Horticultural fleece can be useful in a polytunnel over the winter months. A polytunnel can help you to grow food and other plants all year round – but in an unheated polytunnel, a little extra protection from the cold may be needed for the most tender of plants. How you choose to protect plants in your polytunnel from the cold and pests that can become a problem over the winter months will depend on what exactly you are growing, and where. But horticultural fleece may well be one of the most important tools in your arsenal. Here are some tips on the successful use of this material:
Some plants in your polytunnel, such as brassicas like kale and winter cabbages, may be fine without any extra protection. Nonetheless, it can be a good idea to have something like horticultural fleece on hand to drape over your crops when a hard frost is forecast. In cases such as these, simply laying the fleece over the plants in question should be fine.
For delicate salad crops, however, it may be better to use the horticultural fleece in conjunction with a tenting or framing structure, to keep the fabric weight off the plants. Garden canes or small branches can be used to create a simple tent, or you can create a tunnel within your polytunnel be using lengths of plastic piping to make arches to hold the fleece off the plants.
Horticultural fleece can also be used to great effect to protect tender fruiting trees from the worst of the cold. In these cases, the fleece can simply be draped over the branches.
In addition to protecting plants from the cold, horticultural fleece can also be used to protect plants from pests, which can become a problem over the winter months. Mice and other rodents, for example, can decimate a crop overnight, though creating a complete covering for the crops with horticultural fleece can deter these little visitors and help make sure that you still have food to eat over the winter months. Hold down all the edges of the fleece with rocks or similar to make sure there are no access points for hungry visitors. While there may still be some pests creating problems in your polytunnel, fleecing can help deter such activity and will reduce the problem, as mice and other rodents will usually look elsewhere to find an easier meal when they realise they cannot reach your crops as easily.