by Sanne Kure-Jensen
When most people see a greenhouse or high tunnel, they assume it is there to stay. In the case of Mike Roberts’ greenhouses (high tunnels) at Roots Farm in Tiverton, RI, that is not the case. Nearly 50 workshop volunteers moved two 50 by 30 ft. greenhouses in under 10 minutes during a hands-on NOFA/RI Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) Workshop called “Winter Growing with Movable Greenhouses.”
All winter, cold-hardy greens, leeks and root crops grow at Roots Farm in their unheated, moveable greenhouses and low tunnels. When the outdoor temperature drops, low tunnels can be set up inside the greenhouses with sturdy wire supports. Carrots, spinach and other greens are easy to harvest inside the greenhouses; cool temperatures make these crops sweet and delicious.
In early spring, new vegetables get a head start inside the greenhouses and low tunnels. When the weather warms, the greenhouses will be rolled aside to cover other plots through the summer growing season. During late spring, extra heat can speed crop growth and yield earlier harvests for tomatoes, peppers and melons.
Why a Moveable Greenhouse?
Roots Farm has one of the few movable greenhouses in Rhode Island. Because the greenhouses move on rollers, the Roberts can move their greenhouse with as few as six people. Disconnecting the anchors ahead of time and securing the anchors in the new location takes a couple of hours.
The Roberts’ two greenhouses are moved at least twice a year. The subsequent crop rotation across six 50 by 30 ft. plots greatly reduced disease pressures (three plots for each greenhouse). They see healthier tomatoes in their greenhouses than those grown outdoors. Rain and wet leaves do not generate fungal problems for tomatoes grown inside. The extra heat in the green house shortens the days to harvest and extends harvests well into the fall.
The greenhouse rolls on heavy-duty wheels with bearings under each set of hoops. The base of each hoop is attached to a specially designed ground post. The wheels roll on a permanent rail (pipe) on top of a weed barrier. The rails are two or more times the length of the greenhouse depending on how many plots the farmer wants to rotate over.
Just two people can roll small moveable greenhouses. Larger greenhouses may need to be pulled by tractors.
Learn about Roots Farm at www.roots-farm.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 401-816-5590.
The Roots Farm workshop was one of nine Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) Workshops in 2013. Rhode Island organic farmers shared their expertise with other farmers, farm workers, apprentices, gardeners and consumers. CRAFT workshops are organized by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Rhode Island (NOFA/RI) and funded through a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture. For a schedule of future workshops and other NOFA/RI events, see http://nofari.org/events/our-events
Movable high tunnel essential for this year-round organic grower
by Sanne Kure-Jensen