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High Tunnels and Herbs for more information see www.hightunnels.org. R. Janke, KSU A talk based on research by Ted Carey, Kim Williams, Laurie Hodges and Lewis Jett. What are high tunnels?. Unheated greenhouse structures. Same as “hoop houses.”

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high tunnels and herbs for more information see www hightunnels org

High Tunnels and Herbsfor more information seewww.hightunnels.org

R. Janke, KSU

A talk based on research by Ted Carey, Kim Williams, Laurie Hodges and Lewis Jett

what are high tunnels
What are high tunnels?
  • Unheated greenhouse structures.
  • Same as “hoop houses.”
  • Purpose is season extension, not year-round protection or production.
  • Many designed as “drive through” for use of field equip.
advantages of high tunnels
Advantages of high tunnels:
  • Low cost structure for high-value crops.
  • Wind (and sun) protection.
  • Water control.
  • Season extension (early and late crops possible.
disadvantages of high tunnels
Disadvantages of high tunnels:
  • Higher day-time temperatures, same night temperatures, for a gain in ‘degree days’ but no protection from cold nights.
  • Hot days can cause additional stress on plants, e.g. exacerbate mites on tomatoes?
  • Have to water crops, even when it rains.
  • They aren’t tornado proof, and even a heavy rain or snow can wreck one.
cost comparisons
Cost Comparisons
  • High tunnels cost approximately $0.75-1.50 sq ft. This includes plastic and the frame structure.
  • As a rule of thumb, you should expect to pay at least an additional 25% for end-wall lumber, site preparation, water lines and other accessories.
  • Greenhouses cost approximately $6 sq ft or almost five times the cost of a high tunnel.
  • Generally speaking, high tunnels are considered to be impermanent structures. However, you may need to check with your local zoning regulations.
  • High tunnel dimensions range from 10-30’ width x 9-12’ height and up to 96’ length. (Jett)
high tunnel location
High tunnel location:
  • A high tunnel should be placed on a level, well-drained, accessible site.

High tunnels can be moveable, however, if you wish to have a stationary unit, you will have to amend the soil each season or year to maintain fertility.

  • Unlike greenhouses, orienting a high tunnel for sunlight is not as crucial.
  • A high tunnel should be oriented in a direction that is perpendicular to the prevailing winds on your farm. Remember, all ventilation is manual, so you depend on the wind to ventilate your house. In Missouri, our winds are predominantly from the south-southwest. Thus, for spring tomato production, we find an east-west orientation to be optimal.  (Jett)
constructing a simple pvc high tunnel by jim hail robbins hail katherine kelly and ted carey
Constructing a Simple PVC High Tunnelby Jim Hail, Robbins Hail, Katherine Kelly, and Ted Carey
  • This low-cost, 30’ long by 18’ wide high tunnel is constructed using PVC pipe for hoops.
  • The materials cost roughly $500 (including shade cloth for summer production) and we didn't shop for the best buy on materials and lumber.

Home-made design using recycled poles, lumber, and originally plastic. Original cost was about $10 for metal brackets and screws/nails.

Heavy rain destroyed the plastic, and was replaced with shade cloth (about $300?)


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about High Tunnels:

A high tunnel is a solar heated greenhouse with no electrical or automated ventilation that is used to extend the crop production season for many horticulture crops. Crops that are produced within high tunnels are grown in the ground with drip irrigation. (Jett)

A five-foot high sidewall is superior to a 3’ sidewall with respect to air circulation. However, high tunnels with lower sidewalls may be slightly warmer. (Jett)

Four mil, 4-year, greenhouse-grade polyethylene is suitable plastic for covering a high tunnel. (Jett)

general information
General Information:
  • American Society for Plasticulturewww.plasticulture.org
  • Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areaswww.attra.org
  • Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Projecthttp://bse.wisc.edu/hfhp/
  • Market-Farming.comwww.market-farming.com
  • Noble Foundationwww.noble.org
  • Penn State University http://plasticulture.cas.psu.edu/H-tunnels.htm
  • Rutgers Universityhttp://aesop.rutgers.edu/~horteng/
structure suppliers
A. M. Leonardwww.amleo.com

