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We see a lot of rain here in the UK and, when it comes to growing fruit and veg, rainwater can help crops thrive. To easily get rainwater to these crops, gardeners will use rainwater harvesting.

Using this system, rainwater that would usually flow away down drains is collected and stored for future use. Gardeners will then plan how they want to distribute the collected water around their crops.  

If you would like find out how to harvest rainwater and set up a harvesting system that can be used in your polytunnel, follow our guide for some top tips to make your crops flourish.   

How to use rainwater harvesting

Before you get started, it’s worth taking some time to decide how you would like to use rainwater harvesting in your polytunnel. Doing this will give you an idea of how to maximise the potential for the water you collect.  

Plan it out

If you have been growing crops in your polytunnel for a while, you will have already invested lots of time in setting up your polytunnel in a way that works for you. Whether you have a 6ft one or something bigger, you will have a section for your tomatoes and will have created space to allow for your onions.

When it comes to using harvested rainwater, it’s worth noting the crops that will need more water than others. The aim is to ensure that the water reaches as many plants as possible, so sharing it out between your crops will help to get the optimum nutrients from the rainwater to them.

Make some updates

Like all gardening systems, rainwater harvesting requires some trial and error. Keeping this in mind before you set up your system and begin the harvesting process will be beneficial for both you and your crops.

When planning it all out, factor in time to make any necessary adjustments. Having some time set aside for any updates you would like to make before you begin harvesting is a great way to manage things when you set up your system.

For example, once you begin, you may find that one plant enjoys more rainwater than another. By slotting in the time early on to make some changes to the way you distribute your harvested rainwater, you can ensure your plants will be getting the nutrients that they need without impacting on the rest of the gardening process.

What is rainwater harvestingSet up your system

Setting up your rainwater harvesting system in your polytunnel is made easy with the right accessories. To begin, you will need robust polytunnel gutters. If you don’t have any fitted to your polytunnel already, now is a great time to invest in some to help you retrieve that all-important, nutrient-rich rainwater.

A water butt is the most common receptacle for rainwater. Place your water butt at the end of your gutter and the rainwater will run off and into the butt. From there, you can funnel the collected water and apply it to your crops. You can opt to position your gutters so the water runs into one butt or you can invest in two water butts to sit at either end of your polytunnel.

Why harvest rainwater?

There are plenty of reasons to switch your current irrigation system to rainwater harvesting. Here are some of them:

Renewable

We’re guaranteed to get some rainfall in the UK. Therefore, choosing to reuse rainwater to hydrate your crops is a sustainable way of repurposing water that would usually be destined for a drain.

In addition, by opting to harvest rainwater collected in a water butt, you are choosing this over the alternative irrigation method of using a mains supply, which may use a lot of energy and which may not be available during regional water restrictions or on some allotments.  

Nutrient-rich

Rainwater contains plenty of nutrients for your crops, making it an excellent choice for helping them to flourish. In addition, unlike tap water, which has been treated to make it suitable for drinking, rainwater is free of any added chemicals.

Wallet-friendly

Using water from a mains supply to irrigate your crops can be expensive, especially if you’re trying to focus on growing several crops at once in time for harvest. Rainwater is a free option that can do wonders for the fruit and veg you grow. Once you have invested in high-quality gutters and some water butts, you won’t have to pay out again.  

Repurposing rainwater

Whether you’re new to growing in your polytunnel and want to set up a sustainable irrigation system or you’re a gardening pro who is seeking a cost-effective alternative to your current set-up, then rainwater harvesting is the perfect solution. To find out more about the polytunnel accessories you will need to begin rainwater harvesting, see what’s on offer here.

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When is harvest seasonHarvest season is possibly the most important time for both gardeners and farmers. This is when fruits and vegetables are ready to be picked before being used for salads and cakes, pies and stews.

It also signifies the end of a process that sees gardeners cultivate and tend to their crops, spanning from the initial sowing of the seeds through to the moment the resulting produce is ready to be gathered. This, therefore, is when a gardener will know for sure if their growing season has been a success.

If you’ve been growing your crops in a polytunnel, the results are slightly different to those being planted outside. This is because, by their nature, polytunnels are designed to protect your herbs, fruit and veg from the elements, so the cropping season will differ while they’re under cover.

Therefore, if ‘when is harvest season for my polytunnel-grown crops?’ is the big question for you, read on.   

When does harvest season start in the UK?

While the time to harvest polytunnel-grown crops varies throughout the year, there is a fixed point in the farmer’s calendar when this takes place. Typically harvest season starts late September or early October for those farming and growing crops outside.

Before the weather changes and cools as autumn approaches, the crops are cut and collected, ready to be used for cooking and eating. There are some over-winter crops that won’t need to be harvested at this time of year, such as spring onions and garlic, however the bulk of the fruit and veg that’s grown over the spring and summer months tends to be ready now.

