Most of the salads in the tunnels have been covered with fleece over this cold spell (some had blown off already by this morning after the crazy winds yesterday, lots of fun fixing broken polytunnel doors again this morning, yay); but I had left a strip down the middle of the tunnel nearest the hedge, ‘Fivepenny tunnel.’ This was partly because the fleece on one side is quite narrow, so it left the middle of the tunnel exposed; and while I do have plenty to spare and could have put another piece over that row, I thought a) that row is the furthest away from the sides and should therefore need less protection from the feezing temperatures outside; b) all this constant damp weather has meant that some plants are now more susceptible to mildews and botrytis when under fleece and so not ventilated very well; and c) it seems that mice and some slugs also enjoy being cossetted in fleece. Plus I wasn’t sure exactly how much better off the salad plants would be under the fleece, so left that strip as a highly unscientific experiement.
Anyway, now I’m picking all the lovely leaves in Fivepenny tunnel, it’s pretty clear that the fleece has at least helped the claytonia: this could partly be because the leaves for these plants are very succulent so have a lot of stored water in and around them; so more susceptible to cell damage when the water in them freezes and explands (this is why delicate leaves outdoors go mushy in frosty). None of the leaves in the tunnel have gone mushy of course, because they’re protected by the microclimate in there, and they also hardy winter varieties. However, it’s clear that the claytonia under the fleece has grown a bit more than the plants right next to them, not under fleece. They are also standing up better, so easier for picking.
So fleece does seem to be good for these plants at least; but the mice have had a field day in the covered raddicchio, chicory and bulls blood beetroot. Where’s that fox when you need him?