Atlas Greenhouse Systems, Inc.www.AtlasGreenhouse.com

Conley’s Greenhouse Mfg.www.conleys.com

CropKing, Inc.www.cropking.com


Grow-It Greenhousewww.growitgreenhouses.com

Haygrove tunnels www.haygrove.co.uk

Hoop House Greenhouse Kits (Mashpee, MA, USA) http://www.hoophouse.com/

International Greenhouse Companywww.igcusa.com

 Jaderloon www.jaderloon.com

Keeler Glasgow www.keeler-glasgow.com

Ludy Greenhouseswww.ludy.com

Poly-Tex Inc.www.poly-tex.com

 Rimol Greenhouse Systemswww.rimol.com

Speedling Inc.www.speedling.com

Stuppy Greenhouse Mfg (Kansas City, MO, USA)www.stuppy.com

Turner Greenhouses www.turnergreenhouses.com 

XS Smith www.xssmith.com

Structure Suppliers:
construction how to
Construction How-To:
  •  Washington State Universityhttp://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/
  • Market Farming Boulder Belt Hoophousewww.marketfarmer.com/lhphs.htm
  • Westside Gardener Hoophouse designwww.westsidegardener.com/howto/hoophouse.html
  • Cattle panel design from Farm  Show Magazinewww.farmshow.com/issues/29/01/290106.asp
growers using high tunnels
Growers using High Tunnels:
  • Au Naturel Farms http://aunaturelfarm.homestead.com
  • Angelic Organicswww.angelicorganics.com
  • Four Season Farmhttp://www.fourseasonfarm.com
  • Windwalker Farm http://www.windwalker-farm.com
publications about high tunnels
Publications about high tunnels:

Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long., Eliot Coleman 1999, 212 pages, Chelsea Green Publishingwww.chelseagreen.com

The Hoophouse Handbook by Lynn Byczynski, 2003, 60 pages, Fairplain Publishing, Inc. www.growingformarket.com

The New Organic Grower: A Masters Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener. By Eliot Coleman , 1995, 340 pages, Chelsea Green Publishing, www.chelseagreen.com

Season Extension Techniques for Market Gardeners Janet Bachman and Richard Earles 2000, 24 pages, ATTRA, www.attra.org

Solar Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-Round the American Intensive Way. Leandre and Gretchen Poisson, 1994, 267 pages, Chelsea Green Publishing www.chelseagreen.com

The Winter-Harvest Manual Farming the Backside of the CalendarEliot Coleman, 2001, 62 pages, http://www.fourseasonfarm.com

High Tunnel Tomato Production Guide (Publication M170) is available for sale from University of Missouri Extension for $10/copy. Contact MU Extension Publications at (800) 292-0969 or online at:http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/manuals/m170.htm

current research using high tunnels
Current Research using high tunnels:
  • Olathe-KSU Polar Cub: organic vs. conventional lettuce, spinach, and other greens.
  • Haygrove tunnel at Olathe for ornamentals, turf, and eventually herbs.
  • Wichita KSU: strawberry/tomato production
  • University of Missouri - Columbia: warm season crops.
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln: flower crops.
  • Grower trials in 3 states: profitability, adaptability, soil quality.

Contact Ted Carey at  tcarey@oznet.ksu.edu or (913) 645-0007 for more information or to help with high tunnel construction.

The Eastern Kansas Horticultural Crops & Forestry Center is located at 35125 West 135th Street, Olathe, Johnson County, KS 66061-9423.

Directions:  The Center is easily accessible from Interstate 35 at the Santa Fe Road exit by driving straight west through the city of Olathe (about 7 miles).