Grow tunnel lets you grow veggies during winter in Western New York

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The temperature was in the teens this past weekend, but the vegetables in the grow tunnel at City Honors School in Buffalo are still going strong.

In this video, Caesandra Seawell, garden manager, shows us how the grow tunnel can extend the gardening season, allowing us to grow vegetables in autumn and winter in Western New York. She describes how the grow tunnel was constructed, and it seems pretty easy.

There have been some developments since we recorded the video Nov. 15.

First, the weather got really cold– It was down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Seawell said the broccoli, kale and cabbage are doing well. The chard, which is a little more tender, seems to have some damage at the edges, but there is new growth in the middle.

The grow tunnel is set in a windy spot and, despite changes that Seawell describes in the video, she is still dealing with wind problems. The clips that she uses to hold the plastic tarp to the PVC pipe stay in place on the corners but not on the arc, so wind gusts blow the tarp open. She is continuing to look for something that will work better.  The wood pieces that she nailed to the raised bed to keep the tarp from flying off are doing their job well.

Next year she may orient the wind tunnel differently or place it in a less windy spot in the garden.

To help keep the inside of the tunnel warmer, she created a wind block along one side of the tunnel (the windy side where she set bricks to help hold the plastic tarp in place). She snagged some bags of leaves that someone had set out at the curb and set the bags on top of the bricks. The leaves are in clear plastic bags; if they were in black plastic bags they might absorb and hold in even more heat, Seawell noted.

In the video, Seawell mentioned that she planted spinach and beet seeds in the grow tunnel in early November. Unfortunately, the seeds haven’t sprouted yet and may have died. The plants that are growing well were planted as seedlings this fall or were transplanted from other beds where they had been growing through the summer.

Another note: In the video, Seawell mentions cold frames. If you’re not familiar with them, take a look at this article that tells you what cold frames are and how to build one.

Last week Seawell showed us how to use autumn leaves to prolong the productivity of our herb gardens. Check out that video, too.

UPDATE: See how the plants fared through winter and spring. 

6 Comments on “Grow tunnel lets you grow veggies during winter in Western New York

  1. Hi Virginia, thanks for sharing how you created a grow tunnel for starting seeds over the summer. I’m glad you found this winter grow tunnel helpful. Let us know how you do.

  2. I created something like this to rapidly start some seeds over the summer. It worked great but because it was temporary I made a peaked frame and I didn’t use rebar. I used spring loaded clamps to hold the plastic on. It all worked fine for summer weather but winter is very different. I am going to try your very cool hoop greenhouse with rebar. This winter will be awesome! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  3. These are a good idea for our climate. They have them as poly tents at the farm I frequent. They are easy to construct, especially if you have a raise growing bed for the vegetables (like in the video).

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