We will water the plants with PH neutral well water, fed to each bed through a simple drip irrigation system to save lots of time and soil disturbance. We received funding to install the system because drip irrigation is another efficient, environment-friendly management practice that WV wants to encourage. Other options would be rain water collection uphill from the site, using gravity and a hose to your advantage. That system would not work so easily in the winter during a freeze, but that would be OK because watering in the high tunnel during the winter is minimal! How does a high tunnel work? Do the plants freeze in cold seasons or cook in warm seasons? A high tunnel keeps most frosts at bay in our climate. One way to be successful with high tunnel gardening in the cold seasons is to plant winter hardy crops. I’ve learned there are many crops that thrive in cold weather, and can even tolerate frosts! To name a few: carrots, spinach, turnips, chard, beets, kale, onions. In the warm seasons, you can grow heat loving plants like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers and provide ventilation on scorching days by opening the door(s) and rolling up/down the sides.
In February we will begin planting our cool-weather crops like : Carrots, spinach, lettuces, Asian greens, kale, onions, leeks, peas, strawberries. We’ll have a headstart on growing summer vegetables and will plant those in the spring in the protection of our high tunnel. I do believe we will grow things in the high tunnel year round. I will report back on that as the seasons pass One idea is to grow some herbs and heat-loving crops in pots in the main garden and then movethem to the high tunnel as the days grow shorter late summer. This will give us a month or more of harvest from plants that may otherwise stop producing in early fall.
What resources do you suggest for people who might like to grow in a high tunnel? Elliot Coleman is our favorite- he has written several books on the exciting topic of four-season gardening. I highly recommend any of his books for a bounty of ideas and inspiration. You do not have to have a large high tunnel to grow year-round. There are many ways to build inexpensive small structures for growing plenty of high quality food year round in any climate in the US.