Monday, January 31, 2011

A simple hoop house for the farm

Over the Christmas break, I took care of a winter garden for some neighbors, Kurt and Karen. They were growing a healthy crop of greens inside a hoop house that Kurt had built, and I was impressed at how well it worked, even in some very cold temperatures.

So this weekend, in need of some R&R in the garden, I took advantage of some spring-like weather to cobble up a hoop house of my own on the farm. It's not quite finished, as I still have to make some doors for it, but this will give you an idea of the progress so far.

I had some 3/4" pvc pipe lying around from an old project, so I took that and bent it, wedging the ends against the stone sides of my raised beds: I ran one pvc pipe across the top and wired it to the hoops:

Then I added two more across the sides and metal fencing posts/stakes at either end and the middle for additional support (these were also leftovers from some old fences). All of these were attached to each other with simple baling wire:

You can see from the two photos above that this spot manages to get plenty of sunlight for at least a few hours a day, even during the winter. I'm running a soaker house along the part that gets the most sun, and leaving shaded section unplanted. I'll put down some boards to give myself a dry place to kneel while I harvest the crops. The hoops are high enough that though I have to stoop a little, I can easily move inside without feeling too cramped.

Then I covered the hoops with three foot-wide, 4 mil plastic sheeting, and attached the sheeting at the bottom to leftover pvc pipe to weight it down on the sides. I attached the top of the sheeting to the top length of pvc, using wire through spots I'd reinforce with duct tape:

 On the south side of the hoop house, the pvc that weights down the plastic sheeting is in sections, so that I can open it for ventilation during warm days, shown here:

On the north side, it is one long length of pvc:

The last three photos were taken late in the day, when the sun had gone down low enough to cause the back fence to cast a longer shadow. I only mention this because it might otherwise look like the plastic sheeting was not letting in much sunlight.

I'll probably work on it a little more this week, adding doors and further securing the sheeting against the wind (of which we have plenty here on the high plains). We're supposed to get socked with another arctic front this week, so I'll wait until after that to sow the seeds.

I'll post an update of the doors when I've got them figured out and installed. The only thing I've had to buy so far is the plastic sheeting, which cost me around $10, so I'm afraid I can't give you an estimate on how much it would cost to build this from scratch.


  1. Nice! Looking forward to seeing what kind of doors you put on the unit.

  2. You will really like your hoops! I have built some, using extensions on both pvc ends, so that I can stand to walk into it. Also would like to recommend garden clips for pvc, which really work well to secure the plastic. One time investment, and they last a very long time. See example here:

  3. Hey Clare, I like those clips. Thanks for the tip. I'm ordering some today. I also liked what the website said about securing the hoops to the ground w/re-bar. I have some spare lengths that I'll use for this, too.

  4. Actually, the clips have given me an even better idea...

  5. Wonderful! You are almost there. Those seeds will be so happy. Also looking forward to seeing the door system you choose. Good and inspirning for my post-move garden or if we're ambitious, maybe a smallish early spring cover once the ground thaws.

  6. The idea of sowing seeds outdoors in February, even in a hoop house, just blows my mind away. On the other hand it would be a good time to prune the plum tree ;->

    We have received lovely amounts of snow here and no worries about the ground freezing too deep due to lack of cover.

    Waiting for an update on the doors....

    Wonder if we could adapt a similar system to our terraced gardens?

  7. Thank you for recycling PVC as it's production leaves dioxin in our environment. In Canada especially, First People have dioxin in water due to PVC manufacturing.
    Please be mindful in the use of toxic and energy hog (plastic) materials.
    LOVE your design.

  8. Did you realize also that many floating row covers are made of....plastics? Usually a polyethylene-
    I hate to say this- using plastics for gardening is like using oil-based fertilizer, since the manufacture of plastics use oil and contribute horrible toxins.
    We used to use glass coloches- bell jars. Help me out with some solutions for gardening without reliance on plastics...we are problem-solvers--

  9. Hello, Paws and Praise, and thanks for your comments regarding plastics in the garden. Sadly, as with many things in life, I can't think of any perfect solutions to this one. A glass greenhouse would be nice, but I can't afford a new one and don't have time to make one from recycled material at this point in time. Perhaps I will one day in the future.

    However, if you _are_ interested in making a glass greenhouse from recycled material, David, who has the excellent blog called Montana Wildlife Gardener, has built one and chronicled it there. I hope this is helpful to you.

  10. Safer than glass might be corrugated fiberglass, sold for deck roofs, and it is bendable into a hoop house. Milky-white or green are the ususal colors. Should retain heat fairly well. Cut it only w/ leather gloves ... .


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