my tunnels for fall and greenhouse film question

little_minnie(zone 4a)October 23, 2013

I got my tunnels prepped today. I did two of bent EMT that I bent with my foot. These had been on the summer crops for the last month and then I moved them today to kale and spinach. I love it!
Then the whole thing where I wanted a chunnel over 2 beds, remember everyone? I was trying to use 10 foot EMT, 3/4 inch tubing and rebar to make something around 9 feet wide, not 7 feet! with a half diameter of about 13 feet wide. First of all the poly tubing is so much firmer now in the cold, and secondly I wiggled and adjusted it until it went just right on the rebar to yield the right size properly strong hoops. To strengthen the connection area that had formerly been prone to bending (at the joint of the EMT and rebar if the EMT did not slide over the rebar), I cut some 1 inch heavy tubing to 6 inches long and used them as sleeves over the weak points. But most of the EMT went nicely into the rebar for a firm hoop the whole way 'round. Not shown in the pics is right before I left today I covered the chunnel with FRC I had made to 14 feet wide. It was almost a disaster since it was so windy and I didn't want it ripped but I got it on. There was hardly any overlap as predicted.

The question is this: So I had made this plan last winter to have these low tunnels that would need the 14 foot wide FRC and greenhouse film. I spent an arm and a leg on supplies and then they need a lot of tweaking! I am finally getting the results I wanted but I am afraid to put on the greenhouse film. It is still in its packaging. It was a 'cut to order' thing that is not returnable or perhaps with a restocking fee. It is 14x 108 or so to make 2 tunnels as described (was to be melons and tomatoes this spring but it never happened. so I put them on the brassicas with shade cloth but the tunnels were not strong as intended and it failed). So my choices are to use it now on my tunnel or to hold on to it for spring or to try to return or sell it.


Plain EMT low tunnels, one in foreground without row cover yet and one in background over kale with row cover. Also small wire hoop tunnels.


The chunnel over two beds, seems strong! This is where I could put half the greenhouse film if brave enough.


This is where the tunnels had been in summer. I moved some of the rebar and cut the extra tubing in half and made little tunnels. I still need to get the row cover on obviously. Hopefully I can get some done before it gets too windy tomorrow. It has been very cold and somewhat windy here. Very unpleasant.


Half the garden scape.

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myfamilysfarm

First I would ask if you COULD return it, if not I would use it. I don't have a good track record selling things.

Make sure that you have plenty of weights (dirt/smooth rocks/etc) for the edges or bury it and then put the weights on. You don't want to wind to rip it away. Lay the length, weight in down, then start pulling the other side over the hoops and weight it. Try to make the 2nd side to be the side that the wind isn't as strong.

You've already spent the money and unless you want to wait to use it, then you might as well try.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 10:49AM
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boulderbelt(5/6)

Hold off until spring or until you have your hoop situation figured out. It will be just fine in the box for another 20 years (unless critters start chewing)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 5:51PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Interesting opposite advice. I am a little worried about the tunnel after what happened in summer. If it looks safe and I risk it it would only be half of it so that isn't so bad.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 10:11PM
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myfamilysfarm

yes, it will last. You have to decide if you want it or not, I read that you might not want it.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:10PM
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randy41_1

wait until spring. how do you control the heat under the greenhouse poly on sunny days? how about on sunny windy days? i would use the tunnels (chunnels) for early tomatoes, but i would need to know how to ventilate when needed. i think the poly and row covers provide equivalent low temperature protection.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:41PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

It is very thin row cover that I had made to that width though so it is not going to hold in as much heat.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:24PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Here is another question. When spring comes is there temp benefit for say something like early planted corn to use a row cover on it and a proper EMT low tunnel over it with more row cover or is a wire hoop setup with row cover just as good? I am just wondering what crops could be pushed up with the EMT tunnels vs just wire hoops.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 11:23PM
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myfamilysfarm

We have a huge sweet corn grower that uses row covers and tunnels on his FIELDS, he usually has sweet corn by 7/4 if not before, usually 2-3 weeks before anyone else. He must take the hoops down after the corn gets so high, because he sends a picker thru to pick. He picks 3-4 large farm wagons each day.

