Monday, February 28, 2011

Season Extension with Low Tunnel Hoops

We live in the mountains of southern West Virginia in zone 5 which is one of the coldest areas of the United States. In fact, last year the snow did not melt on our mountain until April. additionally, since we are in the mountains, we also do not get a full day of sunlight even on the warmest summer days. It is a very challenging location to garden to say the least. In fact, it is almost impossible for us to grow heat loving vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers because we do not get a sufficient number of hot days for the plants to reach full maturity. One economic way to extend our growing season is through the use of low tunnels and cold frames.

The above photo is of me beginning the construction of a low tunnel in late February. As you can see, there is still plenty of snow on the ground. However, we are not predicted to get any additional huge amounts of snow, so we are taking our chances by constructing this temporary low tunnel. I took 10 foot sections of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and attached them to the raised vegetable beds.

Each raised vegetable bed requires three 10 foot sections of PVC pipe.

Then, we stretched a sheet of 10' wide, 6 mil construction plastic. We opted for this over greenhouse film because it was so much cheaper.

These four beds had winter greens, (Swiss Chard, spinach, cabbage, and lettuce) planted last fall. With a good cover of mulch and row fabric covers, they seemed to survive our winter okay. I hope the additional protection of the low tunnels will give them a jump start on spring.

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