Season Extension: Moving Your Structure

A significant part of season extension involves moving an intact structure.

This basically allows you to get two (or possibly three) plots of production from one investment.

The idea is to start a relatively cold tolerant crop very early in the season (the timing will be different in different locations).

  1. Once the crop is firmly established in location A, (and it has warmed up) you will move the structure to location B and start another crop.
  2. You will harvest the crop in location A and then after working the soil, plant another crop in location A which is intended for fall harvesting.
  3. After location B is harvested and before frost you will move the structure back to A.
  4. Instead of doing twice in location A you could also choose location C.

A structure can be equipped with wheels which will run over the soil. There is quite a bit of flexibility where you go and the terrain you navigate.

The structure can be equipped with rollers on a track. This will determine where you go and this is usually intended for moving a bigger structure with fewer people.

The most common method of moving is sliding the structure on the soil. The base rail can be wood or steel.

It is critically import to understand the logistics of moving on a structure before you start. It is not hard to move a structure but it is also not hard to do damage.

Having a plan for proper anchoring is very important for a movable structure. Your structure is at a vulnerable state when you release the anchors. Once you start, the job must be completed quickly. You have to be aware that the anchors may not come out or go back in easily so you may need to give yourself some extra time.

One other area of consideration on a movable structure is the ends. There must be some sort of a flap or vent along the bottom so that when a structure is being moved, the ends will not uproot plant material. Generally speaking to have this ability in the ends takes away from the structural integrity, so some extra anchoring may be required.

You can see more information and photos on our movable information page. Please don’t hesitate to call us with ANY questions you may have. This can be a very useful addition to your structure, but must be understood correctly.

Season Extension: Hanley Caterpillar Tunnels

The first area to discuss regarding season extension are those structures that are simple enough to disassemble and relocate to another spot-primarily referring to Hanley Caterpillar Tunnels.

The real lure of these buildings is their low cost and simplicity to move. Generally the area is prepared in advance and then the tunnel is moved over the area when the planting is to be done.

Since the original design specified 6′ hoop spacing, the intent was always to remove the cover before risk of heavier snow fall. More often now, growers are going to 5′ spacing (and sometimes 4′) to allow the covers to remain on longer or even permanently.

By having a smaller hoop spacing, it allows the cover to stay on permanently, which allows for a much earlier start in the spring.

The key to the concept of the Hanley working is in the rope.

  • The back and forth pattern of the rope resembles the way a person would lace up a boot.
  • Typically there is a spring loaded clip at the base where the rope passes through.
  • Once the rope is fully installed, it is important to tighten it through three passes from end to end.
  • If the rope is not tight enough, the wind will create wiggle and movement sideways.
  • When the plastic is tight enough, it also allows the grower to slide the plastic up the hoop to allow ventilation.

Generally the plastic is about 25′ longer then the tunnel.
This allows the installer to bunch up (pig tail style) the extra poly at both ends between a pair of posts.
It is important to get the plastic as tight as possible lengthwise first.
There must also be a rope from the top of the last hoop to the tie off post.

There are a couple of challenges to consider with the hanley tunnels.

  1. One of these challenges is to create a proper entrance. Typically entrance is achieved by slightly lifting the plastic and ducking underneath.
  2. The other are of challenge is the low shoulder height of the structure. This restricts the use to a couple rows of taller items in the middle and a couple rows of shorter plants along the side. The width of the tunnel does lend itself to three regular size beds.

Once you have learned about the nuances of the hanley tunnels, and asked any questions that come up, you will be better prepared to have these efficient season extenders work for you and your application.

Feel free to look at our Hanley Application page for more information and photos, and give us a call with anything else you require.

We are pleased to have many happy customers these structures are working for, and look forward to you being next!

Check out our new book if you want to know more “So You Want to Buy a Greenhouse…Your Guide to Planning a Greenhouse Purchase”

What is and isn’t “proper ventilation”?

Proper ventilation, in a nutshell, equals adequate air changes and movement while maintaining adequate light levels and humidity in a given area. Proper ventilation is about proper balance.

The challenging part of achieving this balance is that there is such a wide range of requirements for different plants. It is important to identify what is ideal for each variety that you are growing. It will not be feasible to have a perfect climate for each variety of plant, but you really should avoid grouping together plants with a wide difference in requirements. That would simply ensure that you are not doing very little properly.

Putting shade cloth over a greenhouse may lower the temperature to an acceptable level for your plants but that does not equal good ventilation. You may be depriving the plants of their critical light requirement plus you are not doing anything to enhance air movement.

Turning on an exhaust fan may create the required amount of air changes or movement, but with a temperature far below the plant optimum, your plants still will not achieve their potential. Fans also draw air in a straight line from intake to exhaust. This does not address “stagnant corners”.

