Is A High Tunnel Greenhouse Your Best Option?

A high tunnel greenhouse might be a great option for you if you’re interested in extending your growing season or even producing plants all year long. High tunnels are a relatively new greenhouse design.  They were originally used to store tractors and other equipment. Then farmers realized they were also great greenhouses.

High tunnels are becoming increasingly popular among small-scale farmers and gardeners. They are easy to build and maintain, and they offer a number of benefits over traditional field growing. With a high tunnel, you can grow a wider variety of crops and increase your yields. You’ll also have more control over your growing environment, which means you can optimize conditions to maximize plant growth and health.

High Tunnel Greenhouse Basics

High tunnel greenhouses are simple, versatile, cost-effective structures that can extend your growing season and increase annual plant yields. You can use either raised beds or plant in the ground.

A high tunnel greenhouse is a type of hoop house made of a metal or PVC frame covered with a layer of polyethylene plastic. The plastic cover allows sunlight to enter and traps heat inside, creating a warm and humid environment that is ideal for growing plants. It can also be completely or partially removed to expose your crops to the outside environment during the summer.

Like other greenhouse designs, a high tunnel greenhouse  can be used to grow  vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, and other crops. You can also control the temperature, humidity, and ventilation inside the greenhouse, which allows you to create the ideal growing conditions for your plants.

One of the biggest advantages of a high tunnel greenhouse is that it is relatively easy to construct and maintain. You can assemble most of them with basic tools and no previous experience. Additionally, the plastic cover can be easily replaced if it becomes damaged or worn out.

Another huge advantage is that high tunnel greenhouses are less expensive than polycarbonate or glass greenhouses. If you want the greatest bang for your buck, this is definitely the way to go.

Types of High Tunnel Greenhouses

When it comes to high tunnel greenhouses, there are two basic types to choose from. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to choose the right one for your needs.


Quonset greenhouses are named after their shape, which resembles a half-circle. They are made of metal pipes that are bent into the desired shape and covered with plastic. Quonset greenhouses are easy to assemble and disassemble, making them a good choice for those who need to move their greenhouse frequently. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to other types of high tunnel greenhouses. However, their shape can make it difficult to use the full width of the greenhouse, and they may not be as sturdy as other types.


Gothic greenhouses have a pointed arch shape that provides more headroom than Quonset greenhouses and may do a better job of shedding snow. They are also more aesthetically pleasing and can be a good choice for those who want their greenhouse to blend in with their surroundings. Gothic greenhouses are usually made of metal pipes or wood and covered with plastic. They may be more expensive than Quonset greenhouses but are generally sturdier and provide more headroom.

Pros and Cons of  a High Tunnel Greenhouse

High Tunnel Greenhouse Pros

  • Budget Friendly: With a high tunnel, you get more growing space per dollar.
  • Flexibility: You can remove the plastic or roll up the sides to turn it into outdoor gardening space
  • Adaptable: You can add solid front and back to mount a fan or have big doors on either end to help with air flow.
  • Easier to Add Space: It is easier to change the size to meet your changing needs than with a standard greenhouse.

High Tunnel Greenhouse Cons

  • More susceptible to damage from high winds than other types of greenhouses.
  • Polyethylene covering more subject to punctures and tears than polycarbonate or glass greenhouses.
  • Covers need to be replaced every few years
  • More subject to condensation: You must carefully plan for airflow to prevent damage to plants.

Setting Up a High Tunnel Greenhouse

Site Selection

Note: Be sure to check with local authorities and get any required permits before starting.

When choosing a site for your high tunnel greenhouse, consider the following factors:

  • Sun exposure: Your high tunnel greenhouse should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Choose a site that is not shaded by trees or buildings.
  • Drainage: If you’re planting in the ground and not in raised beds, the site should have good drainage to prevent water logging and root rot.
  • Soil quality: The soil should be fertile and well-drained. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels.
  • Accessibility: The site should be easily accessible for transporting materials and equipment.


Once you have chosen a suitable site, follow these steps to construct your high tunnel greenhouse:

  1. Prepare the site: Clear the site of any vegetation and level the ground. Install a perimeter fence to protect the structure from wind and animals.
  2. Install the foundation: Depending on the type of high tunnel greenhouse, you may need to install a foundation. This could be a concrete slab, treated lumber, or metal posts.
  3. Assemble the frame: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble the frame. This may involve connecting metal tubing or PVC pipes with bolts or connectors.
  4. Cover the frame: Stretch a greenhouse cover over the frame and secure it with clips or straps. Make sure the cover is tight and wrinkle-free to prevent tearing. Check out a tutorial for this process HERE.
  5. Install ventilation: Install vents or fans to regulate the temperature and humidity inside the greenhouse.
  6. Add irrigation: Install a drip or sprinkler system to water your plants. This can be connected to a water source or a rainwater collection system.

By following these steps, you can set up a high tunnel greenhouse that will provide a controlled environment for growing crops. With proper maintenance and care, your high tunnel greenhouse can yield a bountiful harvest.

Maintenance and Management


Proper irrigation is critical to the success of your high tunnel greenhouse. You should regularly check your plants’ water needs and adjust your irrigation system accordingly. One way to ensure proper irrigation is to install a drip irrigation system that delivers water directly to the plants’ roots. This will help prevent water waste and reduce the risk of disease. You should also monitor the moisture level of the soil to avoid over or under watering your plants.


Ventilation is essential to regulate temperature, humidity, and air quality inside the greenhouse. You can use natural ventilation, such as windows and vents, or mechanical ventilation, such as fans and evaporative coolers. It is important to keep the air circulating to prevent the buildup of moisture and mold. You should also regularly inspect your ventilation system to ensure it is functioning correctly.

Pest Control

Pests can quickly damage your crops and ruin your harvest. It is crucial to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) system to control pests effectively. This can include physical barriers, such as screens and netting, as well as biological and chemical controls, such as beneficial insects and pesticides. Regular monitoring and early detection of pest problems can help prevent infestations and minimize damage to your plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of using a high tunnel greenhouse?

High tunnel greenhouses offer several benefits, including extending the growing season, protecting crops from harsh weather conditions, and increasing crop yield. They also provide a controlled environment that allows for better pest and disease management.

What factors should I consider when choosing a high tunnel kit?

When choosing a high tunnel kit, consider factors such as size, material, and ventilation options. You should also consider the climate in your area and the types of crops you plan to grow.

Where can I find high tunnel manufacturers near me?

You can find high tunnel manufacturers by searching online or contacting local agricultural organizations. It is important to research and compare different manufacturers before making a purchase.

How much does it cost to build a high tunnel greenhouse?

The cost of building a high tunnel greenhouse can vary depending on size, material, and location. However, a basic high tunnel kit can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Are there any government programs that provide funding for high tunnel greenhouses?

Yes, there are several government programs that provide funding for high tunnel greenhouses, such as the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) High Tunnel System Initiative. These programs can help offset the cost of construction and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

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Gary Stevens

My initial goal to control the quality, health, and safety of my food led me to discover the wonders of greenhouse gardening and to share those wonders with the widest possible audience. I'll never stop learning about this fascinating topic, and I'm thrilled to be able to share it with others.

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