DIY · Gardening · Homesteading · Urban Homesteading

Building A Simple Hoophouse

During the long and very hot summer, it was always in the corner of my mind that I needed to think about my garden and fall, unless I wanted to roll up the growing and call it a year. So out of that came these DIY hoop house projects:

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I came across a copy of Gardening Under Cover: A Northwest Guide to Solar Greenhouses, Cold Frames, and Cloches, from 1989, through our library system and got sucked into it – a guide for the PNW, written in an easy to read, but not necessarily deep, method. Pre-internet this was as good as one was going to find for low-tech methods.

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I also saw an article on building them, where they are attached to wooden raised bed frames (we don’t have wood beds though). Having said that, it grabbed my attention and got me thinking about making row covers for the fall, and also for winter. With fall here, it is something I needed to get going on. I’ve made my makeshift one for my green peas, and my fancy pants one I bought for my Swiss Chard. This past weekend we also had a good wind storm, which showed me what worked and didn’t. I finished the first hoop house right before the storm started and sealed up, it came through with no damage. I can’t say that about the one on the right in the photo below. The frost fabric covering my peas was ripped right off and I was running after it before my neighbors got it….darn you 28 mph gusts :-p

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And after the wind stopped and I got looking I realized my fall peas needed more room. The frost fabric was preventing larger growth, and parts were bending over. We did though have lots of tasty peas on October 11th to eat 😉

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Did I mention fresh peas in October?

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So, in the end, two styles came out of my ideas, but built on the same base.

The concept is easy, and so is the shopping list:

  • 3 to 4 ½” PVC pipes (10 feet long)
  • 1 1″ PVC pipe (10 feet long)
  • Cover of choice
  • Large Binder Clips

The PVC pipes can be found at hardware stores, are usually made int he USA. Look in plumbing. The first step is to measure and cut the 1″ inch PVC pipe into 10″ sections. For ease in cutting, my husband used a DeWalt Power Miter Saw with a 12-Inch Thin Kerf Crosscutting Miter Saw Blade. He cut a bevel at a 60 degree angle. This allows them to slip into the soil easily. Be careful when doing this type of cutting, as you are close to the blade.

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I did a trial run on a back bed, that didn’t have plants in it, to get an idea how it would work. First, depending on the length of your bed, you will need 6 to 8 of the cut 1″ pieces (Each 10 foot section produces 12 sections, so in theory you can produce 2 beds from each one). The beveled edge pierces through even hard packed soil, using a Dead Blow Hammer, pound them in until it is about ¾ in the ground. Do all of them, spacing evenly.

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To put in the hoops, push one of the 10 foot long ½” pipes into a holder, then gently bend over and pop into the other side. Just like tent poles really!

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You’ll find on the first one you might be pulling out poles and redoing it, as they won’t be lined up evenly, or one holder is not as deep as the other side. By the time I got to the 4th bed, I found it going much quicker. And they don’t need to be perfect…..

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For the peas, I put in 3 hoops (it is a narrow bed).

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I covered the peas with a precut blanket, Easy Gardener 10 by 12 Feet Plant Protection Blanket. Before, on the peas, I had used a roll of similar fabric, but I couldn’t find anything wider than 6 or so feet. It needs to be 10 feet wide to cover side to side, if over hoops. The plant fabric lets through light and water, but keeps it 4 to 8* degrees warmer. It also doesn’t cause your plants to overheat in fall temperatures, where as the plastic covered ones can quickly, if not vented. As you can see, I let it hang loosely, and didn’t clip it back. If we get another wind storm this fall, before the peas are done, I will go out and clip it back more, or quickly take it off.

A couple of friends clued me in how to clip the fabric to the poles easily: Large Binder Clips. The 36 pack on Amazon is a deal compared to in store 12 packs. You will need at least 12 per bed. They work better than any other method I have seen online!

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Once you have your cover in place, start at the top and put in a clip on each pole on top, then one at the bottom, and for best results, one in the middle of each pole, preferably on each side. If it isn’t windy, you can use less. For here, with 4 poles, I am using 20 clips.

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With this bed, I used 4 mil thick plastic sheeting. You can find it hardware stores in 25 foot and 50 foot rolls, often in the paint department. If you want thicker, you could go up to 6 mil. 4 mil is quite durable though. I decided to make a door, and simply split the plastic with scissors. I can roll it up and use a clip to hold it open. In high winds, like we had on Saturday, you will want to seal it up tightly, and cross over the plastic, using clips to secure it. But otherwise, until winter, this will stay open on one side to keep the temperature even. My mini greenhouses can easily soar to 100* on a 70* day, so keep that in mind. You don’t want to scorch and kill your tender plants! As well, plastic doesn’t let water in, so remember to water on a regular basis, more than you might expect, as it will be warmer and evaporate.

Enjoy, get building, and eat well!

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