Spring has Sprung… in the Juniper Gardens High Tunnel!

Posted on April 16, 2024 by Alicia Alferman

After every long, drab, Midwest winter, spring always comes early to the high tunnel at Juniper Gardens. The high tunnel (different from a greenhouse, which is a permanent, temperature-controlled structure) extends the growing season into February. Farmers and staff are able to start seedlings under the shelter of the high tunnel long before the outside sun and wind have warmed the ground enough to germinate seeds sown directly in the earth. 

Careful attention is paid to the forecast, as temperatures can fluctuate wildly with the rising and setting of the sun. Temperatures outside might hover around freezing, but the temperature inside the high tunnel may exceed 70 degrees! It’s easy to get comfortable in the warmth and inadvertently let the delicate new seedlings dry out. Conversely, night temperatures in a high tunnel can easily sink to match outside temperatures. If the forecast includes frosty conditions, supplementary heat will be added in the form of electric and propane heaters, just until the sun returns to do its lovely, warming work.

As the days lengthen, seedlings grow faster and stronger. Eventually they’re moved outside to adjust to the direct sunlight for about a week, at which time they’re ready for planting! Transplanting the seedlings is a lengthy task, and one of the most rewarding of the entire farming process. Several times a year, lucky volunteers are able to help get fresh young seedlings established in ready garden beds.

If you’re ready to get your hands dirty and your spirits lifted, come work with us!