Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tunnel talk today

If any of you folks out there are somehow connected to agriculture, then it is probably likely you have read or heard about high tunnels. They seem to be the rage these days, and given their value, it is unlikely they will disappear any time soon. Growers across the country are realizing that high tunnels are just what the doctor ordered for growing many vegetable crops, cut flowers and even small fruit.

High Tunnel Interior
High tunnels become a grower’s insurance policy against high winds and storms, insect infestations and countless plant diseases that can decimate field crops. Inside the high tunnel you will find a controlled environment, much like any greenhouse, except for the fact that the high tunnel is not heated. In addition to protecting plants form Mother Nature’s wrath, it also serves as a season extender, and this is probably where the greater value lies. Growers can harvest crops earlier in the spring and later in the fall, when produce prices tend to be much higher.

There are several types of high tunnels available in the marketplace. You will find high tunnel ads in most agricultural magazines, or look them up on the web. Most growers we know tend to be quite innovative, so designing and building your own high tunnel is a fairly simple task. The important element to remember is to be assured that your high tunnel is easily moved from one location to the next every couple of years in order to practice crop rotation. The Harris Seeds Company lists several models in our High Tunnel brochure... just ask for one – it’s free!

Home gardeners can practice this “season extender” technique with the use of garden tunnels. Hoops are made from heavy gauge wire and inserted in the ground every four to five feet. The height of the tunnel depends on the crop you are growing. For early tomatoes, the hoop tunnel would have to be 4 to 5 feet high. Tunnels for peppers would be much lower. One can walk inside a grower’s high tunnel to tend to his plants, but the garden rendition should allow the sides to be rolled up for easy access to the plants.

Live and learn... experimenting is the key to success. The more experience a professional grower or home gardener has with high or low tunnels will ultimately lead to greater growing success.

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