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November marks a quieter period in the outdoor garden, while inside the polytunnel, a variety of crops continue to flourish, provided you've taken precautions against frost. Neglecting frost protection can have dire consequences, as a single night of frost can severely damage or kill your polytunnel crops, including lettuce, pak choi, radish, Chinese cabbage, celery, rocket, mustard greens, and chard, all of which you may be relying on for winter and early spring harvests.

To safeguard your polytunnel crops from frost, consider using fleece cloches. These simple yet effective structures can be created by taking a strip of horticultural fleece, approximately 2 meters wide and slightly longer than the bed at both ends. Across the bed, place hoops with a 25mm diameter at intervals of about 1.5 meters. These hoops can be reinforced with bamboo canes running along the top to provide additional support and structure. Drape the horticultural fleece over this framework, allowing the excess length to hang down at the ends to enclose the protected area. The Royal Horticultural Society have produced a handy guide to using fleece cloches, with and without hoops at:

Keep in mind that fleece should not be kept in place over the beds during warmer weather since it restricts light penetration and ventilation. To manage this, design your cloches with strings and bamboo stakes so that you can easily lift and secure the fleece as needed.

Typically, you would want to set up frost protection by the end of October but you still have time to get things in place now to stay ahead of the coldest months in the UK, which are usually January and February. These cloches remain in place until mid-April.

Top Tips:

1. Shut down your automatic watering system at the beginning of the month. Winter requires significantly less water for your plants, and this downtime provides you with an opportunity for system maintenance as well as ensuring frost prevention.

2. Keep water storage containers in your polytunnel. Water can act as a heat sink during the winter, helping to maintain a slightly higher internal temperature. A water butt is an ideal solution that will also prove useful eco-friendly addition when warmer weather returns.

3. If you plan to heat your polytunnel during the winter, consider using bubble wrap inside the structure to improve insulation and reduce heating costs. Heating options include polytunnel heaters fuelled by bottled gas, paraffin, or electricity. Note that gas and paraffin heaters generate water as a by-product, necessitating additional ventilation to allow the structure to breathe, while electricity is the costlier option particularly with recent energy price increases.

4. Continue to add compost to any bare patches that appear in the beds as you harvest your winter crops to keep the soil rich and fertile.

What to Grow in November:

Sowing: In November, consider sowing broad beans, cabbage, coriander, garlic, and elephant garlic. Garlic varieties benefit from exposure to cold weather to develop robust root systems, leading to larger bulbs in the following year.

Harvesting: You might have missed the window of planting for November harvest but thinking ahead to next year your polytunnel could yield a variety of crops in November. Aubergines, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, coriander, courgette, cucumber, daikon, dwarf French and French beans, fennel, kohlrabi, lettuce, pak choi, pepper, radish, rocket, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and turnips are all ready for harvest in the late autumn period. It’s worth planning ahead to enjoy the fruits of your labour and relish fresh, homegrown produce during the winter months.

November is a good time to have a general tidy up at the end of the year and if you can catch a rare dry day your polytunnel is a great spot to pull up a stool and sit and enjoy a coffee in the autumn sunshine.

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