This past Monday, our Grow Appalachia participants gathered to learn about low tunnels. Our teacher, Beth, is a seasoned extension specialist and educator with 26 years of experience. Having recently retired from teaching, Beth approached our program and offered to host a workshop for us. We joined her at her family farm just a few miles outside of Alderson proper to learn about simple, low-cost winterization.

Though we all admired the high tunnel we visited during our last workshop, many of us are unprepared for that level of investment in our winter gardens. Understanding this, Beth showed us that we could build a lengthy low tunnel for about $200. Nearly all of the materials used could be recycled for several years, bringing the cost down even further. The hoops for the tunnels were created with 10-foot long ½” PVC piping, which was inserted into the ground and anchored, then bent to create an arch, and anchored into the ground again about four feet from the first side. These would then be draped with plastic and secured with weights and bungee cords to keep the cover taut in the face of mountain wind and snow.

Beth and her son were kind enough to demonstrate this process for us at the workshop, allowing us to ask questions and troubleshoot before taking the project on. She described different methods of anchoring and weighing the plastic, as well as methods to insulate the tunnel. We even talked about specifications for each of our different altitudes and soil types. Beth’s wisdom helped us all determine if low tunnels would work for us, and how best to approach building them. At least one of our participants is preparing to use the information from the workshop to build her own!

As our first snow approaches this weekend, we are so grateful to have Beth as an authority on winter gardening!