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How to… build a Hazel pole polytunnel

May 26, 2012

Polytunnels are great pieces of kit for the modern gardener, but they needn’t cost the earth – indeed they needn’t cost anything! They will allow you to extend your growing season by several months and grow tastier tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, and can be built to any size you want. All they really consist of is a simple frame and some transparent plastic. You can buy rolls of transparent plastic quite cheaply from a DIY store or you can look around your local neighbourhood for bits of it in skips.

Here’s how to build a polytunnel in four simple steps:

Step One: Coppicing Hazel poles:

You can find Hazel trees in pretty much any park or woodland in Britain. They usually grow in clumps of narrow poles which can be cut during autumn and winter when there are no leaves on the tree. It is best to cut less than half the poles from each tree, giving it the chance to recover easily next spring. To make a polytunnel which is about 3 metres by 4 metres you will need to collect about 12 poles, each one around 4-6 metres long.

Step Two: Building a frame:

What you want to start with is basically a box made from pallets or timber (see picture above). It should be about 1 metre high and as long and wide as you want your poly tunnel to be. Don’t forget to leave a gap at one end for a doorway!

Step Three: Making the arches:

Taking pi to be 3.14 you can calculate how long your Hazel pole arches need to be by multiplying the width of your poly tunnel by 1.57 (i.e. if your polytunnel is 3m wide your arches should be about 5m long). Each arch will consist of two Hazel poles tied together with the narrow ends facing in opposite directions. Important: make sure each arch you make is exactly the same length. Now attach the arches to the frame (see picture above).

Step Four: Putting on the plastic:

If you have one large piece of plastic you may be able to cover the whole structure with this. If not, it is possible to use gaffa tape to hold several sheets together, although this doesn’t hold up to strong winds! The plastic should be stretched taut over the structure and held down by weights, such as logs or stones, on all sides. You can use drawing pins to hold the plastic down onto each arch individually.

That’s it! Now all you need to do is start growing

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