The sizeable polytunnels at Lawson Park are the engines of our gardens and kitchens, providing year round shelter for seedling plants and plentiful fresh produce for our visitors and guests.
The first small polytunnel at Lawson Park was built by Adam Sutherland in 2001, to house young plants grown by Karen Guthrie for the then non-existant gardens. It was sited where the Black Shed now is, and was soon replaced by a larger version over to the North of the Orchard. A tunnel at the Paddies succumbed to wind damage quickly.
In 2012 we invested in a much larger and more sturdy tunnel to replace some raised beds in the Vegetable Garden to the North of the main farm. This tunnel sits on gravel, with soil-filled raised beds providing growing space. There are tables and storage areas too, for tools and growing media. Water is applied manually from nearby butts.
In 2018 we replaced an old fruit bed adjacent with another tunnel, this time with soil beds only and an overhead irrigation system. That summer, over 50 seed-raised tomato plants occupied most of this tunnel, whereas the larger tunnel supports more varied produce - beans, cut flowers, chillies, aubergines and cucumbers.
Our main tunnel is 16ft wide by 36ft long, the second is 12ft wide and slightly shorter than the main one. Both run North to South, making the most of the available sunlight.
Erratic weather, especially in winter and spring means that the tunnels' shelter greatly increases the efficiency, range and speed at which we can establish plants of all kinds for growing on indoors and out. In winter, vegetables that would struggle in the exposed conditions in open ground thrive under the plastic - e.g. spinach, broccoli, winter salads. The tunnels also provide occasional dry workshop space for building projects in the gardens. Self-seeders like rocket and chervil colonise the beds, welcome additions to winter and early spring harvests.
A selection of plants
Adaptions / renovations
The second smaller polytunnel was built to the East of the main tunnel, over winter 2017/18. The 'no-dig' system pioneererd by gardener Charles Dowding was implemented fully in both tunnels in 2018, growing all plants through a layer of mulch on top of undisturbed soil. In 2019 we upgraded the beds in the larger tunnel, making two larger but shallower ones - maximising the growing space, based on the observation that deeper soil makes no difference to yields.