I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our hoop houses that we have over our raised beds here at Chiot’s Run. They show up in a lot of photos. They sure come in handy for covering with frost blankets, netting to keep insects/birds out, supporting peas, as well as for winter garden protection. The first year I overwintered some spinach I didn’t have these hoops over the garden. I simply bent some bamboo poles and floated a row cover over them. This did a fabulous job protecting my spinach crop throughout the winter (we live in a zone 5).
The next spring we decided to build more permanent and sturdier structures for overwintering crops. We didn’t have enough space for a big greenhouse or a big hoop house, so the next best thing was to make small hoop houses over each raised bed. I researched a little and found that a lot of people use irrigation tubing or PVC, which is plastic and pliable. You drive some stakes or rods into the soil leaving 8-12 inches sticking out of the soil or make a base with holes in it to insert the tubing into. I found these photos on Flicker to give you an idea of other options (thanks to oceandesetoiles for these two images)
We decided we’d rather use electrical conduit because of it’s rigidity, we get a lot of heavy wet snows here and didn’t think the tubing would hold up as well. This conduit is very inexpensive as well and we figured it would outlast the irrigation tubing as well. The conduit was $2.19 each length of pipe and we used 4 per raised bed (our beds are 4×10).
Now I’ll have to warn you that pipe bending is not the easiest thing in the world. Mr Chiots and I worked together and our hoops are fairly nice. Not perfect, but not too bad either. I’d recommend buying an extra piece of conduit for a practice piece. The first thing we did to help with even bending was to mark the conduit 21 inches in from each end and then in 2 inch increments in between these two marks.
We used a hand pipe bender and practiced on one or two pieces to learn how much force was needed for a small bend each 2 inch increment along the length of the pipe. We over bent the pipes a bit, so they did not look like a hoop when we were finished. Ours looked more like teardrops since we left the ends straight, then we stretched them back out a bit to put them over the beds.
I will once again warn that this isn’t the easiest thing to do to get these things nicely rounded (read through the comments on this post I wrote about it last year). Mr Chiots and I are adventurous and willing to try to do anything ourselves though, so we were not daunted by the task. We were also OK with less than perfect hoops. We joke that ours have character since they were made by local artisans.
You can now buy a special tool just for bending garden hoop houses from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They came out with it the year after we made ours. It’s a little pricey at $69, but if you want to make a lot of hoops or have someone to share the cost with it would be a worthwhile investment.
We attached the hoops to the raised beds with two pipe clamps, one up top and one at the bottom. They’re very sturdy and will last a long time. I do love these because they come in handy for so many things. We use them to hold up netting over the strawberries to keep the birds out. We throw row covers over them to keep the deer out of the peas. We also throw blankets over them to protect from late spring frosts.
I ordered some greenhouse plastic this week and I’m hoping to use them as mini greenhouses this winter. I’ll be using a floating row cover on short wickets inside these hoops (you can be sure I’ll blog about it this fall). They also have come in handy to steady myself if I lose my balance or when I’m reaching in to the middle of the bed.
What measures do you use in the garden for extending the season and protecting crops?Filed under Make Your Own, Winter Gardening | Comments (19)