His fields look strange, since he's the only one that does this. He was charging $5 dozen this past season.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 8:41AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I already grow corn with wire hoop row covers but I wonder about the increased heat of a higher low tunnel. Is there any?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 1:28PM
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myfamilysfarm

don't know, it is a good question. I would guess that it would take more to heat up, but also last longer. Are you using black plastic on the ground, i know that vendor does in addition to the hoops and row covers. Getting sweet corn to our community 2-3 weeks before anyone else makes it worth it to him.

If I had a small amount, I would also add milk jugs or something to hold the heat, even rocks if you have enough.

Marla

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 4:41PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Yes you can probably tell from my pics that I use lots of plastic mulch.

What I am thinking about is the cost difference between the EMT low tunnel and just wire hoops and what the heat unit difference would be.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 9:53PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Marla,

$5 a dozen, that is what vendors charge around here all summer. Sometimes it goes down to $4, but that is as low as I have seen.

Just Curious.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 11:11PM
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myfamilysfarm

Jay, here most are doing good to get $3/dozen. Some people even try to go to $2, just to get the business. They don't realize that they are cutting their own throat.

Minnie, I would think that the EMT would be cheaper than the wire hoops and tubing, but I haven't check the total price. I don't use hoops and haven't done much gardening this year or last (drought). I'm changing over to preserves and buying the needed produce for that. Beats the outside heat and not as perishable. Plus nobody else is doing it in my markets.

Marla

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 2:50PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

No it costs more than nine guage wire.
I don't sell corn by the dozen as I do it all by hand but I charge 3/$2 and then maybe down to the average 50c per ear.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 6:41PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Here is what the two cost when on sale:
10 foot piece EMT 1/2 inch about 1.50 on sale. I bought one last one at The Depot yesterday for 1.89. 9 is a good fit for my 48 foot beds, 8-10 is necessary. 10 for 50 feet I suppose.
9 gauge fence tensioner wire 170 feet for $10. 170 feet covers a lot of hoops! You may have to buy a bolt cutter. I suppose one roll would make about five 50 foot beds covered and ready for row cover or my cheap shade cloth thing.

But I just assume the more space around the bed the more heat is retained. I think that is how high tunnels work. So there must be some principle about the higher the row cover or film is, the further from the plants, the warmer the air, right?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:10PM
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randy41_1

row covers hold the most heat in when they are close to the soil. a bigger covered space will get hotter during the day raising the average temperature of your growing space. but the temperature in the morning under the ground hugging cover will be higher than the temperature in the bigger space. if you have plastic mulch on the ground this probably eliminates the advantage of having the row covers on or close to the soil level.
and you are talking about air temperature which is important but soil temperature counts for something too.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 5:42AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I picked Thursday for Saturday AM market so I could bake Friday. Thursday was cool and damp but no wind. Of course I had to take row cover off to pick and then put back on but it went fast and with no wind it wasn't a chore. I was amazed the kale grew so much in one week and the spinach a little. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are not growing at all. I don't think I will bother covering the young bed with film being they don't want to grow.

View inside the kale quick hoop tunnel. I grab a half bushel basket and monkey walk in here just fine. It is so temperate and I like being in there. One hoop is shorter and so I have to duck under it but the rest are just right for stooping and gorilla walk.


On the right is the other quick hoop tunnel of a bed and a half of spinach and the uncovered bed is lettuce, tatsoi and spinach. Spinach did poorly this fall for no apparent reason. I seeded at the right time, kept it shaded and sprinkled a lot. the only thing was it got hailed on in mid September and stunted. The tatsoi is amazing.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 8:47PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Tuesday I took down the big one covering late planted brassicas. They just were doing nothing. If it was covering something else I would have left it up. I did leave up the two EMT ones. They survived the 3 inches of snow we got.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 6:23PM
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myfamilysfarm

3" of snow, I'm not ready for that. Of course, I'm not ready for any snow, but I know I'll get some. I guess the snow was a good test for your tunnels.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 10:15AM
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