Common produce that comes with the harvest season includes potatoes, peas and beans and fruits such as apples, peaches and blackberries.

Harvesting polytunnel produce

The harvest period for produce grown inside your polytunnel spans the year and depends on several factors. These include: 

When does harvest start UKGrowing conditions

Keeping your polytunnel pest-free and at a consistent temperature means you’re more likely to have a successful growing season and perfect harvest. Getting the balance right is key to seeing your seeds become tasty fruit and veg.

Planting timings

As with all gardening, getting the timing right is essential. Different crops are better suited to planting and harvesting over the summer, while there are some that can be grown through winter and harvested at the beginning of the year.

Irrigation techniques

How well you water your crops and the system you have in place also plays a large role in how your crops fare. If you’re new to polytunnels, setting up an irrigation system that works for you can involve some trial and error. To find out how to set up your own irrigation system, you can find out more here.

Polytunnel layout

Another major factor is how you set up your polytunnel. Where you place your crops can impact on the harvest you have. Make sure that crops that need to be closest to the light are placed high up and invest in accessories such as raised beds and trestle staging to make the most of the space you have.

Taking your time

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to gardening, having a successful harvest comes down to being patient and planning ahead. If things don’t quite go to plan the first time around, it may be that you need to tweak your irrigation system, play around with the layout, try different soil or crop varieties, or have a go at companion planting.

To find out more about polytunnels and the different ways to produce a bountiful harvest, take a look at the accessories on offer.

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Bees are perfect pollinators. Attracting them to your garden can be crucial for a successful crop, as well as for strengthening future harvests.

Therefore, it’s important to take some time to work out how to attract bees to your garden. In the UK, the spring months are when bees start to come out of hibernation and make their appearance. This arrival coincides with the new flowers coming into bloom.

When it comes to drawing attention to the flowers inside your polytunnel, a strategy is needed. So, to help you take advantage of the return of these pollinators, we’ve created a guide to making your garden an inviting patch for bees. Read on to find out more.   

How to attract bees to your garden for pollination

Before you plan out how to attract bees into your garden for pollination, it’s worth thinking about why they’re so important and what they need to pollinate your plants.

The significance of bees

You may have heard a lot of talk about the declining numbers of bees in recent years. If you’re new to gardening and you’ve only recently invested in a polytunnel and assorted gardening tools, you might not be aware of why falling numbers are a concern for crop growers.

Pollination is necessary for around three-quarters of the world’s food crops. Without the bees and other pollinators existing to move the pollen around and aid the production of seeds and fruits, future harvests could be at risk.

The renewed focus on sustainable living and growing your own produce means that now more than ever, it’s vital that gardeners and farmers continue to attract bees to their gardens.

What are bees looking for?

How to attract bees to your garden UKWhen bees arrive in a garden, they’re searching for nectar and pollen. The nectar gives them energy and pollen gives them protein. Keeping these two things in mind when you’re planning out your garden is a great starting point for providing a draw for bees to your plants and flowers.

Making your garden a haven for bees

Once you know why we need to attract bees to our gardens and what they’re looking for, it’s time to start thinking carefully about what they’ll be drawn to. If your crops are protected by a polytunnel, you’ll need to consider several factors to make them especially attractive to pollinators. 

Think in colour

How to attract bees for pollinationThere are particular types of plant that bees head to first. This is usually because they are drawn to flowers and can see certain colours better than others. Purples, violets and blues are the colours they see best, so planting purple-flowering plants such as lavender, chives and comfrey will most likely hold appeal.

Even if you’re mostly focusing on growing crops in your polytunnel, cultivating a corner filled with flowers is a good way to attract bees. Once they’re inside, they’re more likely to visit some of your flowering crops.

Be practical

While bees love flowers, it’s worth planning your summer salads and fruit bowls around attracting bees too. Popular crops for bees include apples, strawberries and onions, as well as tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines.

Keep it cool

How to attract bees to your garden for pollinationEven in the early spring, your polytunnel can get very warm as soon as the sun comes out. Keeping it well-ventilated by opening the doors helps to cool it down as well as allowing bees and other pollinators to make their way inside. Keeping temperatures in check inside your polytunnel will also make the bees want to spend longer in your garden.

Why not plant some bee attracting flowers outside your polytunnel door to draw them closer, just like the growers at Clifton Chilli Club have done.  

Clever insects

As well as attracting bees, it’s worth taking some time to attract other types of insects that can help to keep pests away. One such insect is the ladybird. Ladybirds work well with bees in pollinating plants and they also eat aphids, a pest that causes lots of problems for gardeners. Plant some fennel and dill in your polytunnel to draw them in.  

Polytunnel layout

When working out how to attract bees to your garden, much of it will require careful planning and a good layout. Whatever size your polytunnel, you can set up sections that have been specifically created for bringing in the bees. To find out more about polytunnel layouts, see our guide here

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