DIY Low-Tech Hoop Houses: They’re Not Just for Cold Weather!

| 9/15/2015 11:44:00 AM


Hoop houses — this is my third year of using them. The first year, I put hoops over only one raised bed as an experiment. I used a plastic drop cloth for the covering, with various clamps and bricks to hold it in place. I wasn’t completely thrilled with it. During sunny days, even if the temperature was cool, the house would get incredibly hot because plastic doesn’t breathe. So I had to constantly vent the plastic by opening and closing the ends. The bricks and clamps were a lot of work.

But that year, I planted about three weeks before our so-called last frost date, tomatoes and all, and things went very well: I had an earlier crop that produced an amazing amount of vegetables. The no-longer-needed plastic tarp was stored under my potting table, where it promptly disintegrated from being exposed to the elements. The hoops were removed in early summer and stored under the shed, to be put up again in the spring. My garden had an obvious head start that year. Hoop houses were the solution I was looking for. A better design and a second hoop house were in the plans for the next spring.

After some Internet research, I found Agribon cold weather row cover cloth that was recommended by a few different sources. I ordered 50 feet of the stuff during winter in anticipation of getting an even earlier planting going the next spring.

It seemed flimsy to me, like a very lightweight interfacing you’d use in sewing. My fingers did punch through a couple of places where I tugged a little too hard while setting it up over the hoops, but it proved its strength and usefulness a couple of weeks later when it withstood several inches of heavy spring snow and several nights of temperatures in the 20s. I’ve gotten two years of use out of the fabric and will be able to use it again next year. It has a few holes poked in it, but so far they haven’t been a problem. I’ve even gone to the point of doubling up the fabric on especially cold nights and placing a space heater in the hoop house.

The tomatoes started blooming under several inches of snow! I figured out a way to make new, inexpensive and easy-to-use clips to hold the fabric in place. Now we’re talking! For the second spring of using hoop houses, I planted an entire month early and had the best garden yet. You can read more about that on my Herban Farmer blog.

1/15/2016 5:26:00 PM

Ladybug47, great idea with the fabric shower curtains! They're made to tolerate moisture and stronger than the row covers. My beds are probably too big for that, unless I patchwork them. Gitana, I hear you on the brick and clamp mambo. I've gotten it down to a science--with all the threats of hail storms we get here I've had a lot of practice. But handling yards of gauzy fabric in gusty wind is a real challenge...

1/15/2016 1:01:27 AM

I built a nearly identical hoop house in my front garden raised bed. It worked great until a storm hit with lots of wind. The force of the wind snapped some of the conduit clamps (mine were hard plastic, not metal). I added a ridge pipe the second year and that solved the problem. It added rigidity and stability to the hoop house and I haven't had a problem since. Now I need a more customized cover so I don't have to do the brick-and-clamp mambo every time I want to harvest some cilantro. That's a project for next season. - Gitana the Creative Diva

1/12/2016 4:08:50 PM

Here in the mile hi mountains of AZ we learned to put a tent over veggies so they don't get burned up. White fabric shower curtains from Goodwill are just right. Once set up they're easy to work with...

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