Looking to extend the life of your beds into the fall and winter? Hoping to grow produce year round, or protect your plantings from some of nature’s harshest conditions? Why not try a hoop house!
Photo by Paul Drowns
Hoop houses provide extra heating units needed potential year-round growing. Imagine earlier starts for your seeds, and later finishes of at least 4-6 weeks of extra production in spring, fall, and winter months. Plus, the protective plastic sheeting provides shields damaging winds, flooding, and drought as the conditions in the hoop house can be controlled with simple coverings (try 50% shade cloth in the summer, and inner layers of plastic in the winter for extra warmth), ventilation, and irrigation systems.
There are no set plans for a hoop house. The dimensions of your structure are determined by the specific needs and desires of each grower. All it takes to build your own hoop house is a little basic carpentry, patience, and some creativity. The hoop house differs from the greenhouse because it usually has no heating system or ventilation fan. The house is heated by solar energy and is cooled by the wind. Proper ventilation and a small heater can help to control growing.
Hoop houses are constructed with a series of large hoops made of a variety of materials – from PVC piping and rebar stakes to saplings and bedsprings, fiberglass rods, rubber tires, metal, and more – that are covered with greenhouse plastic, which is stretch snugly over the hoop frame and fastened to baseboards. Some designs include a mechanism for creating plastic sides with the ability to be rolled up for easy access to plant.
Photo by Michael
Many growers find that high-walled, tunnel hoop houses work best because you can enter the house to tend your plants, but shorter versions work well as portable row covers. The size and style of the houses range from single garden bed Quonset-style or pagoda-style huts, to tunnel systems that reach hundreds of feet of planting rows, and can be just as portable, if constructed in manageable sections.
The hoop house is a relatively easy, DIY project that can be done on the cheap. The most important things to remember when constructing your hoop house are: location, measurements, securing the structure, providing ample internal supports, squaring each corner and building straight and level sides, and ensuring proper ventilation and covering. Here are some tips from folks at Mother Earth News, DIY Network, and Kansas Rural Center:
- Location: Your hoop house should be situated on a well-draining, slightly sloping piece of land, close to a water source and out of the shade, strong winds, or flood-prone areas.
- Measurements: Proper measurements of the length and width of the bed will allow for a correct quantity when purchasing materials and proper support of the house. Typically, a good rule of thumb when measuring pipes for a small, transportable hoop house serving as a row cover is length of pipe = 2x width of bed, which accounts for a structural support every 3-4 feet.
- Structural support: When constructing, push both ends of your piping into the soil across the desired bed, forming an arc set at least 1’ deep. Insert the appropriate number of pipes to form proper interior supports. Purlins, stakes, and end braces are very important and should be constructed properly.
- Square the corners; straighten the sides: Be sure that before you build your hoop house, you map out the structure so that corners are squared, and baseboards are straight and parallel. Check the hoops with a level to prevent tilting.
- Covering, ventilation, irrigation: The greenhouse plastic should fit snugly over the hoops, and should be tightly clamped with end braces or plastic pipe clips. Follow a plan for proper ventilation – you don’t want your plastic to fly like a kite in the breeze, but there must be a good airflow for plant respiration. If the dimensions of your hoop house do not allow for watering by hand, consider installing drip irrigation systems, or a sprinkler attached to the center purlin for easy watering.
Photo by Farmer Neysa
A few tips before constructing your hoop house:
1) Plant cover crops before building – it will increase soil fertility and control weeds
2) Choose cold-hearty varieties to grow during cooler months
3) Build perpendicular to the prevailing winds for good cross-ventilation
4) Make this easy on yourself – build in a location with easy access to water and electricity (if necessary)
5) Consider portability when choosing a plan or design
6) Plan a budget that includes upcycling or repurposing old materials – which will cut costs and waste
Photo by Michael
HOMEGROWNer Andrew builds a hoop house for less than $30!
HOMEGROWN Shepherdess Cornelia has some great links for building your own hoop house/greenhouse/hot house.
HOMEGROWN's Why We Farm Series: Farmer Neysa discusses building a greenhouse on her farm
HOMEGROWN.org has hundreds of photos of our members’ hoop houses. Check them out for inspiration!
Mother Earth News has a great article on the benefits of hoop houses and the ease of construction of “the most forgiving, productive, and profitable structure.”
MEN also has a great series of articles by a MO homesteader’s “Hoop House on the Horizon”: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Clark County Extension specs and plans for hoop houses.
Diggin’ Food DIY Mini Greenhouse.
Kansas Rural Center's helpful facts and tips on constructing your hoop house.
KitchenGardeners.org informative how-to on building hoop houses.