My aunt’s garden, with high tunnel
I visited a very serious vegetable gardener this weekend, my Aunt Marl, who owns a 380-cow dairy operation in Lowville, NY with her son Bernie. She mostly likes to argue politics when I visit, and she’s both very smart and very far right, so I frequently found myself getting so heated I’d have to take off my sweater.
The one piece of political wisdom I came away with is the fact that it’s crazy to do vegetables in upstate New York without a greenhouse.
My aunt’s greenhouse is a very simple high tunnel or hoop house–nothing but a metal frame with a plastic covering that cost $700. No heat, no fancy automatic openers. Just plastic film and dirt. The greenhouse in the picture is new, and my aunt complains that it’s too big.
Riot of tomatoes in my aunt’s greenhouse
I would like a high tunnel. I’d like to actually harvest watermelons off the vines I plant some time. I’d like to eat tomatoes before mid-August. I’d like to try that Eliot Coleman Four-Season Harvest trick of covering tough greens in a high tunnel with a second layer of protection–and eat a fresh salad in January.
I’d be willing to find $700 for one. At the height of the growing season, my grocery bill declines by more than $100 a week, so clearly, it would pay for itself, and fast.
The people at Grower’s Supply are smart enough to have sniffed me out as a potential customer and send me a catalog regularly. There are a few problems, however.
- Too many choices for the uninitiated. The harder I study the catalog, the more uncertain I get.
- I am not mechanically inclined and am completely intimidated by the idea of putting one of these together.
- What to do about the ends of the tunnel is puzzling. I noticed that my aunt’s ends were simply covered in plastic and a simple door is just inserted in the middle.
There’s really a marketing opportunity here–the beginner high tunnel. If somebody would just tell me what to buy, I’d do it.