Expanding our Greenhouse Production
The latest addition to the Farm at Millican Reserve is […]
The latest addition to the Farm at Millican Reserve is our new caterpillar tunnel. We spent a couple of days putting this modular greenhouse together, and we’re pretty excited about what it means for our farm. As you can see from the pictures, a caterpillar tunnel is a tubular steel structure that’s fixed into to place with simple ground anchors. It comes with two different covers: both UV resistant plastic and shade cloth. The plastic cover is used to raise temperatures within the space during colder months while the shade cloth does the opposite during the warmer months.
What’s the big deal? A tunnel?
We can get some crazy weather extremes in the Brazos Valley. Our caterpillar tunnel is a passive way to control the growing environment: no heaters or fans are needed to improve temperature stability and extend our growing season. We’ll start growing earlier and continue later while protecting our nursery plants from the elements. In the winter months, for example, the plastic cover will trap the heat in and keep the temperature above freezing on cold nights. The plastic is so good at trapping the heat, temperatures within the tunnel can get up to 110 degrees Farenheit on a 75-degree day! And now that our 100-foot tunnel is protecting our crops, we’ve got a head start on our summer plants too, with seedlings of crops like peppers, eggplant, okra, cucumbers, and squash keeping warm and cozy inside.
Around May, we’ll change out the plastic for shade cloth. The cloth will help us protect heat-sensitive plants like tomatoes and cucumbers from our hot summer days. With shade cloth we should be able to have tomatoes and other crops for up to an additional month.
Here’s a look at how our tunnel went up:
What are we most excited about?
Our new nursery! When you have good seeds you can produce good transplants and crops … under the right conditions. Our new tunnel will dramatically help this process at our farm. Our baby seedlings will no longer get super-saturated whenever it rains. And when it’s hot, we’ll no longer need to water them twice a day. Even the wind won’t be as much of a factor anymore: in the past we’ve had trays of seedlings fly off our tables when a good gust comes around! Farming isn’t easy, and our Texas weather can be unpredictable, but our new tunnel will help us be more efficient in introducing new crops to the field..
Here are a few more pictures from the recent build. If you’d like to come see the tunnel in person, be sure to sign up for our next Farm Tour on Earth Day (April 22)!
Our first round of crops are already in the tunnel!
Thanks for supporting our farm, either as a CSA subscriber or by visiting us at the market! Haven’t heard our CSA? Learn more about it here.
We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about our farm’s latest addition.
– Farmer Kenny