If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’ve probably heard fellow green-thumbs waxing lyrical about their high tunnels.
If you’re newer to the world of gardening and wondering what a high tunnel is, it is essentially a portable greenhouse that’s made from hoops that are driven into the ground. If you’re into DIY you can make one yourself, or you can order one of these high tunnel kits online.
Because high tunnels are not permanently anchored by concrete, they can be deconstructed and easily moved to where they are needed.
Commercial farmers and avid homesteaders use high tunnels to extend the growing season of their garden vegetables because they are an effective way to protect plants from frost, wind, and unexpected cold snaps.
You can grow almost any warmth-loving plant in a high tunnel, but the following crops tend to thrive in them.
Tomatoes are probably the most common crop grown in high tunnels – this is mainly because early and late-season tomatoes can be sold at a premium. Both bush and vine types of tomato grow extremely well in high tunnels.
Studies have shown that tomato plants grown in high tunnels yield 36% more fruit than their open-field counterparts – so whether you’re looking for a cash crop or you just really love tomatoes, consider using a high tunnel to boost production.
2. Sweet Peppers
Sweet peppers are chili peppers’ milder, sweeter cousins. That’s because sweet peppers don’t contain capsaicin – the compound responsible for a chili’s heat. They come in all shades from bright yellow to white or even purple.
Sweet pepper plants love warmth, which is why they grow so well in high tunnels. In fact, sweet pepper crops grown in high tunnels do so well that they produce 44% more peppers than pants grown out in the open.
Strawberries are yet another popular crop to grow in high tunnels – this is because they are notoriously sensitive to high winds and blowing dust, which causes a lot of damage to their fragile leaves, stems, and flowers. Birds and bugs also love to eat them.
When strawberries are grown out in the open, they yield only a third of what they can produce in a high tunnel. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for strawberries out-of-season, consider investing in a high tunnel and growing your own.
Vine crops like watermelons, melons, and cucumbers are excellent to grow in high tunnels. Cucumbers grow particularly well because they grow vertically, so they can take full advantage of the light and space – however, you will have to set up trellises.
Cucumbers are easier to grow than tomatoes or peppers and they grow significantly faster. Cucumbers grown in high tunnels have much higher yields and are of much higher quality than their field-grown counterparts.
Carrots are excellent to grow as a winter crop. They can handle colder temperatures than other vegetables, which means that they can thrive in high tunnels where they are a bit more protected.
Carrots can be planted close together to maximize yields, and, when grown in high tunnels, they taste sweeter. If you plant carrots early enough, you can harvest them throughout the winter months.