Epic Low Tunnel Failure

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We have had a major fail on the farm.

This fall we decided to invest in a low tunnel hoop bender and then used the bender to bend electrical conduit into low tunnel hoops. We also ordered one frost cover. When we started forming the low tunnels using our new bender, we were thrilled. The bender worked great, and we planned on ordering different sizes.

We mounted the bender to an old, wooden, shipping crate that we found in a shed. Making the hoops went really fast, and they turned out perfect. We were hoping to use the hoops with the frost cover to extend the growing season at the farm. We used ten-foot electrical conduit to make hoops that were about four feet tall, and we used those to cover our Brussel sprouts. We used five-foot conduit to make a tunnel about two and a half feet tall; this size we used over our broccoli plants. The tunnels worked well, and the plants did great under them. We wired our hoops to fence posts we had driven into the ground, and we will try wooden boards next time.

Then, we covered the hoops with our frost cover and lined the sides with our many rocks to hold the frost cover in place. It all looked so good, and we were very happy with our work. Then Mother Nature showed up with rain and high winds. The next morning, we found out that one of our frost covers had blown over. Well, blown might be an understatement. The cover over the Brussel sprouts had been knocked completely over, hoops and all, only the rocks had kept the frost cover from being carried into the next county.

Our farm is in a valley between the mountains, and the valley acts like a wind tunnel. The four-foot tall cover that blew over was facing sideways, with the long side taking the wind full force. We decided to take down this cover so that it didn’t blow over again. The frost cover that didn’t blow over was facing into the wind and was only about two feet tall. We didn’t stick the hoops too far in the ground because we knew we would take them up, but we thought we had them deep enough to resist the wind. We were obviously wrong.

We will keep you updated on how the uncovered Brussel sprouts do in the cold. We are going to use our hoops to grow earlier in the spring. We are going to work with Mother Nature and line up our tunnels differently next time. We have learned a lot.

If you use low tunnels, please let us know how you anchor them to the ground. We ordered our bender from a company called Build My Own Greenhouse. We were very happy with this company and will continue to order from them. They also sell greenhouse supplies. We hope we will soon be able to build a greenhouse.