Mistakes to Avoid When Putting New Plastic on Your Hoophouse

| 10/23/2015 9:18:00 AM

Tags: high tunnels, season extension, hoophouses, garden planning, Pam Dawling, Virginia,

Using tennis balls and ropes to pull new plastic over a hoophouse. Photo Bridget Aleshire

This job is best done in mild sunny weather, when the plastic will be dry can stretch some but not too much. Arrange for a windless day to spread plastic – that is, less than 5mph winds, tops! If necessary do the plastic spreading at dusk, when the wind drops. Or at dawn in summer, but not in cold weather.

Order the right size and type of plastic in good time. We use 48-foot x 100-foot Tufflite IV and Tufflite Dripless for our 30-foot x 96-foot gothic tunnel. Our plastic goes to the ground (no separate sidewalls). For the end walls we buy 24’ x 100’ for a double layer on each end. I have not tried the extra-strong Solaroof  and Solarlite woven multilayer materials. We use the wigglewire and aluminum channels (also called Polylock).

Gather enough people. We like six or seven people with good common sense, who are willing to take directions. It helps if some of them have done the job before.

Our History of Replacing Hoophouse Plastic: A Story of Four Mistakes and Two Near-Misses

Mistake No. 1

We put up our hoophouse in the fall of 2003. Initially we pulled the plastic too tight, and the screws that held the wigglewire channel to the Eastern Red Cedar baseboards gave up and popped off. I recommend people to bolt the wigglewire channel through the baseboards from day one. We dealt with our problem by adding metal strip battens that fit inside the channel over the plastic and the wigglewire, and bolted them all the way through the baseboard. We knew this meant we’d have a longer job when we changed the plastic as we’d have to remove all the battens.  That time came in 2007. 

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