Caterpillar Capers

When
I was growing vegetables full time, I looked down on cloches. Too far
down, too much bending down and far too much pegging down. All that
ground level shenanigans, just way too undignified in order to gain a
very small ribbon of protection. And then you can't see whatever bad
omens may be hidden beneath the plastic, either weeds, pest or diseases, and a
false sense of security was guaranteed.

 


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 So
I now find that I have spent the autumn and winter thus far wrestling
with a caterpillar tunnel, which I now realize is just a really
expensive and humongous
cloche. I
can't even stand up in it, which is the first major design fault you
might observe. However, I am limited by the 6m standard sizing of the
PVC pipe hoops, resulting in a mildly stooping scenario.

 

  
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The
idea comes from the USA and has been covered well by the Growing For
Market
community (NB. They call polytunnels 'hoophouses' over there).
There is an introduction to the concept here by
Lynn Byczynski.

The main features are portability, no footings, hoops that fit over
steel rebar 'pegs', and rope lashings (lots and lots!) that produce a
segmented appearance and the caterpillar profile. After spending a
small fortune reskinning a twin-span polytunnel this year, we thought
we'd give it a go, especially since you can move them to fresh ground
so easily.


We
played it safe however and have only put tulips in it this autumn,
just in case. There have been a few hiccups and several improvements
along the way, notably bigger and bigger hoops, after the Mark One, pictured below.



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It has been keeping
me slightly fretful on stormy nights but we'll keep you posted about
the spring blooms and whether we can get enough air flow through it.
It has seemed to cope with the winter snow so far though, and near
flooding, although it may just yet prove to be the ultimate vole
hotel….

 


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The River Thames coming up to say 'hello' last year.

 

Ashley
Pearson

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2 Responses to Caterpillar Capers

  1. Trina Coombes January 19, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    I am really enjoying reading through the blogs, wonderful to see colour and beauty again at this time of year, a real boost and also learning from them.
    Would you recommend a hoop house? A polytunnel is too large and probably not allowed on my allotment.
    Many thanks
    Trina

    • greenandgorgeous January 28, 2015 at 7:54 am #

      Hello Trina,
      Thanks for all your input, we’ve been on hols this month. The best thing about a caterpillar tunnel is cost and ease to put up and take down, especially on an allotment where you can call it a cloche if the management complains. They can stay the winter but need a sheltered spot, or metal hoops (I was using PVC pipe for mine). The hoophouse is what americans call a polytunnel BTW. we can discuss further, I still have the old caterpillar bits…

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