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How to Make Your Polytunnel Last: Maintenance and Upkeep

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One of the many questions that new polytunnel owners and gardening enthusiasts have asked is how often they may need to change the polytunnel exterior polythene tunnel. They think that this may come at a great financial or environmental cost. While they are worried for a good reason, this article bears good news: you don’t have to replace the polythene cover as much as you may have originally thought.

When polytunnels are well taken care of, you can expect the cover to last for a minimum of 4 to 5 years, stretching over and above to 8 to 10 years. I recommend you choose 720 gauge, or 180 microns, commercial-grade polythene. Due to its thickness, it will be sturdier and last longer than the thinner and less pricey polytunnel exterior option.

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Many polythene covers contain additives to protect them from UV degradation. A cover of this size and resistance to sunlight will last for at least 4 to 5 years. Its structure can also be made from high-tensile galvanized steel tubes; this varies between manufacturers.

You can expect your polytunnel frame to last at least 20 years if it is well cared for. However, with this in mind, other factors must be considered, such as maintenance and the environment surrounding your polytunnel.

Picture of seedling plants in a large hoop house

What Can Be Done To Extend The Life Expectancy Of Your Polytunnel?

When you purchase a polytunnel, you want to ensure that your investment will last as long as possible. This is because the framework of the polytunnel will outlast the polythene cover.

We know that a polytunnel will not last forever, but how can you ensure the longevity of your polytunnel? Here are tips to get more from it by being extra vigilant regarding repairs and maintenance. These tips will help you enjoy the full life of your polytunnel.

Anti Hot Spot Tape can be used to extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel.

Hot spots can degrade the polythene plastic over time.

They are created from the sun’s heat, causing a rise in the temperature of the metal framing. Investing in anti-hot spot tape and installing this before placing the plastic cover on your polytunnel can be well worth your time and effort. The extra cost at the beginning can save money in the long run.

In the video below, I show you how to build a polytunnel step by step. During this installation, you see all the ways to make the life expectancy of your tunnel last much longer. If you consider buying a tunnel, I urge you to watch the video.

One option would be sheeting the Polytunnel properly to extend the life expectancy.

Correctly sheeting your polytunnel and ensuring the polythene is as tight and free of creases means that the plastic will last longer when compared to a polythene cover that is installed incorrectly on your polytunnel.

Please ensure that your polythene cover becomes slack; regular re-tensioning will be required as time goes on.

Experienced installers can assist in making sure that your polytunnel is erected to standard. However, if you choose to build your polytunnel yourself, it is wise to take the time and effort to make sure the project goes smoothly and doesn’t need to be redone in the future.

Wind Breaks are an important thing to use to extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel.

Picture of commercial polytunnel

If you live in a windy location, the longevity of the polythene cover can be greatly shortened if you decide not to use proper and effective windbreaks. Therefore, at the time of construction, to prolong the lifespan of your polytunnel, you may want to consider using shelterbelts or protective hedging to combat this.

To extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel, utilize surrounding Vegetation.

When moving your polytunnel into place, it is important to consider and surrounding plant life. Even the slightest friction between the plastic cover on your polytunnel and any plants that may surround it can cause costly repairs far earlier in the life of your polytunnel.

You can help prevent this by ensuring that the vegetation isn’t too close and can be cut back when vegetation growth occurs to reduce the risk of damage to your polytunnel.

If, on the other hand, damage does occur, make sure to promptly repair the damage to ensure that the problem doesn’t worsen.

Make Quick Repairs as needed to extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel.

As we mentioned in the previous tip, it is important to make repairs quickly. From time to time, damage will occur. The damage can range from a snag on the plastic on a metal frame section to wind-blowing debris. Polytunnel repair takes two minutes and will lengthen the lifespan of your investment.

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”

David Hobson

A tiny hole that you may not have seen a branch made that will soon become a larger rip by the wind. Check your tunnel regularly, making sure to repair any holes using repair tape.

If the hole is small, using a small piece of tape on your tunnel’s interior and exterior will be sufficient. The same will work for larger rips; however, we recommend placing two pieces of tape on the interior and exterior in an X.

Cleaning is a definite thing to do to extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel.

The polythene cover may be quite thick and high-quality, but there’s only so much it can take. So a key factor to keep in mind to make certain that your polytunnel achieves its longevity is cleaning.

