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On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I talk about the lessons I’ve learned from several years of operating a hoop house.
The Easy Greenhouse Alternative
My hoop house is 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. 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 I’ve learned about it. On my homestead in Central Texas, 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.
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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 I don’t know of any truly viable alternatives. (Do you? If so, please let me know in the comments below!)
Again, if you need a big greenhouse really quickly and fairly inexpensively, hoop houses are a good way to go. (And remember, you can get our comprehensive, step-by-step Hoop House Plans right now for just $30!)
This article was originally published on January 30, 2017.
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Marjory Wildcraft is the founder of The Grow Network, which is a community of people focused on modern self-sufficient living. She has been featured by National Geographic as an expert in off-grid living, she hosted the Mother Earth News Online Homesteading Summit, and she is listed in Who’s Who in America for having inspired hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens. Marjory was the focus of an article that won Reuter’s Food Sustainability Media Award, and she recently authored The Grow System: The Essential Guide to Modern Self-Sufficient Living—From Growing Food to Making Medicine.
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
For people who are disabled, raised beds that are a great way to grow food. We’re older and have raised beds. The height of the bed is determined by whether a person is in a wheel chair, can bend over, or bend down. (People in wheel chairs need raised beds to be higher.) The width of a raised bed would depend on how far a person can reach & if they can go around the bed. Our beds are 4′ x 8′. We can get around on all four sides to weed, plant and harvest. I hope this helps. Linda
Le bonhomme dÃ©guise en soit disant &laq&o; druideunbsp;» Ã un petit air de jean dujardin vous trouvez pas?Merci pour les photos! mÃªme moi je m’Ã©tais pas autant prÃ©parer pour le Mont Fuji lol
I built my straw bale garden next to an old swimming pool so I have a constant supply of fresh rainwater. This next growing season I plan to play with using some wicking systems as well as gravity irrigation. Our local sausage plant sells food grade barrels for very little. I have thought about cutting off the top half (or more) to use for ready made raised beds. These could even be placed on concrete or porches for easier wheelchair access. I often see old bathtubs in the local marketplace paper, these would make pretty great beds too. Possibilities really are endless!
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
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.
can you share the brand and thickness and perhaps where you purchased your plastic Charmain Larke?
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…
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.
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!
We live in Washington State, too. Love your idea about using Sail Cloth!!!
Do you have pictures? What you did sounds beautiful and I would like to get some ideas but I am very picture driven. Thanks
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!
What about using frost cloth instead of plastic…..?
We live in the Pacific Northwest, so we leave our plastic up all year round on our 10′ x 20′ hoop house. We’re going to rebuild our hoop house this year, so I bought a UV clear, bubble wrap – pool cover, so we can grow during the cold months. This cover should last us several years.
Does the hoop house stand up to preventing animals from entering we have had a possum and a racoon in are back yard before ? Because I would love to do this in my backyard.
my husband and I think this was very interesting and I’ve
linked it with my my contacts! Thanks for this very
You’re welcome! I am so happy you are enjoying it. 🙂
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I like the idea of changing out the plastic for shade cloth twice a year. We have a small hoop house that sits empty for 4 months because it’s not needed. If we changed to shade cloth we could utilize it all year. Thanks for the tip Marjory!
I’m interested in the greenhouse idea, but like others, we live in the South (Middle Tennessee) and we have a lot of issues with heat, rain at the wrong times of the year, with just a short period of frost/freezing temperatures. What would be the best way in a small space to have year-round vegetables, i.e., lettuce, spinach, etc.?
We are experimenting with old sheets from thrift stores to replace that damn plastic. It works for smaller hoop houses. Lets put our collective creativity to work on getting rid of the plastic!
Cotton sheets are preferred by not ideal. Heat retention is problematic depending on where you are and what you want to grow… There has to be something besides one-use throw away plastic. Lets face it, there is no “away” to throw it anymore. Never was.
in the northern states there has been a bit of research in underground greenhouses…. that might be something to study…..
Corrugated fiberglass roofing (clear) is a much better alternative to plastic sheeting for hoop houses (horizontal, not vertical… kinda like this… http://theselfsufficientliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/barn-green-house-1.jpg ). You can add it the outside and inside and create a double wall if you like. They add rigidity as well as structural integrity and last much much longer than plastic. Shade cloth can go right on top in the summer, but is better suspended 6 inches above (and it doesn’t need to cover the entire hoop house, just the top, and even if you used PVC ribs, the added stiffness from the corrugated material allow for adding extra framing to support and secure the shade fabric). Ventilation can be done on the ends or it is not too hard to cut in windows and make an outer piece of corrugated fiberglass to fit perfectly overlapped when the vent is closed. If you live in an area that get heavy snow, then a gothic arch is much better than a hoop house and just about as easy to build and sheathe (Riga and Dancover are good examples of gothic arch designs and are easy to diy… https://www.rigagreenhousekit.com and https://dancover.co.uk/blog-new/snow-proof-greenhouses-for-snowy-and-cold-areas , and https://www.gothicarchgreenhouses.com/customer_review_jseamone.htm). If you want to get extra fancy and are not to aggressive on your curves, you can go with polycarbonate double walled sheathing like those two companies did. Both fiberglass and polycarbonate sheathing options are also perfect (and usually much better) for any size cold frames (especially a snow proof A frame type cold frame). The rigidity and added structural integrity makes them bulletproof compares to cheap plastic sheeting. (if you are going with the double walled polycarbonate sheathing, make sure to seal the air space on the open edges with a silicone calk, keeps the bugs out, seals the air making an insulation layer. Four feet deep in the ground it is always 50 degrees, and that can warm your greenhouse in the winter as well as cool it in the summer (bury some 4+” irrigation pipe and add a cheap low voltage fan (easy to run off a solar panel and a deep cycle battery and you can run that fan 24/7/365. If you have shade cloth in the summer you will most likely never have to worry about exterior ventilation and never worry about a heating bill in the winter). If you are feeling lazy or perhaps you are way too busy and feel like doing a “Marjory Wildcraft” finger build, here is a decent cheap option, https://farmersfriendllc.com/products/season-extension/caterpillar-tunnel (they sell gothic tunnels as well, and you can switch over to corrugated fiberglass roofing panels once your included plastic wears out).