For sustainable and practical organic farming, there really is no better set up than a polytunnel. Also known as ‘hoop houses’, polytunnels protect crops from harsh weather conditions and create an optimal environment for your produce to flourish all year round. Some polytunnels can be expensive and as hi-tech as you like but if you’re on a tight budget and can get your hands on some basic scrap materials, then a great functioning polytunnel can be yours within a fraction of the retail price. Check out our basic step-by-step guide below.
1. Build the End Frames
It may seem strange to start with the end frames first but these will create the strength and structure that your polytunnel will need to last. Pick up some PVC plumbing pipe and measure it into separate sections of your desired length to create the arches of your tunnel. Around 7 foot is a good height for the tunnel as it could easily collapse if it is too low and doesn’t have the right amount of tension in the frame. Fit two of the pipes to two 11 foot long pieces of scrap wood with screws– these will make the arches for the doorframes. A 3-5 foot wide door will be suitable and you can fix this frame together with wood glue, nails and a hand saw to trim any extra pieces. Your end frames are almost finished! Just get your hands on the best quality plastic sheeting that you can find. It is best if it is UV-stabilized but otherwise any plastic sheeting that is durable enough and clear will do. Measure and wrap the plastic sheeting around each of your end frames, cut with a sharp utility knife and fix with a staple gun.
2. Lay the Ground Work
Now it’s time to get outside. Level the ground that your polytunnel will cover as much as you can. Measure where your door frames will be placed and drive four steel fence posts (two on each side) into the ground for reinforcement against strong winds. You can tie the end frames onto these with wire, wire ties or rope. Next you will need to measure and fit metal stakes into the ground where you want your pipe arches to be placed.
3. Add Infrastructures
Fit the PVC pipes onto the stakes to create the arched ribs for your polytunnel skeleton. For added infrastructure add four PVC pipes to the edges and top of the frame as this prevents snow or water build-up and reduces the risk of collapse.
4. Fit the Plastic
Last but not least, measure the plastic sheeting to cover the whole of the frame and staple the ends to two pieces of scrap wood. Get someone to help you roll the sheeting over the top of the polytunnel and then nail the wooden pieces to plywood battens laid firmly in the ground soil. You can add extra weights and bricks and the bottom to hold the plastic down even further but as soon as the plastic is covering the frame, you’re good to go! Time to get planting and watch your crops grow safe and sound in the polytunnel you built with your very own hands.
Submitted by Anglia Tool Centre