Updated: Apr 1
If you’ve driven past the farm in the last week or so you may have noticed a few of our beds have hoops and plastic set over them. These low tunnels are great for extending the growing season, protecting the tiny plants from the weather, and redirecting the flow of rain to more desirable places. We first started using this system to extend our growing season when we had our urban farm in Ohio. It worked great then and works great now. We use rebar to anchor in the hoops which are just PVC and 4mil plastic sheeting as the covers. We have been able to find all of that at Home Depot. This year though, we will be adding agribon as it is permeable where plastic sheeting is not. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the row covers and knowing when to use them is critical to the health of your plants, but for now we are only using the plastic sheeting.
This year is our second year growing Lisianthus. I made the decision to have our plugs delivered in the beginning of March to be planted out by the middle of the month. Yes, that's a little early for our zone 5b, but I knew that in April, when I would normally plant Lisianthus, it is usually very rainy. The low tunnels allowed me to get the tiny little plants into the ground before the rain started and then gave them protection from the swinging temperatures we endure here in northeast Missouri. The ideal temperature for lisianthus during this stage of growth is 45-65F. A combination of straw and low tunnels has worked well to keep the plants near those temperatures on the cooler days while on warmer days we opened the tunnels so we wouldn't overheat the plants. During our thunderstorm last week, we kept the tunnels closed. This provided cover from the wind gusts that were nearing 40-60mph and the beating rain. The low tunnels also redirected the water so that it flowed down the slight slope to the animal field, eliminating most of the standing water that normally pools in this area of our flower field. We secure our plastic to the hoops with spring clamps and when it's going to be super windy we criss cross used drip tape over each section of the tunnel, also secured by spring clamps.
I don't think there we ever be a time that we will not use low tunnels of some sort on our farm. They are simple to install and can be moved as I need them to be, however, the more I work with them the more I realize I'd like to have a more permanent structure to work in. So, one of our goals for 2021 is to purchase and build a high tunnel.
Until next time, keep spreading joy!