The System First of all let me explain to you the system of which we are talking about. Low tunnels are simply galvanized wire or pvc pipe anchored in the ground, for a frame. Over it a piece of plastic, floating row cover or shade cloth is used as protection from the elements or from pests. Underneath the frame plastic mulch may be used as well. And of course, let’s not forget the babies that you are protecting.
Low Tunnels in Texas are you crazy? Many people have misconceptions that low tunnels are only used in the north and are not really needed here. Let me explain to you why farmers and gardeners all over the country including Texas are using low tunnels.
Granted, where I come from we have these every where to keep the frost off of the vegetables. But you must remember that the same frost will cause blemishes on vegetables no matter where you are and that is money in the farmers pocket. A low tunnel can mean the difference of two to five degrees, and that can save a crop. It may also mean that you may be able to get a crop such as tomatoes, squash or cucumbers in the ground earlier and have an earlier harvest. This will help beat the heat, by getting a jump on the season,with production in the long run as well. The low tunnels help to heat the soil up a few degrees more in the spring. That may mean that a certain crop may get in the ground up to two weeks earlier. And used the same way to protect from frost in the fall. This can extend your growing season a whole month.
Protection from Insects
I know it has been cold and rainy, but put your thinking caps on and remember the problems that you had in the previous years with cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Low houses offer a sturdy frame for floating row covers to protect you from these insects and others. You just remove the row covers at bloom time, so the plants can get pollinated. The great thing is that you can get into your beds and it is not a problem, as everything is so neat and contained. There is plenty of room for the plants to grow and the low tunnels handle major wind storms.
Protection from the Sun
All you have to do is throw some shade cloth on your low tunnel and you have a sanctuary from the sun for your garden. Use 40-60% shade cloth.
Protection from Rain
When it is raining cats and dogs you can cover your garden back up with the plastic you used in the spring. It will block out some of that rain so your garden won’t be a soggy mess.
Just think how versatile low tunnels are, they have transitioned you through three seasons and are ready for more! They can be worth the initial investment to a farmer or gardener in many ways.
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