Low-Cost, Versatile Hoop Houses

Stop bending to the will of the seasons and build a hoop house. It’s an affordable and effective means to prolong your growing season.

| February/March 2003

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    Row covers can be pulled over smaller hoops for a second layer of protection.
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    A large setup like this one can help you yield a nice profit if you sell your veggies at market.
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    Gray Frase uses a toggle to spread his plastic-pipe hoops for ventilation.
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    Set end to end, these modular hoophouse units can cover infinitely long rows.
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    Center: Plastic pipe makes a crank to roll sides up and down. Right: This end opening is large enough for a tractor. Left: Kansas Rural Center Workshop participants build a large hoophouse.
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    Use a trailer hitch ball or large bolt to prevent damage as you pound the stake.

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After nearly 20 years of market gardening, we often hear the question, "What would you do differently?"

Simple: Build more — and bigger — hoophouses a whole lot sooner, like from the beginning.

Whether you're a market gardener wanting to extend your season or a family looking to grow more of your own food year-round, a hoophouse is the answer. For as little as a few hundred dollars, a backyard hoophouse can make it seem like you moved your garden hundreds of miles to the south. You can count on four to six weeks of extra production in spring and fall. By adding an inner layer of cover inside a hoop and picking cold-hardy varieties, you can grow right through winter — even in the coldest climates.

What is a hoophouse? Nothing fancy or even expensive, unless you like to make things that way. A hoophouse is just what the name suggests, a series of large hoops or bows — made of metal, plastic pipe or even wood — covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic. The skin is stretched tight and fastened to baseboards with strips of wood, metal, wire or even used irrigation tape and staples. You can build one for a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars.

While visiting market gardens from British Columbia to Russia, I have seen serviceable hoophouses made from plastic water pipe and rebar, saplings and rusted bedsprings, fiberglass rods, electrical conduit, strips of old firehose, scraps of plastic ironed together between sheets of newspaper (you can still read the print on the plastic) and old car tires.

Unlike a traditional greenhouse, a hoophouse usually has no heater or ventilation fan. It is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind, providing that you remember to open the vents in the morning and close them in the afternoon. (For growing through winter in cold climates, adding a small heater lets really determined growers laugh at the cold.)

Brandon Y
8/5/2020 10:43:59 AM

This is a great, timeless article. These can definitely be made cheaply with PVC in non-windy areas for hoops up to 10 foot wide. Beyond that, conduit and then top rail are the way to go. The cheapest but most sturdy way I found to get started was with a hoop bender. If you bend your own hoops with top-rail found at hardware and fencing stores, you can save yourself lots of money on shipping. That exact kind of kit was also the inspiration of the start of my company www.bootstrapfarmer.com. The design and instructions for these are quite simple, just get yourself solid materials so you don't waste time AND money when a storm comes. I think many of us have had to learn this the hard way...

3/13/2016 12:36:08 AM

I used the plans on WWW.EASYGREENHOUSE.INFO and built my own hoop house VERY cheap and easily! It was the best decision I've ever made. To my family and I, it just made economic sense to build a DIY greenhouse. We spent a fraction of the cost of buying an expensive pre-built one that just have to be assembled anyway...why pay inflated prices for material? The guide on that website is so very easy to follow and it doesn't matter if you're a total beginner like us. We were on a very small budget and found so many wonderful plans for our greenhouse...it was hard to pick just one, but the one we chose is terrific! We actually built the one that is featured on the website's homepage. I love growing fruits and vegetables for my family all year round! There's no such thing as out of season for us anymore! I finally have the greenhouse of my dreams and it was VERY affordable!

Joshua Joshua
9/27/2012 4:52:59 PM

Wow interesting stuff I cant way to try this out next spring. I have always wanted to do a hoop house and i finally have the land to do it on. I live in the south west part of South Dakota if anyone has any suggests for what I should grow. Feel free to follow my blog at http://youngenviromentalist.blogspot.com/ and join me as i post update on building hoop houses and other projects as i attempt to live a sustainable life.



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