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Building Hoop Houses out of Electrical Conduit

April 17th, 2010

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?

21 Comments to “Building Hoop Houses out of Electrical Conduit”
  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: Building Hoop Houses out of Electrical… http://goo.gl/fb/NDwEr #makeyourown #wintergardening #hoophouses #howto [...]

    Reply to Tweets that mention Building Small Garden Hoop Houses out of Electrical Conduit | Chiot’s Run — Topsy.com's comment

  2. Ken Toney on April 17, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for the post. I covered a couple of beds last fall with pvc pipe after reading about hoop houses on somebody’s blog. The heavy wet snow this past winter beat them down. They didn’t stand a chance against it. I plan to replace them with the metal conduit. I have a pipe bender just like yours, but had never seen detailed tips for bending the hoops. Thanks. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet your advice has saved me a couple of conduits.
    .-= Ken Toney´s last blog ..Jorene’s Perennial Gardens-April 2010 =-.

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

    • Susy on April 17, 2010 at 7:53 am

      We started with some PVC hoops for netting, but they weren’t strong and didn’t last very long. We took that apart and made these conduit ones, which are very sturdy and have held up very well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. risa b on April 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

    We use a jig for this. Mark the ground in a semicircle the size you want. At one end hammer in two stakes about 2″ apart. Hammer another stake every 18 inches or so all the way round the semicircle. Lay pipe on ground with one end of it sticking through the first two stakes. Walk the pipe around the other stakes to the other end. Bent!

    Reply to risa b's comment

    • Susy on April 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

      Figured someone had made their own jig. We considered it, but since we already had a pipe bender (courtesy of my dad) we did it this way.

      Thanks for the tip, I’m sure many people will find that much easier than the pipe bending method.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Mrs. Mac on April 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I like the pictures you posted here. The ones of the hoops connected to the wooden frame (top 2 pics) gave me an idea as we don’t have true raised beds … more semi terraced. I need to be able to take the hoops off easily and store them or at least set aside so I can till the soil. We live in zone 5 and get heavy snows .. this is a good way to extend our short season. Thanks for sharing
    .-= Mrs. Mac´s last blog ..Time In The Garden =-.

    Reply to Mrs. Mac's comment

    • Susy on April 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Yes, in Eliot Coleman’s a The Winter Harvest Handbook book they just stick them into the ground 10 inches so they’re easily removed for working the soil.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Michelle on April 17, 2010 at 11:37 am

    These are great…and cost effective…thank you for sharing this info!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..lunch. =-.

    Reply to Michelle's comment

  6. mamaraby on April 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    We’ve always toyed with the idea of using season extending practices – we use Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” and he already has suggestions in there…just haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe this year? I’m just happy with the now 5 Kale plants that somehow lived through the winter w/out any action on my part.
    .-= mamaraby´s last blog ..Folk Music Fridays – “Beloved” =-.

    Reply to mamaraby's comment

  7. Julia on April 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Great post! I’ve been hearing a lot about hoop houses lately, and I have been thinking it about for next year. I used to use a portable greenhouse but I got tired of chasing it down the street on windy days.

    Reply to Julia's comment

    • Susy on April 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

      Yes, I have a small one that I would roll out in the sun during the day and into the garage at night. It was poor quality though and often a wheel would fall off, or a shelf would fall out spilling all the seedlings. Annoying for sure!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Sara on April 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I have PVC hoops I use for season extension, with plastic and/or row cover on top. And a friend gave me willow this year for mini hoops which is working out great (not as permanent at PVC or conduit, but free!) We are having some of our earliest salads ever thanks to this cheap and easy set up.

    So far not using over winter, just getting a head start on the season, but I am dreaming of a small hoop house for this fall… we’ll see.

    I really love the floating row covers for both light frost protection and pest control!
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..firsts =-.

    Reply to Sara's comment

  9. Momzoo on April 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Great post, I have been wanting to do something like this for a few years. I showed my husband the post and he is going to do it for me this fall! YAY!

    Aimee
    .-= Momzoo´s last blog ..A Little Lovin’ in the Carrot Patch =-.

    Reply to Momzoo's comment

  10. Sylvana on April 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Great tutorial! I hadn’t considered using the metal conduit. If I make a large hoop house I think that I will go this route. My beds are only 4×16 so I’m thinking PVC will work well for individual beds (easier to bend, but not as attractive).
    .-= Sylvana´s last blog ..Of Course You Want More… =-.

    Reply to Sylvana's comment

  11. Working on the Fall Garden | Chiot's Run on September 9, 2010 at 4:47 am

    [...] frost (which we sometimes do here in Ohio). I’m thinking of having Mr Chiots help me make some of those hoops that we can use in her garden to cover crops if needed. Fall gardening is interesting, since I’ve [...]

    Reply to Working on the Fall Garden | Chiot’s Run's comment

  12. Organic Spring Greens All Winter on April 6, 2011 at 11:48 am

    [...] to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse Building Hoop Houses out of Electrical Conduit Share| Posted in Health, Recreation, Society | Tagged garden, healthy, organic, vegan blog [...]

    Reply to Organic Spring Greens All Winter's comment

  13. phil lack on February 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    thanks for the wonderful directions. I have a pipe bender on loan and an electrician friend gifted me with some conduit pieces and fittings!! and will get someone to bend the pipes for me!! but I will install them using pipe clamps. MI found a great place in Neche, North Dakota called Northerngreenhouses.com. no affiliation, but they make a good woven poly sheet that should do well with wooden raised beds. they are nice folks to deal with, too!!

    Reply to phil lack's comment

  14. Jeph on November 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Just out of curiosity, what width of row cover/plastic are you guys finding works best? A friend bent hoops for me using the Johnnys gadget for my 4′ wide beds, and my agribond is too narrow to get over the hoops all the way to be anchored down. Yes, I should just push them into the ground more, but they’re also quite a ways down in the heavy clay and don’t want to go any further. I think my agribond is maybe 8′ wide yet still falls short. I’m considering safety pinning two lengths of it together (bad idea, right?) or ordering the super wide stuff… Not cheap for a home garden!

    Reply to Jeph's comment

    • Susy on November 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Not sure which width you ended up with. I think they have a few different widths. I have some that’s 10 ft wide and I like it because it gives me a little extra on the sides. You could always pin it together, though the heat might escape from the top, probably sewing would be better.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Carla on January 4, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Does the metal rust at all? We get a lot of rain here in the PNW!

    Reply to Carla's comment

    • Susy on January 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      No this type of conduit doesn’t rust.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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