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For those who are green-fingered, there’s nothing better than cooking wholesome and healthy meals with vegetables and fruit that you’ve nurtured yourself. Plus, you don’t have to wait until our great British “summer” to grow them. You can extend the season to grow fruit and vegetables and enjoy home-grown, healthy food all year round. How you ask? When you find out how to use a polytunnel, you’ll wonder why you ever spent money on supermarket veg!

Here are some easy-to-grow pantry favourites that you’ll be proud to take from patch to plate:

Growing Garlic in a PolytunnelGrowing Garlic at Home

As well as having plenty of health benefits, garlic is versatile to cook with, delicious and easy to grow at home. It is a fairly low maintenance veg to add to your patch and it doesn’t take up much room. Plus, it needs a cold period to grow successfully, so you won’t have to worry about growing it outdoors in the winter. However, birds love to pull up freshly planted garlic, so a polytunnel can protect your bulbs.

Here are a few tips on how to grow the tastiest garlic bulbs at home:

  1. Buy garlic sets from a garden centre rather than a supermarket. You can choose from two main types: hardneck and softneck, which you can learn more about here.
  2. Split the bulb into individual cloves and plant each one about 2.5cm deep into the soil (with the pointed end facing up).
  3. Each clove should be planted 10-15cm apart in rows around 30cm apart.

Garlic bulbs grow best in light, nutrient-rich soil. Make sure you dig in plenty of compost or recycled green waste before planting them as they don’t react well to water-logging.

Growing Potatoes at Home

Another cupboard essential for most homes, growing your own potatoes could help you save money in the weekly grocery shop. Whether you’re a mash, boiled or roast potatoes family, you can enjoy an organic and home-grown feast.

Seed potatoes can be planted at almost any time of the year and they’re easy to grow, as long as they’re kept free from the frost. Plus, with the help of a polytunnel you can enjoy a very early crop – seeds planted in December or January could mean that you have early potatoes on the table as soon as March or April!

Top tip - potatoes like moist soil that is loose and free draining. Adding organic matter to the base of the trenches you plant in will help to retain soil moisture and grow the best potatoes.

Growing Chilli Plants in a PolytunnelGrowing Chilli at Home

To add a bit of spice to your meals, chilli is the answer. Chilli plants really love the heat (the perfect temperature for them is between 27-32 °C), so it’s best to sow the seeds in the spring or to start them off indoors. When two true leaves have formed, you can continue growing them in your polytunnel, usually around late May.

It’s important to keep the humidity in the tunnel relatively high so that the soil doesn’t dry out, and organic mulches can help with this too. Keep them well-watered and, when the first fruits appear, nourish the chilli plants with a high potash organic feed.

For expert chilli growing tips, take a look at our customer Clifton Chilli Club’s easy guide. They also have great vlog updates about their ‘chilli polytunnel’ on YouTube.  

If you’re wondering what to grow in a polytunnel, these three kitchen staples are a great place to start! There are no downsides to owning a polytunnel; it will protect your growing veg from pests and it can provide a warm environment for crops in the colder months. So, you can grow your own fruit and vegetables all year round without worrying about tender crops!

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Growing your Own VegetablesAre you looking for a healthy and sustainable way to feed your family? Well, starting your own vegetable patch in the garden is a great place to start. Not only is it easy to do, you’re in control of how much pesticide is used (and therefore how healthy your fruit and veg is), and it’s a great form of exercise too!

Spending time in the fresh air is good for our health, so growing your own vegetables can be food for the soul too – it can take you away from any daily stresses, help you express your creativity, engage your kids in healthy eating and also give you a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re new to the green-fingered lifestyle, here are a few ways to get your fruit and veg patch started:

How to Grow Avocado

At the moment, avocados are having their moment in the spotlight. Their sales have increased by 184% in the past five years, with an estimated £29m sales growth in 2017. Well, you can easily save on the cost of buying this popular fruit by growing your own avocado tree!

Here’s how to grow avocado from a seed:

  1. Using toothpicks, suspend the seed broad-end down over a glass filled with water, so that about an inch of the seed is immersed.
  2. Leave the glass in a warm place away from direct sunlight and replenish the water when required.
  3. The roots and stem will take 2-6 weeks to sprout.
  4. When the roots are thick and the stem has leaves again, plant it in a rich soil in a 10in diameter pot, with half of the seed exposed.
  5. Water it frequently, with a deep soak occasionally (the soil should be moist but not saturated).
  6. At this point, the more sunlight, the better!

Top tip - if the plant turns yellow, it might be over-watered, so let it dry out for a few days. If the tips of the leaves turn brown, too much salt has accumulated in the soil. Run water freely into the pot for several minutes and then drain.

Growing TomatoesGrowing Tomatoes

There are plenty of different types of tomatoes to grow, from small cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteak ones – so you can pick your favourite!

Here are a few pointers from the RHS website for growing tomatoes from seeds:

  1. Start the seeds off indoors using a propagator (a heated container used for germinating seedlings) or simply pop the pots in a plastic bag on the windowsill.
  2. If you’re using a polytunnel or a greenhouse, you can start sowing the seeds from late February to get the best results. Young seedlings should be kept at around 18°C.
  3. Use either seed trays or small pots, then transfer them to 9cm pots when two true leaves have formed.

When the flowers begin to open, plant them around 45-60cm apart and tie the main stem to a vertical cane for support.

Remove the side shoots regularly when they are 2.5cm long and keep the soil/compost evenly moist. Feed them every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser and change to a high potash one when the first fruits start to set.

Growing Potatoes

When growing potatoes at home, you need to buy 'seed' potatoes, also known as tubers, which will be certified virus-free.

  1. Once planted, wait for the stems to grow to around 23cm (9in) high, then start carefully covering the stems with soil to produce a flat-topped ridge about 15cm (6in) high.
  2. This is called ‘earthing up’ and protects emerging foliage from frost damage and developing new potatoes from the light. (Light will turn tubers green and therefore poisonous).
  3. Keep crops well-watered when there is dry weather and give them a liquid feed of a balanced general fertiliser every fortnight.

So there you go, three easy to grow (and delicious) fruit and vegetables to get your patch started. It’s a great step to living a sustainable life and engaging your kids in healthy eating. Plus, you can use a polytunnel to plant seeds all year round. That way, you can reap the benefits of having your very own vegetable patch whatever the season, both physically and on your dinner plate!

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