Caterpillar tunnels that is!
One inexpensive way to extend your growing season, whether it be vegetables or flowers, is by building a caterpillar tunnel in the fall.
Our winters can be a little on the bipolar side, with some nights dipping down to 0 degrees and the days barely reaching 20 degrees and then we can have crazy weeks that reach the 60's if not higher during the daytime high.
By planting seeds in the fall you can give them a jump start on life so they can establish their root system before winter sets in. Some flowers love cold weather but need the extra protection to make it through the cold months so adding a layer or two of floating row cover in addition to the caterpillar tunnel can give you a reward of having blooms several weeks earlier in the spring.
This year we jumped from two tunnels to five and I might add that we were very late getting them up. While I am pretty certain that everything I had planted in October and November is still okay, it will be interesting to see if anything doesn't make it because we did have some pretty cold nights over the last few weeks.
I was first introduced to these by Jenny Love and she was gracious enough to give the class detailed instructions on how to build them. There are YouTube videos out there as well. The basic idea is that we drive stakes into the ground every so many feet and bend galvanized steel into a hoop to fit over them. Next we place stakes at each end and attach an anchor from the end hoops to the stakes. We then cover it with green house plastic, tie that off onto the last stake. We also run tomato twine in a zig zag fashion over the tops and anchor the sides down with heavy rocks. It gets really really windy where we live so tying it down and using the rocks are a must.
This year Clint and I tweaked a few things so we'll see if we like what we've changed or not but so far so good. We have also decided that while we will not be putting the plastic on in October as soon as the beds are prepped and planted all of the hoops and supports are going up while there is still warmth in the air! Waiting until December means you are fighting against wind, freezing temperatures, wind, frozen fingers and toes, wind, fighting with your spouse because you're both miserable and oh and did I mention wind? Even under these jolly good conditions each tunnel takes us approximately 30 minutes to get the plastic on once the hoops and anchors are in place.
If you have any interest in growing vegetables or flowers to have an earlier crop in the spring these are a great asset.
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!