A Sustainable Solution to a Food Crisis
You might have noticed that stores have been a little more crowded lately; that there are more empty shelves and more anxious faces. The changes to daily life over the last few weeks have been stressful for everyone, especially the caregiver that has to make long trips into the store for jet-lagged, supermarket quality produce that someone might have coughed on. Many of us have wistfully daydreamed about the possibilities of having our garden; a place away from the world that does nothing but rewards our care with the freshest possible produce.
However, growing outdoors can often turn into a challenging venture. There is nothing worse than toiling all through May and June planting, fertilizing, and watering a tomato crop only to have a few days of high sun scald half your trellises into inedible mush. For more fragile produce, such as fruits and berries, life in the great outdoors can be even more grueling. From opportunistic fauna to a sudden hailstorm, there are a variety of dangers to these crops that can strike at any time in the season and, without protection, can decimate a beautiful garden. If you have ever had an experience like this, it may have soured you on gardening, even at a small scale. Luckily, there is an all-purpose solution.
With High Tunnel greenhouses, you can have a year-round shelter for all your gardening dreams. As the name would suggest, these greenhouses resemble a tall, long tunnel of polythene stretched over a semi-cylindrical frame. When these greenhouses were first popularized in the last century, the high ceilings were necessary so that tractors and other large equipment could access the crops. These days, high tunnel greenhouses have become the standard for greenhousing due to their flexibility and reduced cost. Unlike traditional greenhouses, which are often constructed of metal and glass, these High Tunnels are covered and sealed with lightweight polythene coverings whose walls can be rolled up or adjusted at need. ‘Why would I ever want to roll up the walls of my greenhouse?’, you might ask. Well, there are many common scenarios to consider.
Year-Round Growing with Temperature Control
Say you have a blueberry crop. Your bushes are several years old and have begun hitting their production stride. Your happiest memory last summer was picking fresh blueberries with your young child as they tottered along eating nine berries for every tenth one that landed in the bucket. This spring, you’re a little worried about their prospects for the summer. There were two hard frosts late in February and March has been less than kind.
Instead of letting this summer’s memories rest on the whims of the weather patterns, you could use a high tunnel to protect these crops. Snug in their new abode, your plants would be protected from frost from natural sunlight, our high tunnels heat themselves to about +15 degrees of the ambient temperature), excessive sunlight, and all pests unable to slip through the crack in the door.
‘But,’ you say ‘I’ll only need that for a month! Once June comes around those berries will have no problems at all.’ Well, here’s the best part of a High Tunnel. Once you start moving into May or April, you can roll up the walls of your High Tunnel and voila, you now have an open-air berry patch. Or, even better, you could roll up those walls, and move your nascent tomato crop into it for shelter. Now, these tomatoes have no fear of the hot summer days, but they are sensitive to too much direct sunlight. Instead of slathering each fruit with SPF 15, just park your new High Tunnel over the crops, roll up the walls, and again, you have an ideal environment for your crops: protected from the sun, but benefiting from the natural heat of the day.
If you want to see optimal efficiency, you can even use these High Tunnels to drastically increase the growth time and production of your crops. Most plants prefer a nice warm temperature throughout their growth. By adding artificial heating (or by shutting the door in a Georgian summer) you can easily create a hothouse that will speed the production of many plants. Or, you could use a combination of heat sources and ventilation to control temperature and humidity down to the digit, creating an optimal environment for your crops.
Here, we’ve tapped into the real benefit of High Tunnels over all other greenhouse styles: variability. Atlas High Tunnel greenhouses will give instant benefits to the crops of an amateur gardener, protecting them from the harshest of the elements, or can provide extensive environmental control to put your crops into their specific production sweet spot. Even if you’re an amateur, you’ll find that the ease of use, mobility, and flexibility will allow you to adapt and upgrade your setup as you learn new techniques from the community and your own hard-earned experience.
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