Here are 20 practical reasons for having and using a hoophouse.
1. An extended growing season because plants are protected from cold weather.
2. Faster crop growth and higher total yields.
3. Beautiful unblemished crops not battered by the elements.
4. Fewer foliar diseases because the leaves can stay dry.
5. Crop survival at lower temperatures in the hoophouse than is possible outdoors.
6. Better crop recovery in winter due to warm sunny days following the cold nights.
7. Some protection from deer and other pests large and small.
8. Soil temperature stays above 50F (10C) in zone 6b. Warm soil = faster cold weather growth.
9. Higher proportion of usable crops – more food, higher sales dollars.
10. Diverse crop portfolio – grow crops that wouldn't succeed outdoors in your climate.
11. Harvest whenever you need the crops, even during pouring rain!
12. Wonderful working conditions – no need for gloves and hats; take off your coat.
13. A food garden on a manageable scale.
14. A place to enjoy practicing intensive food production.
15. The chance to have an area completely free of weeds – new weed seed doesn't blow in.
16. No need to work with heavy machinery.
17. Much better value for producing crops (per dollar invested) than a heated greenhouse.
18. Can be constructed by generally-handy people. Specialists are not needed.
20. Ecological energy use. The embodied energy of the plastic is less than the energy that would be used to ship similar produce from somewhere warmer (Eliot Coleman, Four Season Harvest). Another study found this was not true for smaller (9 x 12 m) hoophouses – although the economic incentive for growers is still true, there is no energy efficiency advantage to the planet. Smaller carbon footprint: shipping 1 kg lettuce has 4.3 times the CO2 footprint of locally grown hoophouse lettuce. Plawecki, R., Pirog, R., Montri, A., & Hamm, M. (2014). Comparative carbon footprint assessment of winter lettuce production in two climatic zones for Midwestern market. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 29(4), 310-318. doi:10.1017/S1742170513000161.
Photos by Wren Vile.
Pam Dawling works in the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs, as well as sustainable agriculture conferences. Pam also writes for Growing for Market and other magazines. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, is available at www.sustainablemarketfarming.com, Pam's second book The Year-Round Hoophouse will be published by New Society November 20, 2018. Her blog is on her website and also on facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming.
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