26 degrees overnight in April? Check.
Tomato plants all tucked in tight? Check, check.
We frequently get questions about our high tunnels (also know as hoop houses, or season extenders) and why we have them, what they are used for, etc. Well, this right here sums it up – we can plant delicate vegetable crops (meaning they can’t take a freeze or even a frost) as early as March, even February with our high tunnels. Without a season extender, that would be next to impossible in Kansas.
Of course, we do go to extra lengths to ensure our plants survive when then temperature drops below freezing. If it’s going to be 28-32, we put on row covers (pictured above) to give just a little extra insulation.
We also stick a jug of water in between each plant at the beginning of each season. On warm days, the water absorbs the heat, and then they slowly let off heat as the temperature drops.
Lastly, we fire up the heat when the temp is in the low to mid-twenties.
Propane heaters in the high tunnel last night. Wood stove and blowers heating up our other high tunnel (pictured below). This year Gage made improvements to the wood stove in this season extender, and it is much more efficient – we are excited to see what we can keep growing in there into next winter! We also put new plastic on this house. We didn’t open the box with the new plastic in it until the day we were to put it on. We then discovered we had ordered white plastic, which only has 55% opacity. Whoops.
However, the white (instead of the usual clear) plastic keeps it from getting overly hot in the high tunnel on sunny days. But, we were worried there would be too little sunlight to grow tomato plants.
Not the case! Once the plants were established, they have been growing like crazy. Once we are past the risk of frost and freeze, we will roll this plastic all the way up so they will then get full sunlight and rain. So far, ordering the white plastic looks to be a lucky mistake.
Below is one of the tomato plants – a month ago. You can use your imagination to guess what they look like today. 🙂
We were blessed to get our high tunnel funded through the NRCS EQUIP program. Programs like this are a huge asset to small farmers when they are starting out. We have worked hard to start and grow our farm without having to take on debt. Programs like NRCS EQUIP help make that possible.