Graceland University’s Sustainability Office is excited to announce the installation of a hoop house on the northeast corner of campus (right by the bike trail). Hoop houses, most commonly referred to as high tunnels, are covered, passive solar-heated structures, designed to extend the growing season and intensify production of crops. They provide a protected environment which helps produce higher quality produce and higher yields. Graceland’s own hoop house project was made possible by a donation from alumni Steve Upson and the Noble Foundation for which he works. Other noteworthy contributors:
GU Agricultural Business Club & GU Sustainable Lamoni Organization
GU Facility Services
Local volunteers and GU faculty
The location of the 20×80, Quonset-shaped structure was carefully chosen to ensure that the vegetables in the hoop house garden will grow under ideal conditions by receiving optimum sun exposure and enough ventilation from the open-air flow. The site was first leveled by Ron Mickelson to prevent flooding and to provide good surface drainage. Then, holes were augured to a depth of 36 inches into the ground to set the footings to support the hoop house. Finally, with the help of a crew of volunteers, including Mr. Upson himself, the structure was installed at the end of May 2013.
To avoid gardening directly into dense clay soil, eight raised beds will be built into the hoop house garden. They will be filled with amended native soil and compost to provide the plants with oxygen and other nutrients for optimal growth. The hoop house will also have an integrated irrigation system, consisting of drip lines that will provide the necessary water. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans will be grown in the garden.
Hoop houses require close monitoring, especially for climate control. Extremely high temperature levels can be harmful for the crops, but this can be easily avoided by opening the sides of the hoop house throughout the day. Other required tasks to maintain a well-managed and thriving hoop house include pruning, trellising, pest control, etc. A properly managed hoop house operation will create a variety of hands-on work opportunities for Graceland students and any volunteers willing to help.
Future plans for the hoop house include providing fresh produce to our campus dining facilities and hopefully to the local community, while also offering an educational opportunity for the students of Graceland. The hoop house was highlighted as part of larger programs during this summer’s SPECtacular camp, and will be again during Homecoming 2013 in the fall.
To find out more about sustainability at GU, please email our Sustainability Coordinator, Jennifer Abraham-White, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Sustainability website.
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