Extending the Season with Low Tunnels

Weather: Cloudy with scattered snow flurries; High 30°F, Low 21°F

With conversation, observation, and experimentation we continue to develop our understanding of the low tunnel on raised garden beds in southwest Ohio. Our initial thoughts were to harvest our fall crops and then replant fall seeds under the low tunnels in late November or December and grow new plants throughout the winter. However, we have since realized that we forgot to take into account the need for germinating seeds to be above 50°F (10°C). Our thin fabric row cover won’t be able to provide those conditions…sigh…lessons being learned!

Thus, we believe the role of the tunnel will be to extend the season three to four weeks. This creates several opportunities; seeds can be planted later in the summer season rather than having to rush planting at the beginning of the school year in August. In addition to a flexible planting period, by extending the season low tunnels increase opportunities for multiple harvests and for successional planting throughout the fall season.

Low tunnels can also provide protection to plants that have reached maturity in late fall. Ideally, by protecting mature plants with row cover will result in a “holding pattern” in which growing is slowed during the coldest months, but resumes with the warmer temperatures and longer daylight. This could create opportunity for a late winter/early spring harvest before spring planting. This will help create a more nutrient rich soil!

This is definitely a learning process and we look forward to continuing to share our challenges and triumphs with you. We’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions, questions or comments for us. Please contact us at youtheducation@civicgardencenter.org

Low tunnel protecting our plants from snow!


Happy plants!


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