New school polytunnel

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skeast
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New school polytunnel

Post: #286643 skeast
Mon Feb 29, 2016 6:09 pm

Hi folks

I dont post often, but lurk lots, figured you guys would be a great place to ask for ideas, tips and inspiration on a project I have landed with at school.

I work at a school for Autistic kids, ages 3-19, varying abilities and issues. A polytunnel was built 2 years ago, I wasnt allowed to be involved, it was badly placed and not thought through or finished off well. Change in management, neglected tunnel, desire to let kids benefit from it etc, bring on muggins.....

It is a 9m x 6.5m tunnel, N S orientation, but with tall trees on E side and a 5m wall on the W side. And rabbits. Lots of rabbits. Paved about 70% [at the moment] a fair offering of brambles etc, inside and out..... You get the picture.

Sooooo. I have said it must have rabbit proof fencing installed or not worth starting anything. Any advice on that, I believe you [ok, the contractor, should of been the original installers] dig a 60cm trench, line it with chicken type wire fence and then bend it out, sort of L shaped ? Any other rabbit tips ? not recipes tho.

What to plant ? a lot will be determined by the kids needs and class lessons, I see beans, salad, sweet peas etc. But I also want to make a nice calming and sensory environment. Planning a sort of herb spiral, with scented and touchy feely plants, a vine, a fig, some scented plants, maybe a few fruit bushes and a family apple outside....

Irrigation ? should we get it ? especially with 6 week summer holidays I am thinking its a must, is it £££ ?

Would love to hear of suggestions of what to include, and what not to ? fun projects ? any experience of school/term time gardening ? how to organise cropping to avoid August, especially in an 'environment' I am not used to.

Thanks in advance.

Sarah

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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286644 ina
Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:18 am

it sounds a great plan - what a shame it was left to get to this stage!

Don't have much experience - your rabbit proofing plan sounds ok to me, though. However, I think even with irrigation you'll need somebody to take care of it in summer. Having worked for market gardens myself, I know how much work it takes just to keep on top of it in summer... Ideal growing conditions for the plants you want are, unfortunately, also always ideal for the stuff you don't want, i.e. weeds/pests etc.
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diggernotdreamer
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286645 diggernotdreamer
Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:02 am

I did a school garden many years ago. It was fine until the school holidays when you could not get the parents to help with a watering rota and most of the produce was coming in July when there was no-one to eat a lot of it, so I was going in every couple of days to water and pick what was coming. I would say in any tunnel to set up a leak pipe system of watering and have it on a timer if you can. When I did the garden at my daughters school, I made the paths in the garden quite wide so as the children had enough space to move around and could work in pairs. Why not try planting new potatoes in the tunnel, they can be ready before the school holidays, early peas, dwarf green beans, salads, strawberries, pineberries, bush tomatoes sown now could be producing before holidays, good luck with the venture.

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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286646 Odsox
Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:47 am

Sorry, can't help too much on the rabbit problem, I don't really have that problem.
I do know a bit about polytunnel irrigation though, and you will most definitely need some form of irrigation.
Even without school holidays it will need somebody's undivided attention if you intend to water by hand, and I bet I know who that "somebody" would be.
Besides watering by hand is never as efficient as automatic.

Costs shouldn't be a problem, all you need is a length of hose pipe, a couple of cheap plastic rotary lawn sprinklers and a water "computer".
The water "computer" is just a pre-settable timer that fits on an outdoor tap and switches the supply on for a certain length of time on certain days. Google "water timer" and you can get an idea how much they cost, but make sure there's a program to suit your need. I would say "on" for between half an hour and an hour, once every 4 days or so. It's best to have it all happen in the wee small hours, then nobody gets accidentally wet, the water gets time to soak in and there's no risk of sun scorch.

Fit the sprinklers on short poles (to get them above most of the vegetation) and connect the hose to both using a "Y" adapter, program the timer and as long as you remember to leave the tap switched on it's pretty foolproof.
Tony

Disclaimer: I almost certainly haven't a clue what I'm talking about.

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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286647 Green Aura
Tue Mar 01, 2016 11:17 am

As for planting I think the first priority is to make sure everything is edible - or at the very least not poisonous! There's loads of advice around re sensory gardens - how lovely would it be lovely to have an area for each sense? And I see no reason why you couldn't hide more orthodox veg etc in amongst the sensory plants - like Geoff Hamilton's ornamental kitchen garden style.

