University of Wyoming Extension News

Powell high tunnel field days demonstrate how to plan for, build high tunnels

Plants last year in one of the high tunnels at the Powell Research and Extension Center.

Those attending the two-day high tunnel workshop at the Powell Research and Extension Center will learn how to plan for a high tunnel and then can help build two.

The free sessions are Friday and Saturday, July 20-21, at 747 Road 9. RSVP is requested by Monday, July 16.

“High tunnels are useful tools to protect your crops from the elements while extending the growing season allowing us to provide better-quality food for ourselves,” said Jeff Edwards, UW Extension educator, who will oversee construction.

Events start 8 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday; both sessions include a complimentary lunch. Friday’s events conclude at 5 p.m. while Saturday’s conclude with lunch at noon.

On Friday, Edwards will direct construction of a Gothic-style high tunnel (straight sides) and a curved-style high tunnel; both will be 24 feet wide by 64 feet long.

“Anyone interested in high tunnel construction and production – or if you are a gardener or producer frustrated by Wyoming’s highly variable growing season and would like to have fresh tomatoes by July – a high tunnel is just for you,” he said.

On Saturday, participants will tour the center’s three high tunnels, learn how to prepare soil for an extended growing season, how to water crops in a high tunnel and how to apply for Wyoming Department of Agriculture grants to build a high tunnel.

There is also high interest in growing grapes in Wyoming, according to Sandra Frost, extension educator in Powell.

“Attendees will learn about cold-tolerant grape varieties and how to establish them in Wyoming,” said Frost.

High tunnels, also called hoop houses, can be built from commonly available materials (metal, wood or PVC) with no additional heating; high tunnels are covered with a plastic skin that traps the sun’s light and heat.

“High tunnels are designed to use solar gain to heat air and soil without expensive equipment,” said Frost. “High tunnels are being used by many producers who sell at farmers markets around the United States.”

High tunnels cost significantly less to build and maintain than greenhouses at about $3.50 per farmable square foot vs. greenhouses at about $200 per square foot just for construction, according to Edwards.

“They can be modified to fit in almost any space, from the “salad model” at 8 feet by 8 feet to “growing for the neighborhood” at 24 feet by 72 feet,” Edwards said.

Saturday’s events will also include presentations by Abdel Mesbah, Powell Research and Extension Center director; Axel Garcia y Garcia, assistant professor and irrigation specialist; Augustine Obour, research scientist in plant sciences; Sadanand Dhekney, assistant professor of plant sciences; Ted Craig from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture; and Kentz Willis, UW Extension educator.

Topics include:

·         Nutrition and food safety

·         Soil fertility management

·         Irrigation management

·         Grape production

·         Grants available for high tunnels

·         Vegetable nutrition

For more information and to RSVP for either or both days, contact Mesbah at (307) 754-2223, ext. 11, or by email at sabah@uwyo.edu; or Frost at (307) 754-8836 or sfrost1@uwyo.edu.