If you are looking to grow vegetables or support young plants in their growth then the best way to do this is with an allotment polytunnel. You don’t need an allotment to purchase a polytunnel but you are going to need a reasonable amount of space. This means that choosing the right size of polytunnel is going to be essential.
Anyone with green fingers will know the frustration of trying to grow plants and vegetables whilst tackling the British weather! You can feel like you are constantly fighting a losing battle! A polytunnel is going to create the perfect environment for you to grow plants and vegetables, as it helps to protect them from the wind and the rain, whilst also generating enough warmth and humidity for successful growth.
Our buyers guide includes some of the best allotment polytunnels for you to choose from.
Best Pick – FeelGoodUK PRO Polytunnel Greenhouse
- ESSENTIAL POLY TUNNEL FEATURES: The Feel Good UK 3m Polytunnel is designed to give you all the features you might need when growing your own food supply – Our super strong metal framed door offers a far superior design to zip door models which often break fairy quickly.
- FUNCTIONAL DESIGN: The 25mm galvanised frame is sturdy and whilst the bars are easy to click together each joint is welded and additional support bars are fitted to each corner to ensure stability through the winter months
- PLANT PRIORITY: A strip window runs down one side and is fitted with mesh to keep bugs out whilst allowing ventilation, a clever feature allows the plastic flap to be clipped up creating a water catcher which funnels water to the end allowing you to place a water butt under it.
- HEAVY DUTY POLYTUNNEL COVER: As well as superior framework our covers are 140gsm and the UPVC cover will let ample UV light in whilst also being expected to last a number of season in the British climate. There is ample skirt material around the bottom of the polytunnel cover to be dug into the ground for additional stability.
- SIZE & EXTRAS: Overall Width is 2m, Overall Height is 2m, Overall Depth is 3m, Door opening is extra wide at 89cm wide, ideal for a barrow to get through.
Why Buy a Polytunnel?
You may be wondering whether an allotment polytunnel is right for you, what they are really used for, how they vary from greenhouses or just whether you actually need one! Well let us explain…
A polytunnel is basically a way of protecting your plants from the joys of the Great British weather! Usually built using a steel frame and a polythene cover of the top to create the tunnel, they will be able to support a warmer climate for your plants whilst protecting them from rain, wind and pests. Polytunnels are becoming increasingly popular, due to them generally being a cheaper option than a greenhouse, not only this but they are now more versatile and not just for those people with an allotment or commercial use. There are smaller models available for people with less space that are still wanting to grow and protect their plants and crops. Not only this, but another advantage of a polytunnel is that the ground underneath them doesn’t need to be completely level for them to be erected – this means that they can be successfully used in areas where greenhouses may not!
In A Hurry?
For anyone that is sick of battling with trying to grow their plants in the outdoors, or maybe you are just starting out but are wanting to do it right. If you are in a hurry then this part of the article is filled with all the essential information that you need to know before buying the best allotment polytunnel.
By far the first thing that you need to think about is the actual size of polytunnel that is going to be right for you. Whether you actually have an allotment or are wanting a polytunnel for your garden, you are going to need to consider the amount of space that you have available and then the space that you actually need. Polytunnels are traditionally quite large but there are now a wide range of models depending on exactly what you are looking for.
We found models started at around 10ft x 10ft and went up to as big as 20ft by 70ft! This is a huge difference which is obviously going to be impacted by the space that you have available. Make sure to consider that you will need space around your polytunnel to actually erect it but also to complete any maintenance, so we would never recommend FILLING the available space that you have, no matter how tempting this may be!
You also need to think about the height of your polytunnel. We would always recommend making sure your polytunnel is at least 6 foot tall in the centre of the arch, this will give most people the space to walk around in your polytunnel and tend to your plants without having to crouch down the whole way round. You do also need to think about what plants you are planning on growing and the heights that they will grow to. For example, tomato plants will grow to be around 6ft (if planted and cared for correctly). The sides of your polytunnel are going to be lower in height if you opt for the traditional arched polytunnel, so make sure to check whether the height in the arches is going to be sufficient for your plants as well as for you when moving around!
