Tuesday, October 30, 2012

High Tunnel Quick Hoops: More quick and inexpensive greenhouse solutions


Fall is in full flush and I can honestly say that I have never see such beauty and color in my life. Maine has lived up to its reputation as the epicenter of fall foliage.  The abundance of reds greens, orange and yellows mixed with everything in between are visible from every vantage point, whether it be a simple drive to work the winter farmers' market or all the way up north to Acadia national park for a hike.  Discussing my plan for a late summer and fall apprenticeship, I was often told how bitter and cold Maine is.  I've learned that winter is only stubborn and harsh on the way out, yet majestic and slow going in.  The ocean, only a light jog away from the farm, takes time to cool down from the summer warmth and equally as long to warm up during the spring or elongated winter as so many Mainers dreadfully refer to it.  Nevertheless, there is always work to be done on the farm and at Four Season Farm, always something new and interesting.  With my intro to farming being in a massive greenhouse, I have grown to love greenhouse technology and the concept behind season extension.  Today we are going to take a...

look at another genius, cheap and manageable greenhouse option.  

These high tunnels are a great way to have a greenhouse that you can build yourself.  Using longer pieces of electrical conduit than we used for the smaller low tunnel quick hoops and some polyethylene greenhouse plastic film, these houses can be put together in a few hours.

The concept is the same, just bigger.  Johnny's Selected Seeds also sells a larger model of the pipe bender for high tunnels.  The major advantage here is that unlike the low tunnel quick hoops, you can walk right inside of these greenhouses to harvest all winter long.

As you can see below, there is one soil bed recently seeded with spinach and another set of beds, to the left, with fully grown kale.  This kale will is already harvestable and is being used not only to sell to local restaurants and markets, but also as additional winter feed for the layer hens that produce eggs.  These are great winter crops that need just the slightest bit of protection from the harsh winter winds and below freezing temperatures to stay productive all throughout the cold months.

For these 48' bed plots, we use four sets of these small modular greenhouses (12' x 11' each to fit three 30'' wide beds with 1' paths in between.  Having them in sections allows for more diverse uses.  For example, if you choose to split them up and use them in various plot sizes.  These winter kale and spinach beds can easily be turned into the summer's tomato and pepper crop.

A few anchors will hold down the structure without the use of permanent infrastructure and finally, on a nice warm sunny day we attach the plastic greenhouse film with wiggle wire into wiggle wire channel that is attached to the the electrical conduit on both sides.  As Eliot explained, the advantage of putting on the plastic in warm weather is that it expands, making it easier to fit over the structure.  Eventually when it gets cold the plastic will contract and fit snuggly as desired.

Finally, we added the plastic skirts and held them down with sandbags.  The skirts allow for airflow for summer crops such as tomatoes and peppers, while still increase the heat inside helping to stimulate growth and protect these summer crops against blight and intense rains.


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