The Gardman Walk-In Polytunnel is 3 x 2 x 1.9 meters in size. I choose this model despite some pretty scathing reviews about it online. My main reason for getting this was to have some sheltered protection for my young container plants and seedlings from the unpredictable British weather.
Outdoor plants are particularly vulnerable and I have lost a lot of seedlings to sudden cold snaps and excessive rain. A polytunnel provides the space I need to accommodate all my container plants under a waterproof cover.
We'd seen a display version of this exact product at our local garden center and my husband had given it a very good look over. He thought that the metal frame was sturdy and strong enough for our needs. In fact, we were both pretty impressed with the frame considering the low price.
The cover looked fine at a first glance. I had read lots of negative reviews about the cover. Bad comments included that the cover doesn't last for long, it is prone to ripping and the zips on the doors keep breaking. We knew all of this before we decided to go ahead and buy it anyway. At this price, we are happy to replace the cover in due course.
Assembly Notes on the Gardman Polytunnel
On getting the box home, I prepared myself for a long and tedious job of putting it together. I was also geared up for missing parts in the box. Occasionally you find things missing with items bought for self assembly. However, everything was there in the package and in good order.
Building the Framework
As assembly jobs go, it was pretty easy. My husband could have done it himself but I helped anyway. The metal bars all came with numbers attached. This meant that you just had to look at the diagram to see, for instance, that number 2 slotted into 4. So it was not a particularly difficult assembly.
Most of the bars on the frame simply slotted in place while some needed fixing with the supplied screws. There were some metal pegs to secure the frame to the ground and some ropes for further support. Since our tunnel was going in a very sheltered area, we did not think this added precaution was necessary.
Putting on the Polyethylene Cover
I had taken notes from reading many reviews. One of these was that you need to unzip the front and back openings before trying to fit the cover over the frame. Some reviewers attempted to fit the cover with these openings zipped shut and then ripped it. You also need to take care not to pull the zips right to the top. There are no metal clasps at the end of the door openings to prevent the zipper pulls from coming right off.
We got the cover on with no real bother and, where we could, tucked the excess material under the metal frame at the bottom. Some people choose to dig the excess cover into the ground or cover it over with gravel or a wooden support. We decided on an easier and quicker option by tucking it under the metal frame.
A Look at the Polytunnel and the Interior Layout
Starting to Use this Budget Greenhouse
One reason that we chose this product, despite all the flaws mentioned online, was the super low price. We decided that the frame of the tunnel was the most important part. The cover is something that may only last a year or two before we need to replace it with something else.
Once assembled, I was pretty happy with it. The cover is a fraction tight around one of the doors when it is fully closed. I can see this as a potential weak area where the seam and stitching could rip or wear over time.
I'd recommend a good inspection of the zippers. In the photo, I have ringed the top of the zipper on one of the doors. In this example, the top of the zip is not properly secured at the ends which means it can just come straight off. I fixed this potential issue by sticking some self adhesive Velcro over at the top. The Velcro provides a stopping point which prevents the zip pull from coming off.
The other issue with the zips is that the pull is quite small to grab hold of. Also, it is on the inside of the tunnel which makes it cumbersome to close the doors up from outside. It could do with a double zipper where you have a pull on either side. That would be a good improvement.
Opening and closing the doors is a bit of a pain. When you're in a hurry, it takes too long. Or you leave them rolled up completely which is not always desirable depending on the weather. My favorite arrangement for the front opening is in the photo. This lets air in and it also gives me enough room to walk in and out as I please. It is easier when I have my hands full of gardening tools and plants.
The back opening is normally partially unzipped to let some air flow in. Sometimes I fix it so it is half up, using Velcro sewn to the bottom of the door and to the door ties. Instead of tying the supplied ties in a knot, I use Velcro which is quicker and should help the ties to last longer.
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Interior Setup and Arrangement
Some people decide to dig out areas inside for raised beds. This is not a good choice for me since I prefer to grow mostly in containers. Our soil is a heavy clay type with lots of stones. Despite digging in various materials to improve it, we still don't have a very good success rate with it for growing. Hence why I enjoy container gardening.
We can move pots around so plants are in preferred locations for the sun or shade. The polytunnel offers a protected space to place containers with seedlings in. It is ideal when the weather is particularly bad and young plants need shelter from it.
This was my interior set up at the start. I'd love some greenhouse staging but it costs a lot for the amount that we'd need. So I used some old chairs and sturdy planks of wood to create some quick and simple shelves. These are big enough to hold lots of containers and there is space underneath to store other gardening items.
I've got some hard plastic sheets on the floor. These were left over from a recent building job so I thought to make use of them. I have a large plastic drawer storage unit in one corner that has my everyday gardening tools inside. In another corner is a fold up chair that I can use to sit on for a crafty nap.
In the summer, it gets very hot in here. I ended up sewing some insect netting to cover the openings while the doors are up. This means that air can get inside the structure to help keep it cooler while unwanted insects are kept out.
Final Thoughts on this Design
Since buying this, we've had several storms and I've had somewhere nice and sheltered to temporarily store my seedlings. These have been young flowers as well as vegetables and fruit. We had a really bad summer so I moved my container tomato plants in here to keep them at warmer temperatures which are vital for ripening.
The frame is nice and sturdy and I have no real concerns about it. The cover has a few quality issues with the seams and the zippers on the doors and I can see potential problems that will probably occur at some point. The polytunnel is doing the job I need at a budget price. Despite concerns over needing to replace the cover in the future, it is a product that I'm very happy with overall.
Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.