Site Selection

Proper site selection can be the difference between a convenient aid to high production and a pain-in-the-neck time hog with low production.  Here are three things to consider:


Sun.  If you can, always choose the sunniest spot of land for the best thermal gain in your high tunnel. If the shape and topography of your land allow you to orient your high tunnel in any direction, you may choose to face the long side south in order to catch the most rays during the whole year.  If you focus on growing mostly in the summer anyway, it will matter very little since the sun in the Alaskan summer will shine on all sides.

Wind.  Having the blunt end walls facing the wind is often the strongest option, but also take drifting snow into consideration.  High tunnel shapes are engineered to handle wind and snow loads on top, but not necessarily piled up on the end walls.  In windy places like Palmer or Bethel, getting away from the wind may be impossible.


Level.  It is important for several reasons that the site be level or leveled before the high tunnel is built.  Mainly, the structure was designed to carry some wind and snow, but only if it is square.  If it is tilting in one direction it will not be able to carry loads as well. Level ground also means that when you water, the moisture won’t drain away.

Drainage.  Make sure that there is a way for excess water to drain away.  If you put your high tunnel on a hill, be careful that seepage from uphill won’t keep you space so wet that you face mold problems

Snow Removal.  If you plan to leave the top on your high tunnel over the winter, make sure to leave room for snow removal.  It’s mighty handy if you have a tractor or snow blower and space to run it around the building. 


Water.  Since no rain will be falling inside your high tunnel, don’t neglect the need to water crops.  Some people have put rain collection on the sides if they were not near well water, but it is always nice if there is water nearby that is under pressure for drip irrigation to run properly.

Electricity.  It is also good to have easy access to electricity, whether it is for a fan to inflate a double cover or for emergency heaters when there is a surprise freeze.  Or just for the radio while you weed.

Machinery.  It can be a good idea to make it easy to get machinery in and out of your tunnel if you plan to have the ability to plow or rototill.