Build Design and Materials
In general, you will find that polytunnels are arched in design (like a tunnel) – the purpose of this design is to allow them to be more windproof and aerodynamic so that they are not as battered by the Great British weather! However, there are downsides to this design, as you are going to have the “wasted” space towards the base of the arch to consider. Your other option is a more rectangular design with straight sides which is obviously going to eliminate this issue of headroom and wasted space. But, you are going to need to make sure that your polytunnel is well protected from the wind and has a strong enough build design to combat this!
Once you have decided on the shape that is going to be right for you, the next thing to check is the frame design and build materials. Look out for a strong and multi-directional skeletal design that will protect all angles of your polytunnel. We particularly like models that have diagonal “storm bars” that will provide extra strength in adverse weather! Galvanised steel is going to be most commonly used as this is a particularly strong material, so we would always recommend checking for this.
Your next thought needs to be for the cover that is secured over the steel structure. This is almost always going to be made from some type of polythene – hence the name. There are many different types of polythene though with different thickness levels and durabilities so it is really important to check for this. Some thinner, cheaper models are only going to last for a few months (particularly if they are in a more exposed area)….as the saying goes – buy cheap, buy twice so look out for polytunnel covers that come with a longer guarantee. You also want to look out for polythene with special properties that make it better suited for polytunnels, such as anti-condensation, anti-drip and temperature control. Moisture buildup is common in polytunnels due to the number of plants that are growing within them, but too much moisture can actually be bad for your plants so looking out for polythene that allows for some ventilation and reduces condensation will be a good thing!
Temperature control for during those summer months is also important. Obviously part of the reason you will be purchasing your polytunnel is for it to absorb some of the heat from the sun to keep your plants warm, but during particularly warm summers this can actually make it too warm in your polytunnel – making it unpleasant both for you and your plants! Some of the best polytunnels actually have temperature control technology for over those summer months to reduce the extreme temperatures that can develop!
Different allotment polytunnels are going to be built in different ways, so you need to check what tools you are going to need, how many people it is going to take to build and what actually comes with your polytunnel kit!
We found that most polytunnels are going to take at least two people to erect, although bigger models may actually need even more than this. Most models CAN be erected without power tools, however if you are wanting to make your lift easier and ensure all the parts are connected strongly then we would recommend having a power drill to hand just to be on the safe side. You will find that all the best polytunnels will come with all the fixtures and clamps that you need for them to be safely secured, but this is still worth checking for to be on the safe side. Also, look for the material that your fixtures are made out of – it is important to ensure that this is the same quality metal that the rest of the frame is made from…if not better!
Best Budget – Haxnicks Etun060101 Easy Net Tunnel
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Best Allotment Polytunnel Features
Once you have decided on the right size and build materials for your polytunnel, you are then going to have to try to sort through the remaining polytunnels for the best one for your garden or allotment. Here are some of the features that we love and would recommend looking out for!
- Doors – It is worth considering how you are actually going to get in and out of your polytunnel! Some come with sheeting at the front that can be tied back and then shut again. Other larger models have types of “doors” which can be held open making it easier to get in and out of your polytunnel.
- Ventilation – Although the main point of your polytunnel is to create a micro-environment for your plants to thrive in, you are going to need some ventilation from the great outdoors. This will help to reduce moisture levels, overheating and improve air flow into your tunnel. This is sometimes achieved with vents low down on the sides of your tunnel or openings at either end.
- Extendable polytunnels – Some polytunnels will offer you the flexibility of purchasing “add ons” at a later date if you decide that you have outgrown your current tunnel! This is a fantastic idea for anyone starting out as the extensions will simply attach to your current tunnel saving you a fortune having to completely repurchase!
