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"High Tunnel Farming" Extends His Growing Season
Certified organic farmer Larry Patrick, Evans City, Penn., knew that plastic tunnels in fields could extend his growing season for fresh market vegetable crops, but he figured they would really pay off if he could use his tractor and field implements inside them.
Patrick's high tunnels are different from greenhouses in that they're not heated. But they are intended to be permanent structures in the field. The wood frames are covered by plastic that can be rolled up on the sides as the weather gets warmer.
He built two tunnels. One is 14 ft. wide. The other is 22 ft. wide. Both are 98 ft. long.
There are five purlins holding the ribs apart. The bottom ones on each side are 44 in. off the ground, which is 2 in. higher than the 42-in. tires on Patrick's Ford 3600 tractor.
He actually plows, disks, harrows or anything else needed right inside the tunnels. "With the tractor, I can have the soil worked and be ready to plant in just a few minutes, and most of the time is taken up in changing from one implement to another," he says. "It would take hours to work the area inside both tunnels with a tiller."
The tunnels allow him to put out lettuce and other salad greens earlier in the spring. And he can plant tomatoes around the end of June or early July and have fresh tomatoes to sell well into November.
To make the ribs, Patrick screws together 2 by 5/8-in. wood strips. That makes the ribs 1 1/4 in. thick when they're finished.
"I learned that if you put the screw heads on the inside, you can take them apart and repair them in place if you need to without having to remove the plastic."
Patrick says he'd be happy to discuss his ideas with anyone interested in high tunnel crop production.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Larry Patrick, 830 Brownsdale Road, Evans City, Pa. 16033 (ph 724 538-8440; E-mail: lpicarus@msn.com).

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2001 - Volume #25, Issue #5