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 has worked at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia for more than 27 years, growing vegetables for 100 people on 3.5 acres and training many members in sustainable vegetable production. She is the author of Sustainable Market Farming and The Year-Round Hoophouse. Pam often presents workshops at MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRs and at sustainable agriculture conferences. She is a contributing editor with Growing for Market magazine, and a weekly blogger on SustainableMarketFarming.com. Read all of Pam’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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