Performing regular cleaning practices and scheduling them can help keep polytunnel covers in good order, create good hygiene and ensure that they will last for years.

As the plastic starts to age, at some point, it will start to ‘give.’ Regular maintenance, such as cleaning, will keep your polytunnel in pristine condition and make a huge difference in how long it will last. So be sure to give your polytunnel a thorough cleaning inside and out every year.

Another aspect we recommend keeping in mind is to be careful of other gardening essentials. For example, the simple garden cane is a known nemesis to the polytunnel. As great as they are for keeping tomato plants in place, the tips are just as great at puncturing a hole in a properly tensioned plastic cover.

Children And Pets might have to be steered away from polytunnels to extend their life expectancy.

We can all agree that having a dog or cat can be a wonderful addition to our families. However, when it comes to the lifespan of your tunnel, cat claws and pets running in and out, with a combination of excited and playful children, can spell disaster.

Owners have been known to ban all pets from their polytunnels. If you leave the doors wide open, you may want to consider placing a layer of prickly holly leaves to keep them away. You can also build a fence around your polytunnel or a gate at the entrance.

You may have taught your children to be very careful and respect the area around your tunnel. Their friends, however, may not be. Therefore, your best option would be to make the area out of bounds.

Does The Weather Play A Role In The Lifespan Of A Polytunnel?

Picture of storm

The weather can be detrimental to the longevity of your polytunnel. When placed in the right location, there will be no problem with wind and rain. However, wind can be a nuisance and cause damage when it hits the polytunnel at a different angle. This can cause parts of your tunnel to flip and snag. Storm braces can be used as a means to anchor the tunnel.

To take care of your polytunnel, you must be aware of the surrounding environment. Keeping your plants safe during the coldest and windiest months of the year. If you properly plan for year-round growing, you should be able to do so until spring.

We have this spectacular article on what to do to avoid our polytunnels being blown away by the wind for further tips and tricks on keeping them strong and resistant to future weather changes.

But what should you keep in mind during autumn and winter and ensure it survives? We will explore this below.

Note Autumn Storms to extend the life expectancy of the polytunnel

Autumn can bring dramatic weather conditions. While it is less harsh than winter, autumn can still be a problem for your polytunnel. To keep your polytunnel around for as long as possible, it is a good idea to consider how you will keep your tunnel safe and secure during the autumn months.

One issue that may arise is the doors of your polytunnel may start to sag on their hinges, or the latches may begin to stick and not fasten properly. Therefore, it is recommended that you take the time to check your polytunnel doors and ensure that they are in good shape before the arrival of possible storms.

To extend the life expectancy of polytunnels, use Winter Weather Tactics

When the snow does arrive, it accumulates on the roof and the sides of the polytunnel and can be hefty. Again, a soft-bristled brush will be your best friend in this situation.

All that needs to be done is brush the snow off the roof and from the sides. You can also give the roof a tap inside the tunnel to make the snow slide to the ground.

You may also consider adding extra protection to your tunnel to protect it from the winter winds.

If you follow our advice, you will already choose a proper location for your polytunnel. But we know that we don’t always live in an ideal world. Shortcomings may be discovered after building your tunnel and living with it for a while.

If your polytunnel is in a rather exposed position, you may want to improve the site by adding extra protection, such as a windbreak hedge; we touched on this earlier. Still, you can create a great windbreak hedge by planting a few shrubs and trees more informally in the surrounding area of your garden to shield the polytunnel from prevailing winds.

FAQs on growing with Polytunnels

Conclusion on Life Expectancy of a Polytunnel

As you have learned, a polytunnel can last for many years when properly maintained and looked after. But there is no doubt that a polytunnel can be vulnerable to damage and other issues. This is a normal part of polytunnel ownership but needs to be considered.

Don’t let your polytunnel get the best of you; a polytunnel is every gardener’s best friend. But if it comes the time that it finally reaches its endpoint and is no longer a good fit for its originally intended use, it’s a good thing to remember that it still has other uses. For example, pieces of an old cover can be used in different ways, such as mini polytunnels or transparent hanging shelves that can be used within the polytunnel.

Have you ever wondered which is best? A polytunnel or a greenhouse? In this blog post I wrote, I weigh the pros and cons of each, and this article will help you decide which would be best for your situation.

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