love tunnels. It's always an adventure! Even older kids love to crawl and chase
each other through a tunnel of vining plants.
a tunnel support for gourds, squash or mini-pumpkins is a great way to get
those goodies up off the ground and away from the bugs that love to suck on
'em, but prefer a dirt condo to a high-rise.
a garden tunnel is similar to making a teepee, except that you wind up with a
semicircular tunnel shape instead of a conical teepee shape. For slightly older
kids, it's a good idea to make your tunnel a little bit longer, and have a
slight curve so that they can't see the end from the beginning and vice versa.
You can build a sturdy structure tall
enough to crawl through if you want it to be more permanent, using nails and
screws, and pieces of lumber that are at least 2-by-2-inches thick and at least
4 feet long. To add stability, nail or screw cross supports along the length of
each side of the tunnel. Weave sturdy twine across the top and sides in a net
Two other options: a piece of 5' x 10'
concrete reinforcing wire bent into a three foot wide arch, with tent stakes
hammered into the ground as supports, or PVC pipe supports covered with chicken
If you have the space, you can link
together three of them in an "S" pattern, and fill in the open corners with
chicken wire or bird netting, so that the tunnel makes gentle curves and is
You can also use 8' flexible stakes
that you bend into semicircular shape, and wrap them with bird netting to
provide a support system for gourd tendrils and so forth. Space the two ends of
the stakes about four feet apart, and drive them into the ground about one foot
on either side so that they're well "rooted" in the ground.
After your tunnel structure is
completed, if temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees, you can plant
your tunnel cover crop!
The gardeners can dig a trench about a
foot deep along both sides, dump some well-rotted manure, and plant seeds in a
shallow hole about every four inches, or according to the seed packet
instructions. It's best if they are soaked for up to 24 hours in water to speed
germination. You will want to plant two long rows just outside the structure.
They can mark each seed with a wooden craft stick and water that spot 'til the
vine plant is up. Best to water daily 'til the plants are up, and then at least
check daily for a couple of weeks.
If you used fresh, quality seed, you
should have close to 100% germination, so after the seedlings are about 6" up,
you will want to pull out every other one. That's right, it hurts: but it's
better to let each plant have space, air and water, instead of being too
crowded. You over-plant seeds just to make sure you'll have enough, but you
also don't want to have too much.
After the plants have several leaves,
fertilize weekly with fish emulsion and liquid kelp; sprinkle plain water
around each plant first so that the fertilizer doesn't burn the roots.
If you're growing gourds on the
tunnels, note that it's best to snip the growing tip back once it has reached
the top of the tunnel arch, to encourage side sprouts. It's the side branches
that will produce the female flowers that will give you gourds.
Take care around gourds and squash,
including pumpkins, as they have shallow roots.
When it's getting close to fall,
reduce watering or quit altogether, to encourage the gourds and squash to
harden off for harvest.
plants that can cover these frameworks well include red runner beans, silver
lace vine, and morning glories.
might like keeping the center of the tunnel weed-free and comfortable to crawl
through with a mulch of black plastic topped with straw.
plant a crop that is fairly heavy, such as birdhouse gourds, you might start
saving the plastic netting that oranges and apples come in. As the gourds begin
to grow, make a "sling" out of the netting for each one, and attach both ends
to the tunnel structure, so that the heavy fruit doesn't break off as kids play
in the tunnel.