High tunnels are important alternatives to greenhouse or field production of high-value crops such as cut flowers and herbs (Carey et al., 2009; Wells and Loy, 1993; Wien, 2009b). Many cut flowers and herbs produced in the United States are grown in open field settings where year-round production is possible (Bonarriva, 2003); however, the interest in locally produced horticultural goods has driven the regional production of these crops into greenhouses, high tunnels, and other season-extending environments (Cavins et al., 2000; Ortiz et al., 2012; Wien, 2009a). Not only do high tunnels allow for a local extended growing season, but they also play an important role in protecting cut flower crops from extreme environmental conditions, including freezing temperatures, rain, wind, hail, and in some cases, disease (Lamont, 2009; Wien, 2009a). The increased interest in domestic production of cut flowers and herbs in high tunnels and the advantages of high tunnel production create the need for region- and crop-specific research to maximize local production potential (Ferguson et al., 2012; Lamont, 2009; Ortiz et al., 2012).
Numerous factors may affect growth of crops in high tunnels, including orientation of the structure (Sethi, 2009). General studies on high tunnel orientation indicate that growers in the northern hemisphere should orient high tunnels with the long sides running NS to maximize solar radiation (Sethi, 2009). Despite this recommendation, there is evidence to show that the benefits of high tunnel orientation and growing location within a particular orientation may be crop-specific. Taber et al. (2009) showed that tunnel orientation and planting location within a high tunnel negatively affected bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) yield, with decreased productivity of bean plants grown in north (in an EW-oriented tunnel) and west (in a NS-oriented tunnel) growing locations.
The sunflower will flower from 75 to 150 d after sowing (Fernández-Martinez et al., 2009), with temperature and photoperiod significantly affecting time from sowing to maturity (Fernández-Martinez et al., 2009; Schuster, 1985). Cool temperatures delay flowering, whereas warm temperatures accelerate maturation (Fernández-Martinez et al., 2009).
Due to their hardiness, garlic chive is described as being low maintenance (Folia, 2015). Chive plants do best in full sun or part shade, and well-drained but moist soil (Gardener’s Network, 2016). Recommended growing temperature is 58 °F (Nau, 1999).
Oregano and marjoram require similar growing temperatures of ≈55 °F. Both are frost-sensitive and are typically grown as annuals in colder climates, unless under controlled environments (Nau, 1999).
Although a number of studies have assessed the potential for producing cut sunflowers and herbs in high tunnels (Cavins et al., 2000; Lamont, 2009; Lopez and Ortiz, 2012; Ortiz et al., 2012; Wien, 2006), none report on the effect of high tunnel orientation or growing location on plant growth. Thus, we set up a series of trials with the objective of determining differences in growth of cut sunflowers and fresh herbs between high tunnel orientations. The tunnels are small hobby size; therefore, these studies are appropriate for part-time growers interested in seasonal production of horticultural crops for local markets. This work represents a combination of three different graduate students’ effort over 4 years; some differences in methodology occurred as a result.
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