High tunnels are structures made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with plastic or other sheeting. Easy to build, maintain, and move, they provide an energy-efficient way to extend the growing season. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create favorable conditions for growing vegetable and other specialty crops.
NRCS offered the high tunnels (also called “high tunnel system for crops”) as a conservation practice for the first time in Fiscal Year 2010 as part of a three-year trial to determine their effectiveness in conserving water, keeping nutrients in the soil, increasing yields, and reducing transport of agricultural pesticides.
In this video Randy Pierce of Bozeman, Montana, showcases the high tunnel he and his wife installed in early June, 2010. They were able to grow tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn, bean, peas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, cabbage, flowers, onions and radishes. The crops all germinated in less than than a week and grew rapidly. Neighbors, impressed with the high tunnel, visited weekly to monitor the crops’ progress. That crop was sold directly to neighbors – this year Pierce says he plans to sell his crop through a non-profit food coop and donate what remains to the Gallatin Food Bank.
Join the Discussion of High Tunnel Effectiveness
Randy states, "...it would be nice to talk to other people that have these high tunnels to see what kind of issues they come up with, and are they the same issues that I've come up with." If you would like to discuss your own experiences with seasonal high tunnels, please send e-mail to Webmaster.