Getting to Know the High Tunnel
High tunnels are helping growers everywhere to extend their season, or even grow all year long. You may have heard about high tunnels through the current NRCS program, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” which is awarding funding to growers who want to start using high tunnels. Here at Growers Supply, we have been following this program closely and doing our best to teach our customers, and fellow growers like you, about the many benefits of high tunnel production.
WHAT IS A HIGH TUNNEL?
High tunnels are hoop houses covered with greenhouse film or woven polyethylene fabric, meant to increase crops yields and extend your growing season. Many growers, from hobbyists to professionals, see high tunnels as a step between field growing and greenhouse growing. Farmers are using high tunnels to grow a large variety of crops, including strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, beets, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, radishes, squash and herbs, as well as roses and a variety of other flowers.
HOW IS A HIGH TUNNEL DIFFERENT FROM A GREENHOUSE?
Greenhouses are similar to high tunnels in the sense that they both increase crop yield. However, high tunnels are a simpler, less expensive and less permanent way of extending your growing season. Most greenhouses have a double layer of air-inflated polyethylene plastic that stays up all year round. High tunnels, on the other hand, have just one layer of film or fabric that usually gets put up and taken down each year. While greenhouses tend to be outfitted with fans, exhaust shutters and heaters, high tunnels are not (for the most part). In greenhouses, you often see the plants being grown in some sort of container or on a bench; in high tunnels you are simply use the ground, saving you money on building a foundation and purchasing soil.
WHY SHOULD I USE A HIGH TUNNEL?
If you are a grower who wants to sell your produce for profit, or even just feed your family homegrown food, a high tunnel is exactly what you are looking for. Not only do high tunnels extend your growing season, but they increase yields, providing more food over a longer portion of the year. By protecting crops from the cold and snow and providing insulation, the ground does not freeze as fast inside a high tunnel, preventing frost damage and leaving you more time to grow. The earlier you start planting and the later you can grow, the more harvests you can squeeze in during growing months. This leads to more produce to bring to market or more fresh food to feed your family.
High tunnel growing leads to healthy plants. Using a high tunnel to keep wind away from crops reduces stress on their stems and roots, while blocking out the driving rain leaves you in control of the moisture level of your soil. By controlling the moisture, sun and heat in your high tunnel, you will reap the benefits of better-flavored produce earlier. (For more reasons why you should own a high tunnel check out our past blog post Top 10 Reasons You Should Own a High Tunnel.)
Are you interested in purchasing a high tunnel now? Contact a knowledgeable National Account Manager today, who can further explain the benefits of high tunnels and get you in contact with your local NRCS office to see if funding is available. Need some more information? Stay tuned for our post on designing your perfect high tunnel and learn how customizable they really are.
Are you already growing in a high tunnel? Feel free to share your tips with our new high tunnel growers.