Olly and I had big plans to build a polytunnel this spring by upcycling materials on the island. We managed to pull together pipe, timber, an old polytunnel sheet, and a couple of scaffold poles.
On materials we had to buy to put it all together we spent:
Hot spot tape £16.00
Builders band £17.98
Screws and nails £13.00
First up we halved the 2 scaffold poles to make 4x 4ft lengths. We dug 4 holes 2.5ft down, placed a container cut in half and filled with gravel and soil. This was to stop the scaffold poles wiggling further down in the wind.
Next we attached the pipe hoops between the scaffold poles to make the front and end hoops. We then attached lengths of timber between the 4 scaffold corners to create the rectangular footprint of the polytunnel.
To the timber length we attached the 4 more hoops of pipe, making 6 pipe hoops 5ft apart. Between each hoop we attached more lengths of timber to hold the pipe equal distances apart. We made some diagonal braces too. We attached an upright at the end hoop and two uprights at the front hoop to make the door frame.
Next came the polytunnel cover. we battened it on one side and then rolled the excess feet on the other side pulling it tight over the hoops. After 12 hours of grafting it was time for a quick dinner, feed the lambs, get the cat in and off to bed!
The next day we were tacking the front and back ends of the polytunnel cover. The back end was quite a bit harder because we had to attach two bits of cover together because the biggest bit we had wasn’t one enough for our structure. After a lot of trial and error we ended up rolling the end of the large piece round some pipe to attache to the end hoop. We battened the short end piece to the bottom and did the same rolling method with the top to attach it to the end hoop.
At the front it was some awkward wrapping around the door frame and we were done! Just in time before the windy weekend!
We made the door with some timber and some leftover polytunnel sheet. To secure it we made 2 loops of builders band on either side of the door frame and use a large metal rod to keep the door shut.
It was 2 really long tiring days putting it all together. The weather was amazing - the warmest and stillest days we’ve had on North Ronaldsay since we arrived. I was certainly longing to be having barbecues and swimming in the sea instead of wrestling with the polytunnel!
We certainly learnt a lot from the process. The pipe is a bit too flexible and more scaffold anchors would make the structure more stable. But for under £50 it’s an amazing sheltered growing space for the tall vegetables which would surely be hammered by the winds otherwise. Planting peppers and tomatoes in it over the weekend it was a lovely warm place to garden, so hopefully we’ll be able to harvest some heat-loving vegetables from it! It stood up to some windy and snowy weather over the weekend so we’ve got our fingers crossed that it will last the summer at least. Maybe it’s stockholm syndrome but we’re already thinking about how we’d attempt polytunnel 2.0 for the winter!