Homesteading Basics DIY Hoop House: The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

hoop house plans as a greenhouse alternative

This is Marjory Wildcraft. On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to talk about the lessons I’ve learned from several years of operating a hoop house.

The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

This is a hoop house that’s about 12-feet wide by 48-feet long. If you need a big greenhouse quickly and economically, a hoop house is definitely the way to go. In fact, for me, it was super easy. I actually built this thing with one finger.

Yeah, I said to my husband, “Hon, I want a hoop house right there.” He built it. He’s really handy, and he loves it. Actually, I did help some. Anyway, it really is pretty quick to put up, and it’s very cost effective.

My DIY Hoop House Plan

There are a couple of things we’ve learned about it. We’re growing here in Central Texas, and we get extremes of heat and cold. In the summer, we get a lot of intense sun here. What we found works really well is using a 70 percent shade mesh in the summer months. It provides a good amount of shade, yet allows a breeze to go through. We are able to grow things really well inside the mesh-only greenhouse.

In the winter, just taking the mesh off and having plastic on is the best way to go. The plastic definitely keeps the greenhouse nice and warm. We are able to grow fabulous plants all winter long.
The main thing about this is it creates a pretty big maintenance issue twice a year.

In the spring, we’re taking the plastic off and putting the mesh on. Then, in the fall, we’re taking the mesh off and putting the plastic on. We did operate it for a while with both the plastic and mesh on in winter, and we found that it just doesn’t work that well.
That maintenance chore twice a year is going to take about four people for a greenhouse this size. That means we get the whole family involved with that chore.

But you can use a greenhouse for all seasons if you’re willing to do that kind of work.

Plans For A Summer vs. Winter Hoop House

My other concern is that the mesh seems to be holding up really well, but I’m not sure what the lifetime of the plastic is going to be. I think taking it off and putting it back on adds extra wear and tear to it, and it may not last as long as it would if we just kept it in place throughout the whole year. I’ve spoken with different operators of commercial greenhouses, and it seems the plastic lasts anywhere from one to three years according to the different farmers you talk to.

Personally, I feel that that’s a lot of waste. But it does seem to be effective, and that’s the way it is.

This is Marjory Wildcraft on operating a hoop house. Again, if you need a big greenhouse really quickly and fairly inexpensively, this is a good way to go. We’re going to be doing a lot more about greenhouses and growing in greenhouses on future episodes of Homesteading Basics.

Stay tuned. I’ll see you on another one.

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Marjory Wildcraft


Contributor

Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of "homegrown food on every table." Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her "Grow Your Own Groceries" video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.


10 Comments
  • Ms Marjory,I love everything that you stand for and practice .I am a disabled old firefighter and EMT.I would appreciate if you could consider some ways that the disabled population could be able to garden also.It would be a big market and we have a little more spare time .I would be able to input some great ideas ,and know others in the disabled conditions that would chip in and need your help by considering our conditions and makeing it possible for us to be included in gardening our own food.Please help us ?You are extremeley smart and I know you could advocate this .Please contact me about bringing this into reality for forgotten pushed aside disabled people that love outdoors but are not capable to be of service in the growing of our own food .to help ourselves and neighbors ect.Thank you sincerely jeff L

  • Thanks, Marjory, for the hoop house info. Two questions:
    First, do you have the plans for building your hoop house? A step-by-step would be helpful.
    Second, do you get freezing temps? our winter temps can get down to 20F or lower on occasion; I have about 3 months where this could happen here. Plants would freeze – do you have a way to keep it warm at night in the winter? The single plastic sheet does not insulate much.
    Many thanks, Linda

  • Charmian Larke

    We have a plastic polytunnel ( aka hoop house) and if you buy the right kind of plastic it will last for ten years. Important to get UV stabilised plastic of a reasonable thickness- which will also withstand the winds we get here. After ten years when we replaced the last plastic cover we specified a different kind of plastic which stops small insects from flying inside the tunnel. Something to do with interfering with the way smaller insects use polarised sunlight to see where they are going. This is very successful at stopping smaller insects, but does not stop bees from flying in.

  • Noreen

    Ha Ha! I thought you were going to show us an easy way to build a hoop house! Lucky you to have someone to build it.

    • I agree with Noreen. When I saw that the time was less than four minutes, I knew I wasn’t going to get the data on actually building a greenhouse with one finger (an exaggeration for very easy, I thought). I was surprised again to find that what I had already read in the accompanying text was what Marjorie says in the video. If I had known, I would have skipped the video. The only thing I got from the video was an idea of the scale of her hoophouse…

  • peg

    I want to hide my chickens in a run within a greenhouse, and a way to get to the plants without the chickens getting to them
    . Has anyone done this, or any ideas? I’ve seen a few, but thinking a hoop might be something I might be able to afford. Also Charmian, can you provide more info on your plastics? Thank you.

  • Sheri Cline - Washington State

    I’ve had several years to prepare my back and side yard for a hoop house. It’s been a huge process building rock walls, terraces, stairways and installing water barrels first. While searching designs I came upon a half-hoop house. It’s made by building a tall standing U-Shaped planter box. Attached to one long side of the planter box is a tall framed wall with an upper header beam. The PVC poles are anchored to the header beam and then anchored down to the outer planter wall. Add door framing on the open box side and a retractable screen “storm door” for cross ventilation and closure. On the tall-wall side the wall is covered with plastic fabric then over that pig panel wiring is anchored to it for raising tomatoes and other climbers. (NOTE) A friend gave me his old sailboat sails to use on my upper deck for summer shade. They are a white fiberglass reinforced heavy plastic that allows light to pass through. These things last for years! Excellent for hoop and greenhouse use. I’ll be working with a sail maker to measure, cut (heat seal ends) & grommet for attaching to the 2 sides and the one tall wall side. They can also install screened close-able windows like tent trailers. The pole side to upper header system needs to be put on pulley system with the cloth rising from the bottom. Sail cloth is a bit costly but it’s a one-time purchase. Hope this helps spark an idea for someone. Cheers!

  • Karen Prandy

    Do you have a temperature mark or seasonal mark that you use for when you switch from the plastic cover to the mesh, and back? We are in central Georgia, so the weather (like many areas of the country) can go from freezing to 70s in 12 hours! I would love to have a large hoop house, but we are pretty isolated and it would take some organizing to get 2 more people to our property to help out!

  • Stephanie

    What about using frost cloth instead of plastic…..?

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