[Market-farming] Hi Tunnel innovations

Etienne Goyer etienne at lejardinduvillage.ca
Mon Jan 18 09:14:22 EST 2016

Hi Bill,

I am aiming to grow 12 months a year here too.  I'm located up north in
Québec, 48N latitude, monthly average -12C in January with minima of
-30C.  It's cold.  Not Alaska-cold, but still, very cold.  I have three
structure: a small 16x32 double poly, a larger single poly 20x100, and a
propane-heated 30x100 double poly.  The last one is used for treillised
crops (cucumber and tomatoes) during the summer.  I had overwintered
kale and spinach, and I am doing late (December) and early (April) crop
of lettuce and bok choi.  In fact, the winter having been pretty mild
here so far, I have harvested the last lettuce from 2015 just last week.
 That was ... unexpected.

I presume you are already familiar with the reports there:


That's a lots of excellent information.  I don't agree with everything
in there, and some of the experience are actually contradicting, but it
worth your time to go over for sure.

Double poly, as far as I can tell, is an absolute must for winter
growing.  It makes a huge difference here.  This is counter-intuitive,
as the double layer is supposed to allow less light in, but overall, the
daily average stay higher.  Also, it shed snow better and I think it is
more resistant to high wind.  For sure, my single poly hoophouse will be
converted to double as soon as the covering is to be changed.

The two things I regret not doing when I built my largest greenhouse is
perimeter insulation and ground heat.  It would have added a couple
thousands $$$ to the construction cost, but I have no doubt winter
growth would have been much better.  I am still unsure about the most
cost-effective way to provide bottom heat.  It is something I am
thinking about these days.

Regarding row cover, I am not sure.  It's a lot of labor cover/uncover
daily, which I would rather do without during the winter.  Spinach and
kale survive just fine without it, so the benefit is strictly to get a
better growth during the coldest months, which I have not verified.  The
less hardy crops such as lettuce and bok choi positively need it, though.

Anyway, good luck with your project, Bill.  The potential for winter
growing is, IMHO, very good.


On 16-01-18 08:21 AM, Shoemaker, William H wrote:
> Thought I'd share this to stimulate the list a bit. Seems like its been
> pretty dormant this winter.
> I first learned about tunnels for growing crops about 20 years ago,
> through the academic community I was part of, especially New Hampshire.
> I built my first one in 1998 and it changed my perspective on market
> farming enormously. Since then, tunnels have become well-established on
> market farms all over the world. I suspect almost all subscribers to
> this list who actually run or work on a market farm have at least one
> tunnel for growing crops. One of the great things that seemed to happen
> after growers began to use them was innovation. Growers had great ideas
> for how to adjust management of tunnels, or even make changes to the
> tunnel itself to better position themselves for success in the market.
> Keeping in mind that everyone has a unique market, I'm curious if anyone
> would like to share an innovation they adopted, or created, that gave
> them an advantage in their market.
> While I'm not growing commercially, yet, I expect to. I'm selling my
> house and will look for a property where we can set ourselves up for
> sustainable living and a market farming operation. I'll be 64 in a few
> months but I'm in very good physical condition and will be looking to
> benefit from the work involved. However, at least one of my sons wants
> to be involved as well, so I'll be able to pace myself. But I want to be
> able to have product in the marketplace 12 months/year. I think that
> will have a great benefit to the business. So I intend to use row covers
> inside the tunnels to keep the crops thriving during the colder times of
> the year. I really like the design John Berbaum at Michigan State was
> advocating a few years ago, where he had the cover suspended above the
> crops and drawn from one side of the tunnel across a pipe framework that
> held it up. He could use twine to pull the whole piece of row cover
> uniformly across the crop, or back into the side. This reduced effort
> and time to use the cover, and improved the crop at the same time.
> That's my contribution. Anyone have other ideas that improved their
> tunnel operation?
> Bill
> *William H. Shoemaker *
> /Retired fruit and vegetable horticulturist/
> /University of Illinois/
> wshoemak at illinois.edu <mailto:wshoemak at illinois.edu>
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Etienne Goyer  -  Le Jardin du Village

"Changer le monde, une carotte à la fois"

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