‘Nature is a powerful force and the Coronavirus Pandemic has left us in no doubt about that.’

 

Words by Patricia McCrossan.

Monday 16th March 2020 was a day I will never forget. Closing the office and saying goodbye to the amazing team at GALWAYnow not knowing when we would be back left me feeling sad and helpless.

On that same day, something that I had wanted for a long time arrived, a polytunnel.

I had ordered it 2 weeks earlier from Clarinbridge based polytunnelsireland.ie and at the time I had no idea what was about to unfold and just how this 20ft x 14 ft piece of plastic engineering was to become my saviour over the next 7 weeks.

I’ve always loved the outdoors, a love I get from my mum and having been brought up in the countryside. Over the past few years, our family have become more and more interested in the food we ate and cooked and we had been making an effort to buy organic produce when available. Growing our vegetables was the next step. I had dabbled with varying degrees of success with raised beds but the unpredictable Galway weather limited the selection of vegetables and fruit I could produce so buying a polytunnel was no longer going to be put on “the long finger”. 

 

I had decided that as much as possible everything would be grown from seed (apart from 2 courgette plants I had bought locally) and had been recommended to Clonbur based seedaholic.ie who produce organic seeds.

So the work of planning out the internal layout, digging and making the beds commenced. I have to admit I’d never have managed this with the help of my other half, Paddy and our two sons Sean and Luke and of course our seven-year old black labrador who was my shadow throughout.

With all the builders’ merchants closed, we had to make do with what we had, and this is where the true meaning of  “necessity is the mother of invention” kicked in. Old corrugated tin, mismatched blanks of wood, discarded tables and buckets all became important components of what was to become my baby over the coming weeks. Even the vegetable markers were made out of simple wooden sticks. We became the masters of repurposing and saved a fortune in the process.

The seeds arrived on 20th March so that’s when the education kicked in. What type of soil best suited particular veg, how far apart to plant them (very important), direct sow or transplant from tray to bed? This was all new to me but with the aid of a ring binder, seedaholics instructions and dozens of youtube videos I am proud to say that within a week some of the little seeds started to germinate and boy was I as happy as a pig in a polytunnel!!

Patience is a virtue and something a first-time polytunnel gardener needs in spades (non-intentional pun!)  but the most amazing thing was that everyday something new was happening. Seeds germinated, seedlings were moved from trays to beds and progressed to thinning out and weeding. Nature is a powerful force and the Coronavirus Pandemic has left us in no doubt about that.  Every day I see the power of nature most positively when I open the door to my polytunnel.

 

7 weeks from planting my first seeds, the fruits of my labour are there for all to see. We picked spinach and lettuces last week and the courgettes although small can be picked any day. The peas, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, basil (good companion plant for tomatoes!) potatoes and celery are growing so fast that we are in the process of making another raised bed for successional planting. 

The tomato seeds that seemed to take forever to germinate are now 5 inches high and will be transplanted to beds next week. I’m on my second attempt at peppers and am not going to give up just yet. 

I’ve added a deckchair so I can chill out in the quiet and warmth of my second home. It has become my little sanctuary.

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