July: Sowing for Winter In Your Polytunnel

Growing your own in a polytunnel is a year round affair. It may sound rather strange talking about winter crops now, in the middle of summer. But in the gardening world you have to plan ahead and that means sowing from the end of this month onwards to ensure your polytunnel remains fully stocked all year round. At the moment, if you planned your growing season well and got started last spring then you should find that your polytunnel is looking at its best this month – lush and very productive – every inch working for you and producing an abundance of food for your table.

Throughout July, it is possible to be harvesting a wide range of different crops. Salads with lettuce, spring onions and a variety of leafy greens will be a hit all summer long, while other crops like peas, broad beans and first early potatoes will likely have come to or be coming to an end in the polytunnel by this month. You may be able to enhance your salads with some courgettes and cucumbers and perhaps may even have the first few of your tomatoes, runner or French beans. The first of your peppers may be harvestable later on in the month if you planted them early and the summer has been a kind one. While the timings can vary year to year, July is the month of bounty, but it is also a time when gaps may begin to open up in your polytunnel growing areas.

When you harvest and gaps open up in your planting, do not be tempted just to sow more cut-and-come-again lettuce everywhere – think ahead to winter and from late July and throughout August, think about preparing to sow some hardy crops that will endure in the polytunnel over the winter months and feed you through the coldest months, and during the 'hungry gap' next spring. It is a good idea to add some compost or high-quality organic mulch to any gaps, to retain soil fertility for the next set of crops.

Sow some winter lettuce, cabbages, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and other hardy, leafy vegetables into seed trays or pots now, so they can be popped into gaps (according to your crop rotation plans) as and when you harvest and clear a section of your tunnel. That will give these plants time to become established and grow to a reasonable size before winter kicks in.

Make the most of your polytunnel – plan ahead. Or, if you do not have a polytunnel yet, there is still time to get one in time to grow a crop all winter long.

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