Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hoop Houses

A few years ago we added mini hoop houses to cover our raised garden beds. They add about 6 weeks to the growing season in the spring and if you put them back on in the fall they can extend the end of the growing season by several weeks as well.

We made the hoops from flexible electrical PVC pipe. We connected a galvanized steel pipe strap to the sides of our raised beds and threaded the PVC pipe through the straps to hold them in place. This also makes the pipe easy to remove once the weather warms up.

We then covered the mini hoop houses with 6 mil (heavy) clear plastic. The plastic is sold in long rolls in the painters section of a home improvement store. The plastic is held in place with A clamps.

These mini hoop houses have made it possible to start our garden several weeks earlier and protect the tender plants from strong winds and storms.

The biggest challenge of these hoop houses is to find a balance of not exposing the tender plants too much to the cold air of early April, but venting them enough that they don't get too hot inside. This has only been especially challenging on a very sunny but frigid cold day where the temperature is 30 F but it's so sunny the hoop house gets too hot inside. I generally lift up the plastic 2-3" on each side by 9am to allow air flow, then close them at night.

As the weather warms up, I open the sides more and more. Then by mid May I remove the covers during the day and only cover at night if the temperature is predicted to drop too much.

Overall we have been so happy with these covers and they have made it possible to plant and harvest much earlier.

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