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High Tunnel Maintenance
Replacing the polyethylene plastic covering on high tunnels should be done every 4-5 years. As the plastic ages, the amount of light transmitted through it will be reduced, which can negatively affect the growth and development of plants.
Additionally, the use of shade cloths over the plastic tends to scratch the plastic as well, which adds to the wear and tear and potential failure of the plastic. Replacing the plastic at regular intervals saves having to replace the plastic during summer when a wind storm tears a hole in the 6-year-old plastic. Remember that the polyethylene is recyclable.
Other tasks for high tunnel growers as the season comes to a close include draining water lines for all but frost-free hydrants. And don't forget to drain or remove any fertilizer injectors before freezing temperatures occur.
Sanitation is also an important task. While many leaf diseases are reduced when vegetables are grown in a high tunnel, others, such as leaf mold on tomato, seem to thrive. Consider applying a sanitizer to reduce overwintering disease. There are several commercial disinfectant products available that are more effective than Clorox bleach.
Sanitize the entire inside of the tunnel, including stakes and trellising, any tools or benches, polyethylene plastic, ground covers, trays, etc. Remove any plant materials.
Mike Roegge (217-223-8380; firstname.lastname@example.org)