I’m sure many of you already know a thing or two about high tunnels, but I had no idea what exactly a high tunnel was before interning at Grow Appalachia. How is a high tunnel different from a greenhouse? What exactly is a high tunnel good for? I have heard these questions quite frequently throughout the past two months, and I can finally say that I feel confident in answering them!
Last week I had the great opportunity to assist high tunnel expert and extraordinaire Mark Walden in building a high tunnel out in Manchester Kentucky for a great family of 11 – the Wolf family. We worked with Chad and Chip from Red Bird Mission, as well as several of the Wolf children, and were able to get a lovely high tunnel built in the span of two days. Thankfully, we were granted cooler temperatures and a bit of cloud cover for both of these days… though I still managed to get sun burnt… The Wolf family definitely seems deserving of a high tunnel, and it was definitely a pleasure to meet all eleven of them! I believe we spent about two hours after completing the build just talking to everyone. It was an enjoyable time, indeed!
Anyway- high tunnels! Why are high tunnels so useful? What exactly is a high tunnel? A high tunnel is a sort of unheated greenhouse in which you grow plants directly in the ground. High tunnels trap heat inside of them, allowing you to grow crops during cooler weather, thus extending the growing season. This is extremely beneficial to those who want to produce year-round, whether to just feed themselves and their families or to sell produce commercially. The particular high tunnels that Grow Appalachia builds are constructed out of chainlink fencing rails, held together with heavy tek screws. A layer of thick plastic is stretched over the hoops and ends, and attached to more fencing and a hand crank, allowing you to roll up the sides of the hightunnel during warmer weather. It’s amazing how much heat a tunnel can trap – with a good amount of sunlight during colder months, hightunnels can still reach up to 80 degrees!
Grow Appalachia is working hard to make sure deserving gardens at various sites get the opportunity to extend their growing season with a high tunnel. It was such a pleasure to work with you, Wolf family and Red Bird Mission! Can’t wait to see what else you do.