High Tunnel Construction

by Zoë Abram

This season, we’ve been constructing a second high tunnel which we’ll use to do more extended season growing. We bought the skeleton of this high tunnel used from a grower who was selling equipment in the process of moving their farm. We began this project in the spring, put it on hold during the busy months of this growing season, and resumed construction a few weeks ago.  This project has been keeping us busy for some time!

A quick run-down on the process… We began in early spring. I remember my first weeks working here, I practiced paying attention to detail as we pounded posts into the ground and tried to level and straighten and align them. We then inserted the hoops into these ground posts and drilled holes and bolted together.  We then secured purlins to  connect the upper part of the curved hoops that form a series of archways. We added baseboards and hip boards next, using untreated wood for the baseboards because it comes in contact with the soil where we will grow food. Finally, on wetter days this fall we’ve spent time building the wooden end walls of the tunnel, constructing and hanging doors and painting on a waterproofing finish. We’ve even put on the track for the “wiggle” wire that will secure the plastic tight to the end walls.  Now we are just waiting for a calm morning to “skin” the tunnel.

This project has not been without challenges, though many of them make us laugh. Learning to hang doors (how tightly but-not-too-tightly a door should fit in the frame) has been a challenging experience with lots of fine-tuning and trials and adjustments. The rechargeable drill batteries go dead, a lot. We’ve broken several (4) drill bits while drilling through the metal posts. Sometimes the customer service representatives at Lowes don’t quite know what to make of us when we are trying to find things.

One of the best parts of this construction project was that we’ve had willing and knowledgeable help! We’ve had a work share come out multiple days on some weeks, bringing his tools to supplement ours. He taught us how to use saws I’d never seen before and he shared with us how plywood is made. Now I can’t help but see the patterns in the outer plys, where the knots repeat themselves as the ply was shaved from the circumference of the tree.   We also “roped” a board member in to helping; she had lots of greenhouse experience to share, and laughter and lunch too. Now the project is nearing completion; soon we’ll be able to grow food during the colder months. Today Theresa rototilled inside the frame, and so we’re one step closer to being ready to plant!

Please come welcome the high tunnel (it appreciates “oohs” and “aahs”) at the garlic planting party on Sunday October 23, from 12-4.

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2 comments
  1. Jeremy said:

    Hello. I’m in the process of constructing a high tunnel. I’ve driven in my ground posts, and although they are in a straight line, they are pointing slightly different angles. You mentioned straightening out your ground posts in this blog… do you have any tips for how to accomplish that?

    • cfcsa said:

      Hello Jeremy. We used a small level placed on the side of the ground post to determine which way we needed to shift them, checking from different angles. Then we tapped them on the side using our small sledge hammer checking with the level until they were straight upright.

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