Showing posts with label hoop house gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hoop house gardening. Show all posts

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hoop House Garden

Hoop House Gardening

Four years ago, my husband put up a hoop house, the kind you see pictures of all over the internet. It was made with PVC pipes, wood and greenhouse plastic.  It sat on the edge of our side yard, facing the South..

It turned out really pretty, but unfortunately, it really took a beating every winter.. We live in Northern Michigan, and snow bent the pvc ribs every snowfall.. My husband put wood stands in it the 2nd year to help hold up the pvc ribs, but this past winter (2014) was so bitter cold and snowy, the damage was too much to save. We ended up taking the pvc poles and plastic down and have now made it a great big garden bed (looks like it has a headboard and footboard. lol).

It was a lot of work, though, and it really disappointed John that it didn't last longer. He was also disappointed in it's produce.. The first year we tried growing tomatoes, cauliflower, green peppers and green beans in the hoop house, but even though everything grew super tall, the only thing that produced fruit were the green beans.. The next 3 years, we only planted green beans in it.. 

We think it didn't allow enough ventilation because of the wooden front, wasn't getting the pollination it needed, plus the dirt just didn't seem very powerful.. We have nothing but sand here, so we had purchased a load of dirt from someone claiming it was super great, powerful dirt... It doesn't appear to be so... 

We also have a vegetable garden in our backyard, set up in large garden boxes... We've had good years and bad years, but one thing that's consistant is late frosts in June and early frosts in late August/early September.  Two years ago we had the most beautiful garden, but before we could take advantage of all the zuchinni, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers and muskmelon, an unexpected, non reported frost killed everything the 3rd week of August.. It was heartbreaking.. 

Every since then, I've wanted to put a hoop house over the entire garden space.. John wasn't too thrilled at the idea since he'd worked so hard on the 1st one.. I hinted and hinted until I was blue in the face, but he never made the move to build one. In his defense, he's been working on our new 4 season room we had built in place of the collapsed sunroom.. 
 I decided this year, if I really wanted one, I should just build one myself.. 

So that's what I did.. 

I'm not a builder, that's for sure. But I'm pretty good at figuring things out. I thought I'd add some pictures to the blog along with a description of how I built my hoophouse. Maybe it will inspire you to do the same, or at the very least, help you visualize a little bit on how to get started! 

First, I looked at a zillion pictures of DIY hoophouses on the internet and read every blog I could find on how others built their hoop houses.. I couldn't find directions on exactly what I envisioned, but with the knowledge I'd gathered from the one John built and from info I'd read on the internet, I decided to just go for it.. 

I  used the garden boxes we already have as the base.. The dimensions are 14' long x 15' wide.  John had used 1/2" pvc poles on the first hoop house so I decided to try the 3/4" to see if it'll stand up to ole man winter a little better.. 

I ran a frame of 2x4's around the existing boxes for the frame.  Most of the items I used, we already had, including all the pvc elbows and about half of the poles, so the hoop house really hasn't cost that much money..
Cha Ching... I love making stuff that doesn't end up costing us much :o)

I cut the poles to size using John's compound miter saw..Once cut to size, I attached the bottom row of poles by screwing them directly into the wood frame with two screws in each. I placed them 24" apart. The bottom row of poles are 48" long each. 

I attached the roof poles (or roof ribs) to each bottom pole using 45 degree PVC elbows.  

Wanting this thing to be as sturdy as I could make it, I added a sideboard to side pvc poles and attached them with 3/4" u-shaped clamps. 

I got up on the ladder and attached the center of the roof pvc's together, also using the 45 degree pvc elbows.. I felt pretty clumsy trying to get the first roof joints done. I'm sure I looked pretty funny.. My husband asked if I could use a hand, which made it much simpler. But once I had a couple of them together, I was able to do the rest myself.. My husband stood by saying "Are you sure you don't want some help?", but I really wanted to see if this was something a 59 year old woman could handle on her own!
 The answer is Yes!! 
Where there's a will, there's a way!

I added a  support pole down the center of the roof line.. I used pvc t-joints to add support poles that run down from the center pole to the ground, for "hopeful" support throughout the winter..I spaced these according to where the garden boxes are, and screwed each support pole into the garden boxes so they can't sink into the sand..  

I wrapped 2 or three zip ties around each of the roof joints just to tighten them up and make sure they couldn't shift. It was feeling pretty darn sturdy at this point. 

Our Rion sunroom had collapsed this past winter and we ended up tearing it down. Some of the poly windows were able to be salvaged, so I decided to use them around the bottom half of the hoophouse. In order to have a place to attach them, I added a 1x4 piece of lumber around the bottom frame, locking the pvc poles between 2 pieces of lumber, which I think should be added support for the winter. 

I started working on the front and back door frames, using pieces of wood we had available. I also attached two pieces of wood to a couple of the center poles, again to add extra support for next winter.. I used a lot of L-shaped metal brackets on corners, too... I added 1x4 strips of wood mid way up the roof line on both sides, attaching them with the 3/4" U-clamps..

We had an extra piece of the greenhouse plastic left over from John's hoophouse that's been rolled up all this time, so I decided to go ahead and use that on the top section.. John helped me get it up there and pull it tight, then we attached it to the wood strips using the electric stapler... 

