High tunnels, also known as hoop houses, are inexpensive moveable structures that offer numerous benefits to produce and bramble fruit growers, from extended growing seasons and higher yields to reduced weeds and premium prices for off-season produce. To be effective, however, they must be properly built.
Practical Farmers of Iowa will help demystify the construction process at its third annual high tunnel build, April 23 and 24, hosted by TableTop Farm near Nevada (Story County) in central Iowa. The event, "Construct a Moveable High Tunnel," is a hands-on workshop that will walk participants step-by-step through the process of building a four-season hoop house, from how to site and square the structure to correct ways to assemble each component.
The interactive event will also offer plenty of time for questions related to design and construction as well as how to grow vegetables year-round without supplemental light or heating, and attendees will leave armed with techniques and tips to effectively build a moveable high tunnel. The cost to attend this workshop is free to PFI members, and $35 for non-members. Event hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, April 23, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and the Ceres Foundation are sponsoring the high tunnel build, which will once again be led for PFI by Adam Montri, outreach coordinator for Michigan State University.
TableTop Farm, a collaboration between two young couples –Sally and Luke Gran, and Kim and Chris Corbin – is located at 65584 260th St., about 6 miles southeast of Nevada. To get there from Highway 30, turn south on County Road S27 / 650th Ave. Drive two miles and turn east on 260th St. The farm is three-fourths of a mile on the right. To RSVP, contact Patrick Burke, PFI office manager, at (515) 232-5661 or [email protected].
Movable high tunnels offer more space per square foot of tunnel
"Moveable hoop houses are a little more complicated than basic stationary ones," says Sally Gran. "Once built they don't have to be on completely flat ground, but they must initially be built on flat ground or else they won't work properly. For instance, if not squared correctly, a moveable hoop house won't be as stable or as strong."
Moveable high tunnels offer more space per square foot of tunnel, Gran says, a big advantage when trying to extend the growing season. "Say you plant cold-hardy greens in February in one spot. In April you can move the high tunnel to another spot and plant tomatoes – but your greens are still in the ground growing. So a moveable high tunnel lets you cover more area than a stationary one, and lets you start planting earlier in the year, and later into the fall."
Moveable high tunnels also help minimize pests, shelter crops in bad weather
She says moveable high tunnels also help minimize pests, shelter crops during bad weather and allow rain to naturally flush irritation-related salt buildup with less loss of soil nutrients.For more information on the field day, contact TableTop Farm at (515) 291-8727, or [email protected], or Sally Worley, PFI horticulture coordinator, at (515) 232-5661 or [email protected]. Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and friends of farmers. Corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hay are the top enterprises for PFI farmers, although many have a variety of other operations, including fruits and vegetables. PFI's programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences and more. For more information, call 515.232.5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.