- Base secures – All polytunnels are going to need fixing to the ground in some way or another (unless you fancy using them as a kite in high winds!). Check what fixings come with your polytunnel kit and whether these are going to be suitable for the area that you have planned for your polytunnel!
- 720 gauge polythene – This is the level of thickness that we would recommend as a minimum for your polythene cover. Any less and you will find that it is prone to tearing so will last a lot shorter amount of time.
Best of the Rest
- PROTECT PLANTS FROM THE ELEMENTS: Bring all of your plants together in a unified and protected space that helps you manage and grow your plants, fruits, vegetables, and flowers all year round.
- UPDATED DESIGN WITH 2 LARGE DOORS: 2 large side doors can be completely opened and rolled up with ropes, makes bigger operating space and better ventilation.
- DURABLE COVER: Fully closed PE cover maintains high humidity levels for growing tropical plants and allow nourishing sunlight to pass through.
- SOLID DURABLE DESIGN: Constructed with strong powder-coated steel frame,rust-resistant for long lasting use. 10cm overlong cover design makes this greenhouse more airtighted and secure, just bury it in the soil, easy way but useful.
- PORTABLE MINI GREENHOUSE: Measures 200L x 100W x 80Hcm, super convenient to carry around for seasonal use. NOTE: Not suitable for bad weather conditions.
- Double-zipped front entrance
- UV Open – The UV open characteristics of this film gives natural UV levels.
- Multiple ventilation flaps / Fly net windows to ensure controlled constant cross ventilation.
- Reinforced UPVC & UVI 150g/sm interwoven, rip-proof, rot-proof, PE Leno cover makes our cover stronger than other plastic covers available.
- Designed to fit polytunnels measuring 3m long and 2m wide with a curved roof structure.
- WIDE AND LOW DESIGN: Portable design is perfect for placing in small spots, allows you to garden virtually almost anywhere. A great addition to balconies and patios.
- STEEL FRAME: Powder coated for extra strength, it features five cross bars and plastic connectors to ensure long-lasting use all year round.
- PLASTIC MESH COVER: Protects your plants, vegetables and more from the mild wind and light rain, whilst allowing sunlight and air to pass through to promote steady and healthy growth.
- ROLL-UP DOORS: With zip fastenings for quick and easy access in and out.
- DIMENSIONS: 90H x 270L x 90Wcm. EASY TO ASSEMBLE. NOTE: Not suitable for bad weather conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What guarantee will I get with an allotment polytunnel?
This will largely be determined by the quality of the materials that the polytunnel is made from. We found that guarantees ranged from as little as just 12 months, up to around 5 years. We would always recommend checking for this as it gives you a good idea of how durable the materials are that have been used! You will also often find that the frames can last a lifetime, whereas the cover will need to be replaced every few years!
How should I maintain my polytunnel?
If you are wanting to get the best from your polytunnel then it is important to make sure that it is well maintained. The first thing you need to do is make sure to regularly check for any tears or rips in the polytunnel cover. These will need to be repaired quickly if you want to avoid both the rips getting worse and any harm coming to your plants on the inside. You also need to make sure to clean your polytunnel as any dirt or algae that forms on the outside is going to prevent precious sunlight from coming in! This can be done easily by carefully wiping down the outer surface of your polytunnel with warm soapy water but is easier with two people as can be a little fiddly!
Do I need planning permission for a polytunnel?
You usually do not need planning permission for a polytunnel as long as it is not taller than 3 metres, only used for domestic use and closer to your house than it is the nearest road. Obviously there are going to be exceptions to this rule, with houses that are listed or that have particular covenants on the land so it is always worth checking before you purchase.
What vegetables can I grow in a polytunnel?
Depending on the size of polytunnel that you purchase, you will have a lot of choice on the vegetables that you can grow. Some of the main vegetables options will be tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, lettuce, carrots, broccoli and cabbage.