 I called it a day, cause I was pooped out! But not bad for one days work. 

Day Two

I tightened the roof line wood strips to the door frames using zip ties and, what I call, steel bandaids...

I had purchased a roll of 

Warp Brothers 6CH20-C 6 Mil Clear Plastic Sheeting, 20-Foot by 25-Foot

plastic from Amazon to use on the hoophouse.. I'm not sure how well this will hold up, but we had spent quite a bit on the greenhouse plastic for the 1st hoophouse and knew we didn't want to spend that much again. Quite a few people left feedback for this product on Amazon saying they had used it on their hoophouse with good results.. 

So, the next job was to add this roll of plastic.. It's actually really easy to handle. John and I unrolled it so it was the length of the hoophouse, then we both got up on step ladders and walked it up and over the roof.. Since I planned on using the poly windows along the bottom, I only stretched this around the top half of the hoophouse.. 

I cut off the excess to use on the doorways and then stapled it to the wood frame all the way around, wrapping it around the doorways and stapling in place for a tight fit.. 

Once I had all the plastic securely stapled in place, I started adding the poly windows around the bottom.. That part was really easy.. I just screwed them along the tops and bottom of each window into the wooden frame.. The poly didn't crack and didn't require a pilot hole.. Easy peasy. Of course, if you don't have poly windows left over from a collapsed Rion sunroom laying around, just attaching the plastic all the way to the ground would work just as well.. 

I used the new Gorilla Clear Outdoor tape to seal the seams between each window (the windows are 24" x 48" each).
The Gorilla tape worked okay for this, but it is expensive.. You don't get very much on a roll and my husband had to run downtown and buy two more rolls of it for me, and that still wasn't enough.. We both went down to the hardware store to get more, but noticed they had Scotch tough transparent duck tape, so I suggested we try a roll of that instead, especially since it had 20 yards to a roll compared to only 9 yards on the Gorilla Tape for just a few dollars more. 

As it turned out, some of the gorilla tape released after a thunderstorm, but the duck tape has held tight. I redid all the windows with the duck tape. So far, so good.. No leaks or split seams. 

I still had to do the doors, but first wanted to get everything planted.. We didn't have much luck last year with our plants.. They grew, but just kind of fizzled out and didn't produce much. We decided that "powerful" dirt we purchased was most likely the culprit, so we decided to invest in several bags of Dairy Doo.. 


I don't know if other states carry Dairy Doo, but it is fantastic stuff!! 
It's bascially cow poo.. 

It's sold by Morgan Composting, Inc, which is a family owned business here in Michigan. 

I dumped a bag of the Dairy Doo in each box and mixed it in well with a hoe.. Then I planted the veggies we had purchased at a local farm market. 

The lettuce in the black container came up voluntarily, as did the flowers in the center box.. Looking at the picture of that box last year, I don't even see these flowers.. I'm really not sure how they came to be, but they are beautiful!

This was as far as I could go because we had a granddaughters graduation and a family get together in Southern Michigan to attend.. 

The following week I had lots of orders to work on so I didn't have time to get back to the hoophouse for almost two weeks.. The weather channel was reporting a threat of frost (on June 13... REDUNKULOUS), so I had to get the doors up fast.. We had a grandson's graduation party to attend on the 14th, so I had one day to get the job done.. 

I decided to make simple roll up doors, both because they would be fast to get up, and also because I want the hoophouse to be really open all summer so lots of ventilation and bees can get inside.. 

I put up identical doors on the front and back, using 2 sheets of the plastic for double protection. I attached PVC poles along the sides and bottom of the doorway with screws, and attached the plastic door along the top with the staple gun. I then put a thin piece of wood over the plastic and screwed it in place for a tight fit.. 

I have a bright pink roll of velcro that I never seem to use, so I decided to use it for the doorways.. The longer strip is on the inside of the door, and is the soft side of velcro. The little strip across the top is screwed into place and is the rough side.. I've had the doors rolled up now for 2 weeks and the velcro is holding great. 

When unrolled, I attached pvc clips (purchased from Amazon), clamping the plastic tight against the frame, keeping the cold out! 

From the inside, it looks tight as a drum. Should make a good seal once the weather turns chilly this fall. 

I closed up both doors and we left for the graduation party.. The greenhouse was closed up for 2 days.. When we got back, the doors were still tight as could be, even though there had been high winds here, and all the plants were snug as a bug in a rug.. 

Two weeks later and everything is looking great.. 

Of course, time will be the test. We'll see how the plants do and if we get a good crop this year. I'm thrilled knowing I can start closing the hoophouse up mid August and not have to worry about a random frost doing in the garden.. 

I also want to see how long we can actually grow things up here in Northern Michigan. I've read that other people have continued growing in their hoop houses through November. I've already purchased another roll of plastic, which I'm going to use as another layer on the hoop house once we start getting chilly weather up here. We also have a little heater we plan to use in there once it gets chilly.. 

Crossing my fingers the hoop house will provide us with lots of fresh veggies into the fall and provide us with enough canned produce to use all winter long!