergines, so I tend to plant them and Tomatos Shirley and Beefsteak ones first.

  11. Job well done... it looks marvelous!! Love Sid and the girls giving you a helping hand!! I love the picture of 'mole'!! I can see what Rachael means...I wonder if Sweetiepie would like to have 'Mole' as a nickname... LOL!!Will have to get my greenhouse sorted out.. (hangs head in shame) did not give its end of season clean out this year... don't really know why or where the time went....but in need of a good old tidy up... so will have to be brave like you and go and sort it out... love that wonderful sense of achievement!!
    Take Care.. Love Jane xxxxxx

  12. Hmmmm,

    Compostwoman using compost bags?

    Is CW actually mortal like the rest of us?

    Or were the bags donated for recycling...LOL :-)

    I still wonder if Lady Sparhawk would fall for the:

    "I wonder where that came from" routine if a Polytunnel appeared in the Sparhawk Towers garden...

  13. I had to sit down and have a rest just from looking at all you got done!

    Please send some of your energy my way!!!

  14. Thanks for that info CW - I was thinking about trying the cold frame in the polytunnel before I read your post so now I know it is not a daft idea. I don't have a porch but I do have a single large windowsill (if I can find it under all the mess!) and I've not spent the money Mum sent me for Christmas so I think a trip to the propagator section of the local garden centre is called for.

    Rosie x

  15. Dean, compost bag as in potting compost!

    I DO every year buy in a few bags of peat free potting compost, to sow seeds in.

    I USED to buy it in bulk and grow all my polytunnel plants in it as well but having experimented with growing in my own compost/soil mix I don't do that any more!

    I think a polytunnel might be a bit noticable to just slip into the back garden unnoticced, somehow.....


  16. Chuckle, Chuckle!!!

  17. What size are the milk/water bottles and how deep do you bury them?

  18. tpals, the milk bottles vary but I usually use the 2 l ones and the big water bottles are 5 l ones ( I get them from a friend, use them as demijohns for brewing for a bit and then use them as watering bottles)

    I bury them just deep enough so they stay upright. so, oooh, 5 - 10cm? next to ( or in between in the case of the big bottles) plants which are thirsty, like squashes.

    I can then target my watering to the plant, rather than wasting it on just the soil AND I can mulch the bare soil to keep in the water and still get some water down in the soil near the plant.

  19. Hi,

    Great blog !

    I see you have put mesh panels in the doors... how did you do this ?

  20. I know this is an old post of yours but I've been reading your blog from start to finish and this one actually got me motivated to do the same. lol. I love seeing what other people do with the inside of their PT's and I came across this post just as I was thinking that my own PT was in drastic need of a tidy up ready for next year.
    Your comment about starting the New year with a clean tunnel hit home and now I'm eager to get the job done - Thank you. :)



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