Quick Hoops Low Tunnel Greenhouse

Brother Harold follows up on his previous post with innovative uses for Quick Hoops – APB

Quick Hoops low tunnels are proving to be very versatile. In our last post we discussed using them for pest control, specifically squash vine borer (SVB), but they can also be used for season extension, and in this case, can be pressed into service as an expedient greenhouse.

First, an update on using them to control SVB – I give them a B+. I did trap several SVB’s while the vines were young and vulnerable, but covered, so I believe the low tunnel covered with Agribon was effective at helping reduce the initial SVB pressure at the beginning of the season. However, as the weeks wore on, the squash vines became so enormous that they literally pushed the Agribon off the hoops and looked as if they were about to bust the fabric open. My initial idea of hand-pollination until the SVB lifecycle was over was simply not feasible. When I finally “released” the squash vines, they exploded out of the tunnel. The vines had started twining up the hoops and needed to be gently unraveled. As of last week, I’m still trapping a few SVB, but the vines are so well established at this point that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that damage will be minimal. I can’t even crawl in there to find the main vines, much less check them. I’ve been very pleased with the SVB trap, which has caught 7-10 adult moths over the season (1 adult can lay hundreds of eggs, enough to destroy an entire field). In the future I will rely on the SVB trap as my primary method of control. The Agribon low tunnels will be good insurance at the beginning of the season while the plants are young, and the vines have not yet set their own roots, but I think overall the low tunnel impact on SVB is negligible.

So on to using Quick Hoops as a greenhouse.

GreenhouseIn August? What’s up with that? 

 

Well, thanks to climate “change”, our weather patterns were erratic this year (like every year in New England) – we had two 90°+ weeks, but then it got unseasonably cool, almost Fall-ish, with night-time temps in the low 50°’s and day-time temps barely breaking 70°. While this is great for humans, it’s not great for heat-loving plants, specifically Sweet Potato. Sweet Potato needs heat, more than light and water, to grow and set tubers. As of this week, we are about 150 degree-days below average, which translates into about 8-10 average August days. On a garden time-scale, this is a big chunk of time (and heat) to make up before the season is over. I started to get concerned I would not capture enough heat this season for a good, fully-developed crop of sweet potatoes. So I decided to put a greenhouse up over one of my rows using a Quick Hoops low tunnel and some painter’s 8-mil drop cloth. The plastic is what I had on hand. It’s thicker and more opaque than a good greenhouse film, but works very well to trap the heat inside.

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Pictured below is early morning after the sun had risen high enough to catch the tunnel for about an hour. You can see the temperature differential inside the tunnel is substantial. I’ve been venting the tunnel during the day, opening it before I leave for work, and closing it when I come home. This keeps more heat inside overnight, but doesn’t roast the tunnel mid-day. Actually, one Saturday I forgot to open it in the morning and when I remembered at about 2:00PM, the temp inside the tunnel had climbed to 115°. When I opened the tunnel it was like opening an oven. I don’t know enough about sweet potato to know if that is too hot, but the plants actually seemed happy.

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Below is the tunnel, vented. The Quick Hoops make it easy to open and close the tunnel and the sweet potatoes seem to have really taken off since I covered them. I have another row of sweet potatoes that I haven’t covered. At the end of the season I will post an update comparing the yield of the covered vs uncovered rows.IMG_0749

In conclusion: Johnny’s Quick Hoops Bender – best garden investment so far (besides the fence).

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