Hoop Houses

Guest post by Tom today, talking about the latest construction project at Poppy Corners Farm – hoop houses!


Elizabeth had planted some winter crops, and while we're able to grow things in winter, we wanted to protect them from the frost we often get, and maybe cut down on our deer losses somewhat. Enter hoop houses – lengths of floating row cover fabric stretched over a frame over the raised beds.

Construction of the frame was rather straightforward and pretty inexpensive to boot. I picked up 10' lengths of 3/8" rebar and 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC pipe. The frames needed two lengths of rebar and five length of PVC for each of our 4x8' raised beds.

Next, I used a hacksaw to cut the rebar into 2' lengths. You only need to cut the rebar about half-way through, then you can just bend at the cut and it'll break off nicely.

Use gloves – it'll leave sharp ends. You can buy the rebar in 2' lengths to begin with, but you can get one 10' length for about the price of two of the 2' lengths. I didn't mind using the hacksaw.

Starting at one corner of the raised bed and proceeding about every two feet, I hammered the lengths of rebar about two inches out from the raised beds, and about even with the top. Next, I slotted one end of the PVC pipe over one piece of rebar, then bent it over and slotted it over the rebar on the other side of the bed.

As you can see, the tops of the hoops are around 4' tall. I could have tried trimming off some of the length of the PVC pipe to get a shorter hoop, but I was a little concerned about how much stress that would put on the pipe and the rebar.

A little more sawing, pounding, and bending, and the frames were complete!

This is really starting to look like a farm.
Elizabeth then stretched the row cover fabric over the frames, securing them with binder clips.

The hoop houses should let enough sun through for things to keep growing, as well as raise the temperature underneath several degrees. It should let rain through as well.


Elizabeth here. I'm very pleased with this project, and had several neighbors stop and talk about it and how it might help with frost and deer. I am so happy that folks are interested in what we do here. There's a group of older ladies who walk by every so often, and one of them found me in the yard yesterday and offered me her 1916 copy of "The ABC and XYZ of Beekeeping," a still relevant and necessary book for beekeepers today. I was so touched. She said she wanted me to have it because she admires me! I was extremely proud and grateful.

I spent some quality time yesterday moving cardboard and mulch to a spot in the front yard that used to be grass, but now is mostly used as a path to get to the side yard, and so is quite muddy. I sheet mulched it as usual, without the layer of compost; I figure I don't really need to improve the soil here, since it will just mainly see foot traffic (although even cardboard and mulch will add a significant amount of organic matter). I put a fairly thick layer (6") of wood chips on top of the cardboard, because we've seen now from experience that it all compacts rather a lot as it decomposes.

Today I started on the back yard. I didn't get very far; we need a whole lot more cardboard. I'm always amazed how much this process requires, and also pleased at the amount of material we can take out of the waste stream and decompose here, naturally. So, I will have to go dumpster diving to find more. I did this before at a local recycling place, which has since closed! argh! But I got a lead on a dumpster behind a Rite Aid... I just realized how crazy that last sentence sounds. I'm getting nuttier by the minute!

Happy Thanksgiving, all, and Happy Gardening!