Many times, light equals heat. They go up together and go down together. It is important to understand how and why they are controlled differently and where the overlap on that control is.

Generally speaking, proper air changes equals one air change per minute. Some plants require more and some can get by with less. For this, you will need to know what the air volume is for your building. It is a little trickier to calculate this on a gothic or quonset shaped structure. Using the length x width x 80% of peak height will give you a close enough number in either cubic feet or cubic metres.

With the next 4 posts we hope to create a more thorough understanding of how to achieve a good environment for your plants. This information will be helpful as to research options so that you can balance costs with benefits and return. Especially in the area of ventilation, many times expenses associated with proper ventilation will be offset by exponentially higher returns.

Wind braces for structures

There is no dispute on the need for wind braces on any structure. There is often confusion on how and when those braces need to be installed.

The sooner that some sort of bracing is installed on a building, the easier it is to maintain plumb or vertical. For this reason, we stress the importance of tying off a building, both ways, as soon as the first section has been erected.

One detail that many overlooks are the total surface area of the hoops. It does not take very long to have the combined surface of a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood. For this reason, it is important to not rely for an extended period on your initial tie-down ropes as your “bracing”. There have been instances where the combined surface area of the hoops is more than the entire gable end.

If you are doing a long building with long hoops, i.e. 30’ wide, it would be wise to install the bracing before the whole structure is assembled.

Wind bracing can be installed in two directions, one goes away from the end wall and one goes toward the end wall. Both ways are acceptable, provided that you do both. If you install them toward the end at one end, you must do the same at the other end. By doing the same concept at each end, you are essentially holding things in opposite directions.

When bracing goes away from the end, the load is referred to as “tensile load”. Cable is often used for this. The cable and the clamps used must be rated against stretching and breaking. This is a convenient system since you are not limited by a precise measurement. When using this system, it is important to end up at the ground, in the 4 corners.

When bracing goes toward the end, the load is referred to as “compression load”. Round tubing with flattened ends is most often used. It is important to make sure that the tubing is strong enough as to not bend as it is being compressed. This is the method which has been used the longest since the instinctive way to brace something it to “prop something against it”.

With either method of bracing, where you start and end is very important. For bracing to be effective, you must start at a point that is connected to the whole structure. This would be either the ridge or a row of purlins. Starting at a mid point of a hoop will give little reinforcement since the hoop can flex from side to side. The closer that bracing goes at 45 degree angle, the stronger it will be.

In the case of longer hoops with multiple rows of purlins, it is advisable to have a series of shorter braces than one long one. This means you would start at a certain hoop/purlin connection and go down and over for 3 or 4 hoops and anchor at that hoop/purlin connection. Go over to the same hoop you did the first brace on and repeat the process from the lower purlin. You would then be going down to the base or the next row of purlins. Remember that if at one end, if you are going left to right, on the other end you go right to left.

Where ever you end up, it is wise to have extra anchoring at that point.

For extra clarification, please watch our “installing wind braces” video on the website.

Hanley Installation – from our customers

We found a very helpful video from our customers we thought we would share about building a Hanley, check it out!

Air Circulation & Humidity Control

Even though many people would consider air circulation and humidity control as totally separate functions, they are closely intertwined.

You may have the proper sized openings to create the proper amount of air changes.

You could still have hot or cold spots in your greenhouse if you do not have proper circulation.

The same can be said about removing humidity.

For a ventilation system to have optimum efficiency and benefit, there must be balance. Having proper air circulation allows you to achieve that balance.

Horizontal air flow (HAF) fans typically come with a cage around the blades, a hanger bracket and a cord with plug. This allows them to be attached or suspended from the frame at the proper location. The motors are rarely more than 1/3 hp.

HAF fans always are installed in pairs and blow in opposite directions. A short greenhouse will have one in the front right corner and in the back left corner. A longer greenhouse will still have one in the front right and back left but also two half way down the length. The one on the right will blow in the same direction as the front right. The one on the left will be blowing in the same direction as the back left.

HAF fans should never be mounted in such a way that allows them to be blowing directly at plants. This would create an uneven drying. Some people will aim the fans slightly in the direction of the cover to ensure maximum air flow along the cover to maintain dry covers.

These fans run continuously to ensure that the temperature and humidity are spread evenly throughout. It also ensures that your thermostat or humidistat are reacting to air or moisture that is representative of what is going on in the greenhouse.

Ventilation is a difficult area of greenhouse production to get perfect. The more attention you pay to the details and modify what you are doing, the greater your production. The tricky part is that with all the variables, no two years will be the same. Carefully consider all your options and the situation you’re dealing with and you will have success!