Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
High atop a hillside overlooking the Holden farm, you get a great view of a diverse nursery operation. Down below, the owners are growing traditional landscaping items, but also delicious vegetables and fruits. Much of the work happens indoors, but this is no ordinary greenhouse. The nursery uses 'high tunnels' where warm air stays above the plants to promote growth.
Kim Holden (Holden's Nursery)
“The height of the tunnel, the high tunnel, it keeps the heat up, away from the plants. It’s a fairly simple concept, but it works really well for natural ventilation.”
Kim Holden has tow high tunnels, each about twenty feet tall. In the winter months, the ends are closed off. But meantime, these tunnels give him a jump on the competition. He can grow just about any crop any time he wants.
“The high tunnel idea is much better. You can grow in July and August, which before you could not do any viable production. Those carrots in there – they don’t know what month it is? No, they really don’t.”
Holden has worked with UT Extension to improve his nursery. Part of that plan included the decision four years agot to try high tunnels, a move agents say is smart business.
David Vandergriff (UT Extension - Knox County)
'High tunnels extend the season. You can be earlier in the spring. You can be later in the fall. It's basically an unheated greenhouse. But your growing in the ground, not in a container.'
High tunnels offer a hybrid of open field and standard greenhouse production. And with so much control over the elements, crops grown under high tunnels often have a greater yield in terms of quality and quantity. High tunnels give growers protection from high winds and storms. Another advantage for crops grown under high tunnels, there's never too much rainwater, which can lead to pest and week problems and plant diseases.
'They can help to control diseases because you can keep the foliage from being wet. A lot of our fungal diseases in particular are caused from moisture on the leaves.'
For specialty crop producers, loot to see more high tunnel production in the future. Experts say there's no need for a fear of heights, and if you're looking to grow crops at all times of year, aim high.
Of Note: The Holden nursery in Knox County also uses solar panels to collect sunlight and uses that power to grow crops.