Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Quick and Easy Hoop House

A Quick and Easy Hoop House

By Forest Puha

Many people think having their own hoop house is expensive, time-consuming and complicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me tell you what I used to build mine.

Not mine, but a similar idea.

Here’s why they’re cool: you can build one anywhere. Greenhouses are made from glass and expensive materials: a hoop house can be made on the cheap. My family and I built a hoop house of our own here in Nevada. We had helped build one for another family, and we learned as we worked. Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills.

First, design your hoop house. What do you want to grow inside? If it’s a bunch of plants with long, tall stalks and leafy fronds, like corn or fruit trees, you’ll want a hoop house that’s equally tall, but not necessarily wide. If you plan on growing plants that are short and low to the ground, like tomatoes, squash and cilantro, you’ll want a wider hoop house to accommodate the space your plants will need. Hoop houses all have a basic frame that the hoops attach too; beyond this frame, hoop houses can be customized in any way you like.

Some hoop houses have half-dome frames, with a gradual curve from top to bottom, and doors framed into the sides for easy access.

Note the curve of the hoops.

Other hoop houses use pointed roofs with a high pitch:

A roof with a steep pitch is more useful for heavy snow.

And some hoop houses are only large enough to cover the plants as they grow on the ground:

An easy way of doing it.  Building ones like these can be done very cheaply.

Remember: the primary purpose of a hoop house is to provide good protection so you can grow food through the winter months. Hoop houses do NOT need to be uniform to any other shape, nor do they need to follow a set plan. Your hoop houses can be as unique as you like and can follow anyone’s budget.

Next, gather your hoop house materials. You need to get three things: the stuff to make the hoops with, the stuff for the house’s supporting structure, and the stuff you’ll use to cover the hoop house.

For the hoops, a variety of materials can be used, from plastic PVC pipe to bamboo shoots and lumber, to a metal framework. My family used 8-foot lengths of ½ inch electrical conduit that we bought from a local big box store for about $2 each. We would bend each of these into a curve that allowed enough room to walk underneath when set upright.

My family used wood for the support structure. We bought 8 foot lengths of 2 inch by 10 inch Douglas Fir boards, also from our local big box store, to build the general frame. Because we live in an area with high gusts of winter wind, we also decided to buy 8-foot lengths of 2 inch by 4 inch pine to create a center beam and support pillars that strengthen our hoop house. We bought regular 3-inch screws to fasten the wood together, ½ inch conduit clamps to hold the hoops in place, and regular metal bracing to ensure our hoop house would stay up against any wind or weather.

Most hoop houses generally use a plastic tarp as their roof cover. Because we live in Nevada, we were advised to buy a special $200 UV-protected plastic to save our veggies. This plastic is great for winter, but in summer generates far too much heat to be useful. Check with your local garden shops; they may recommend something much cheaper or better to use for your hoop house in your area.

After your hoop house is built you can make raised beds to grow your food in, or just plant directly in the dirt. My family grows Swiss chard, chives and various herbs year round, and we routinely shuffle through tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, zucchini and other plants as we desire. 

Have fun farming!

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