A few years ago I was approached with an offer to receive a no-cost greenhouse via the NRCS. I thought at the time, “why not?” and applied for a 30’ X 90’ one and started making plans accordingly. A few weeks later I got a letter stating that I wasn’t high on their priority list for receiving a greenhouse.
Well go figure.
So then I got to thinking I wasn’t really sure I wanted a huge greenhouse structure in my backyard nor, quite frankly, the work and maintenance that would come with it. I was also thinking that if the darn thing caved in under the snow load, like many have in this area, I wouldn’t be out as much. So I started thinking about a simpler solution to extend our short season.
Lo and behold I came across an article in Mother Earth News about a “Moveable Modular Cathedral Tunnel.” The MMCT, is the brainchild of Eliot Coleman, a man who lives up in Maine and has never let a short season, or even a brutal winter, stop him from gardening. So in order to see what all the hubbub was about hoophouse and high tunnel gardening I started building the MMCT from the plans I downloaded from the Internet.
The MMCT is fashioned out of 10’ long EMT conduit (approx. cost, $10 ea.), bent into curved pipes using Johnny’s Selected Seed’s pole bender (approx. cost $50). It took 15 of these pipes and some top rail pipe for the framing. I bought enough greenhouse film to cover three of these modular units at an approximate cost of $200. Assorted bolts, screws and nuts added another $20 or so to the cost. I also needed to purchase plastic clamps to attach the plastic to the pipes at a cost of about $75. Total cost for one 12’ by 10’ hoophouse was less than $400. I ended up building two of these units joined at the end for a 12’ by 20’ hoophouse, or high tunnel, if you prefer. Incidentally, you can make it as long as you want by simply adding more sections.
The thing I like about the MMCT is the size and the fact it is moveable. In time insects and disease will become a problem in the soil. When that time comes it’s simply “adios flea beadles!” With the help of another person I can move the dang thing. Or maybe you’re just tired of seeing it in the same spot. Just move it like you would rearrange the furniture in your living room.
I didn’t get it all set up and ready to go until the last week of May. And I still have to add “doors” to each end, which will consist of greenhouse covering material attached to kind of a swing arm fashioned out of the EMT tubing.
So this season I’m growing a few tomatoes, cucumbers and a watermelon inside it. You might say I’m taking it for a test drive. Eventually, I’d like to grow some lettuces into the fall and maybe even through the winter. And I can’t wait to get an early start in the spring!
Hoophouse and greenhouse growing isn’t rocket science, but it’s a little different than growing straight into the ground. Stay tuned and I’ll share my trials and tribulations, and hopefully a few success stories!