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Homesteading with a Hoop House

Homesteaders who want to augment their income by selling crops must figure out how to lengthen the growing season in their Hardiness Zone. If your growing season is only twenty weeks long, making the majority of your income from your garden will be difficult. If you could prolong your growing season by at least 10 weeks, gardening for profit would be a lot easier. Fortunately, a high tunnel can let you do just that.

A high tunnel, also known as a hoop house or hoop tunnel, is a semi-permanent construction that extends the growing season, allowing planting to begin at least four weeks earlier in the spring and continue at least six weeks later in the fall. You can start planting even sooner if you cover your soil with plastic. The daytime temperature inside a high tunnel is 30-50 degrees warmer than the outside temperature on a sunny day. Seed germination and plant growth are accelerated as a result of the temperature. It also allows you to harvest cold-hardy veggies all year, allowing you to farm all year.

There are numerous types of high tunnels to pick from, but a tall-sided tunnel will provide you with extra workspace and sufficient ventilation. Choose a tunnel with a peak if you live in an area where there is a lot of snow to avoid collapse during a heavy snowfall.To keep your plants from overheating and steaming, pick a high tunnel with walls that can easily be rolled up on hot days. Consider adding small, portable heaters that can be turned on during the coldest weather if your area endures extreme cold for long periods of time.

When choosing a high tunnel, one of the most crucial factors to consider is how you will get water to your plants. You’ll need to decide on an irrigation system because they won’t get any rain. The ideal situation would be to capture any rain that falls on the high tunnel and use it to water the plants. Because research into how to achieve this efficiently is still ongoing, it is not included in most kits. Drip irrigation is the recommended system, and it provides a number of benefits. First, because the water is provided directly to the root zone, there is minimal water waste. Second, because a drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the roots, it reduces the risk of some fungal infections and crop water damage. Finally, a drip system allows you to administer fertiliser to your crops on an as-needed basis by injecting it directly into the system.

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    The season extension is the most obvious benefit of planting in a high tunnel, but it isn’t the only one to consider. Extreme weather occurrences such as strong winds, heavy rain, snow, and drought are all protected by high tunnels. They help protect young and vulnerable plants from overheating and sunburn.

    Pests, illnesses, and weeds are all kept at bay by using high tunnels. Additional pest protection can be obtained by using row coverings or installing bug screens along the sidewalls and openings. Sound cleanliness, combined with other good gardening techniques like crop monitoring and crop rotation, is always the best control for disease prevention. Weeds can be controlled by laying down a thick layer of straw between rows and around individual plants.

    When it comes to pollinating your plants, the protection that high tunnels provide can be a problem. Some plants are self-fertile, however even they will produce more if pollinators are present. If you haven’t placed an insect screen, pollinators will be able to enter the high tunnel when the sidewalls are pulled up. Plant a flowering cover crop around the building to attract pollinators. You can also incorporate beehives around the structure if you’re so inclined.

    It is critical, as with any homestead project, to do everything possible to maximise the use of your high tunnel. How you plan to maximise the space within and around the high tunnel is a crucial consideration. Without utilising your space through succession planting and intercropping, maintaining continuous output will be impossible. There are three methods for planting in succession. Simply by using these methods, your productivity will skyrocket. The most simple succession planting technique is the first. After a crop is harvested, plant a new crop right away. This is typically done after harvesting a cool-season crop and then planting a warm-season crop. Second, space out the planting of the same crop at different times so that they mature at separate times. This method works well with fast-growing crops like radishes, carrots, and greens. Finally, to lengthen the harvest, grow varieties of the same crop with varied maturity dates at the same time. Plant early, mid, and late maturing tomatoes, for example, to harvest between early June and late September.

    Planting smaller crops beneath larger ones is known as intercropping. Mid-sized crops like kale and Swiss chard can be sown alongside root crops. Around larger crops like broccoli and tomatoes, leafy greens, dwarf pepper plants, and herbs can be planted. Not only will this boost your garden’s variety and productivity, but taller plants will also provide heat protection for smaller plants, and it will be a terrific opportunity to practise companion planting.

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    Vertical gardening is another approach to enhance the development potential of your high tunnel. You’re wasting a lot of space if you’re only using the ground level. You can purchase vertical gardening kits to attach to the tunnel, or you can save money and make your own. Vertical gardening is becoming increasingly popular, and there are numerous resources available to help you get started. Consider including a seed germination space if you don’t want to add a vertical aspect to your high tunnel. The warmer temperature inside the high tunnel speeds up the germination process, and if you’re doing succession planting, you’ll constantly need plants ready to plant.

    Although building a high tunnel may seem like a lot of labour and money, the benefits to a homesteader who relies on their garden for revenue are immense. Gardening in a high tunnel produces a greater output and yield due to the longer growing season, faster growth, and increased production. Customers like the ability to be first to market with farm-fresh goods, which keeps them coming back. Customers can get the food they desire from a local grower when it’s not in season, which costs a higher price.

    High tunnel gardening is an efficient way to cultivate a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and flowers all year round. A high tunnel is a great investment whether you want to sell your produce as a significant source of revenue or want to feed your friends and family food that you feel good about.