One of my favourite "touch" plants is Lambs' ears (Stachys lanata).
Taste - any mints, spearmint is sweeter than most others so nice to nibble
Smell - any herbs, calming ones like lavender
Sound - anything that rustles. Honesty is lovely and maybe wind chimes amongst the taller plants (although if noise is an issue it may be better separated and put elsewhere for those children who enjoy it.)
Sight - has to be colourful doesn't it so go mad.

I agree about the watering, Tony's idea sounds great, in fact I'm going to pinch it as we finally have an outdoor tap. I'd also be tempted to grow some of the plants, which may require harvesting during holidays, in pots or small trays so they could be taken home by some of the children - dwarf beans, mini tomato plants, cut and come again salad leaves etc. Then you'd just need volunteers to go in a few days before the new term to have a tidy up. The raised beds took no time to clear of weeds in our polytunnel (although it's much smaller than the one you describe) - about half a day even after no attention all winter. So even if that "somebody" got lumbered, the odd hour here and there should sort it fairly quickly.

One last thing that I just thought about is wheelchair access (I don't know if that would be needed) - keyhole beds are great so the garden is round the chair rather than out in front. It might be worth building something like that into the planning even if not currently needed.

I love love projects like this, sorry if I get a bit ambitious!
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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contadina
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286648 contadina
Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:12 pm

I love your plans to make it a sensory experience. It might be worth approaching local garden centres, seed sellers etc as many donate goods in exchange for favourable publicity.
Last edited by contadina on Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

ina
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286649 ina
Tue Mar 01, 2016 4:19 pm

Even with a watering system you'll need to check it ever so often - these things can go wrong, or, if it's on an outside tap, some wonderful human creature might get it into their head to have some fun and turn it off... :roll: Shading (automatic) might also be necessary in summer.
Ina

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skeast
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286667 skeast
Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:36 pm

Thanks guys for all your replies. Just had a meeting with 'management' and they loved the ideas. I had a list of materials, suppliers and prices for the initial set up, timber, compost and drip irrigation, they didnt bat an eyelid, so getting that too ! We are planning a work day next weekend to build the beds, clean the tunnel etc. So excited, if it all works out I could see it leading to a slight career change in a few years when I can afford to go part time.

Definitely going to grow simple edibles this year, plus lots of smelly and sensory stuff, and maybe some spuds in sacks. Also going to include play trays with dirt and diggers for the lower ability kids, so they can at least enjoy being there and get a break from the rest of the day.

Will no doubt be posting lots in teh future for ideas and advice, for now its shopping time ! Spending someone elses money.

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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286675 doofaloofa
Thu Mar 03, 2016 2:39 pm

Early strawberries
ina wrote: die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln

skeast
Jerry - Bit higher than newbie
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286777 skeast
Wed Mar 09, 2016 5:40 pm

Just found the seed stash, 18 packets of Moneymaker tomatoes. Anyone want toms ? think they are 2015, also 12 packets of mixed salad leaves. Happy to send you 2-3 packets in exchange for something interesting, own seed or leftover shop stuff, that the kids would like. Thinking squashes, scented climbers, sensory [touchy feely stuff] bright coloured and fast/easy, strawberry runners etc. Drop me a line.

Thanks

Sarah [feeling a bit cheeky, but heck, they wont get used otherwise.]

ina
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286780 ina
Thu Mar 10, 2016 12:39 am

Moneymaker? Must be just about the worst tomato variety known to humanity... (Unless that's Shirley - had one of them last year, because it was the only one the local garden centre did...)
Ina

I'm a size 10, really; I wear a 20 for comfort. (Gina Yashere)

skeast
Jerry - Bit higher than newbie
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Location: Longridge, Lancs

Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286781 skeast
Thu Mar 10, 2016 7:02 am

I know, tell me about it! Just reluctant to bin them.

Any takers ?!

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Green Aura
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286782 Green Aura
Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:36 am

How about selling tomato plants as a fund-raiser, or there may be a seed/seedling swap somewhere near you.

I quite like Moneymaker - they're reliable, heavy cropping all-rounders (salad and cooking). We tend to always sew a couple for when some of our more exotic/experimental varieties fail (don't ask me how often that happens).

What I like is that they're not too sweet. Although they're not the best flavour they're certainly better than supermarket toms.
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

skeast
Jerry - Bit higher than newbie
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286788 skeast
Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:12 pm

Yep. I have started a packet to pot on and sell/give away. No harm in that !

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doofaloofa
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Re: New school polytunnel

Post: #286790 doofaloofa
Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:56 am

The problem with school gardens is most of the easy to grow summer stuff that is palatable to children is ready during the summer holidays
ina wrote: die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln


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