Winter Gardening Series #7 – Hoop Houses

Mini hoop houses are a very inexpensive method for extending your gardening season.  I have had less success overwintering crops in mini hoop houses.  The crops I planted lasted well into December but didn’t hold up as well as the cold frame crops beyond that.

The Hoop house in January

But the main advantage of a hoop house is the cost.  I built two mini hoop houses to cover some 4×8 raised beds.  The total cost of both hoops was less that $30.00.

 

This simple hoop is made from bent PVC pipe

Mini hoop houses are really very simple structures.  I simply used 4- 10 foot pieces of ½ inch PVC pipe.  I bent them into hoops pushed them into the ground and added some screws to keep them upright.

Screws at the bottom of the PVC adds stability

I then added a couple of pieces of scrap wood as a ridge pole.  You could also use PVC as a ridge poll.  If you don’t have a raised bed to cover, you could use 2 foot pieces of rebar pounded a foot into the ground to secure your PVC polls. Another option would be to use metal electrical conduit.  This will be more durable and wind resistant but it’s a little more expensive and needs to be bent into shape with a special tool.

 

Some scrap wood adds a ridge pole to give the hoops support

You then just need to cover the hoop with some 6 mil plastic.  If you really want to get fancy you could buy green house quality plastic, but for the cost, I think the 6 mil does just fine.  The area that my hoops are located doesn’t have a lot of protection from the wind so I chose a fairly secure system to attach the plastic to keep it from blowing around.  But I know people who have been able to get away with covering the hoops and then just using rope or bungee cords to hold the plastic in place.  You just need to be sure to allow for access.  It needs to be fairly easy to get into the crops.

 

Photo is property of Henbogle.com

I also wanted to mention larger structures.  High hoops are the focus of the book “The Winter Harvest Handbook” by Elliot Coleman.  He spends a lot of time talking about the commercial application of large hoop structures.  The ones he talks about are huge, many 30 or 40 feet wide by 100 or more feet long.  Most gardeners don’t have room for this type of hoop house.  But if you have the space you can build a small version of a hoop house that gives you tons of room for winter crops.  The best part about these is you can walk inside!

 

Photo is property of Henbogle.com

One of my favorite blogs is written by Ali at henbogle.com.  She and her husband have built a beautiful high hoop house in their Maine garden.  I’ve included some pictures below to give you an idea of what it is like.  Please keep in mind that these pictures belong to Ali at henbogle.com and she was very generous to let me use a few.  Please do not copy or download these pictures.

 

Photo is property of Henbogle.com

As you can see it is a great little hoop house.  The cost of this type of structure is really not too bad.  I would imagine you could build one for quite a bit less that $750.00 if you did the work yourself.  If you would like to learn more about the henbogle.com hoop house please visit Ali’s blog at www.henbogle.com.  She has a whole section of her site dedicated to the hoop house, including a bunch of pictures of construction.

 

Photo is property of Henbogle.com

Next time we will discuss how to manage your winter crops.

6 Comments

  1. Liz September 26, 2011 5:35 pm Reply

    Its fascinating how different climates throw up such different challenges. I have no idea how I would cope with all that snow….I like your hoop houses though and I’m thinking I could use something similar to protect my more tropical crops in our not very tropical winters…

    http://www.suburbantomato.com

    • Rick September 26, 2011 5:49 pm Reply

      Yes, snow does make for some extra challenges for year round gardening. I’m very jealous of those of you in warmer climates, I spent some time in southern California last January, people had beautiful crops of lettuce, kale, broccoli and other cool weather crops growing out in the open in their gardens. At the same time my main garden was a frozen wasteland. But I love where I live and wouldn’t trade it! Thanks for leaving a comment.

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