Tunnel Vision

Some women pine for a Birken bag, or long for a pair of Louboutins.

I, on the other hand, want a hoop house.

Also known as a high tunnel, or unheated greenhouse, a hoop house is a key tool for extending the growing season. It’s virtually a necessity for the proper cultivation of certain flowers, such as sweet peas, that need months of sunny but cool temperatures to develop the long stems needed for a cut flower. Here in Virginia, those conditions exist for, oh, about five minutes; by the time the hard frosts and harsh winter winds subside, it can be just a few short weeks before sweltering temperatures and humidity hit. A high tunnel solves that problem, enabling the flower farmer to create the perfect conditions for cool season flowers as early as January or February. Then, at the end of the growing season, the tunnels protect those plants that would otherwise succumb to even a touch of frost – such as celosia or zinnias – extending the season for heat-loving plants by weeks, if not months. It can make the difference between having flowers for Thanksgiving, or not.

High tunnels aren’t prohibitively expensive, and there are federal grants that make building them within reach for almost any farmer. So cost isn’t the issue. What is? Well, let’s come back to that…

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