A couple of winters ago we decided to turn one of our raised beds into a hoop house in an attempt to extend our season a bit. So we purchased some supplies, threw it all together, planted a few spinach and kale seeds and expected magic in November.
No, I’m not joking. We got a really late start that year and didn’t even know how unrealistic we were being until nothing grew.
However, even though the late fall and winter were fruitless, our seeds enjoyed the elevated temps inside the hoop houses in the late winter/early spring and we had lots of greens available to us much earlier than we would have without the hoop house.
Naturally, we learned to transform our beds much earlier in the fall, use mulch, hope for the best, but expect very little immediately and trust that the seeds will give when they’re ready and the conditions are just right.
So, how do you turn a raised be into a hoop house? Well, I’ll show you! For the purposes of this post, I will use our raised bed dimensions of 4 feet by 5 feet, so all of the supplies below will build one 4 X 5 hoop house.
- A Raised Bed
- Plastic Poly Sheeting – 10 X 100 feet – 4 or 6 mil
- 8 Clamps
- 6 1-Inch Galvanized 2-Hole Pipe Straps
- 3 10-foot X 1 inch PVC pipes
- Screw driver
- Screw your pipe straps on the inside of the bed, horizontally, about two inches from the top of the bed and about 1 inch in from the corner.
- Next, find your midpoint on the bed (if your bed is 5 feet long, you’re looking for the ~2.5 foot mark) and screw your remaining two pipe straps in, horizontally again, at those mid-points.
- Once your pipe straps are secure, take one of the PVC pipes, feed one end into the pipe strap and down into your soil an inch or two.
- Then, carefully pull the other end down and over to the pipe strap the is opposite of the one you just pushed through. You have just created your first supporting rib.
- Repeat by placing the remaining two PVC pipes in your middle and final straps to create your three supporting ribs.
- Now, pull out your plastic sheeting and cut a ~15 foot strip of it. It is folded nicely when you unroll it, keeping it folded will make it much easier to cut.
- Then, unfold your 10 X 15 foot sheet and place it over your supporting ribs. Your width is 10 feet, your length is 15 feet. The sheeting should cover all sides of your original raised bed by about a foot.
- Now, I need you to think about this ghostly looking thing as really big present that needs to be wrapped.
- Start with the back of the bed and using two clamps, secure the back end of the plastic to the bed, ensuring that it is pulled taught.
- Then, move to the front and do the same.
- Next, move to the sides. You’ll see there appears to be lots of plastic. Take the corner of the plastic where it drapes down from one of the ribs, create a fold in it and pull that corner to the middle of side of the bed. From the same side of the bed,repeat that action with the other corner. Secure both corners with the clamps to the side of the bed where ever it makes sense (I usually secure them at about the 1/3 and 2/3 points down the bed.)
- Now, on the other side of the bed, repeat the pulling, folding and securing of the corners.
- Adjust as needed and know it’s not going to be absolutely perfect 😉
You’ve just created your first Hoop House! Congratulations!!!
Now, the point here is to create an environment in which seeds can thrive earlier (or later) that your normal growing season because you have just created an environment that will warm up nicely during the day which will also stay a bit warmer than the outside overnight. The temperature difference will not be incredibly great during the freezing days of winter, but during early spring and late fall, the difference can have a huge impact on how quickly your seeds and seedlings can mature.
A couple of notes:
- Plastic Sheeting – You’ll have lots of extra plastic sheeting, but it comes in these huge rolls that are helpful for building more hoop houses, throwing in your SHTF Emergency bin or throwing down while painting.
- Screws – It’s important here to get the appropriate sized screws for your beds. For example, if the wood you’ve used for your beds is 1 inch x 6 inches by 5 feet, you want your screws to be less than 1 inch in length so they pop out the other side of your bed.
- Longevity – Once you have your pipe straps installed on your raised beds, I recommend leaving them there. Doing so will allow you to quickly put up your hoop house again the next time you’re ready for it. Simply fold up your plastic sheeting and store it somewhere safe with the PVC pipes when you’re done with it for the season. The PVC pipes with last indefinitely and the plastic sheeting should last at least a couple of seasons.
There you have it! Now go forth and grow some early (or late) veggies!