Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hoop houses made easy

It was brought to my attention that someone couldn't find a post on our hoop houses... and neither could I. Could it be that I never posted pictures? Yeah, it's possible.

Shame on me.


Two years ago, DH built a lettuce box (post here) and did a darn good job of it too. It's doing incredibly well.... but I made a few minor adjustments and added some increased functionality, like having the seedlings survive an early frost.

I turned it into a hoop house, and it was cheap and easy to do. Now not only does it keep the seedlings from frost, but it keeps them warm, keeps the moisture in, keeps the weeds out, etc.

First of all, like any good project, it's a reason to go to Home Depot.

What I added to the lettuce box was  pex... sharkbite flexible plumbing tubing. The tubes are 1/2" pex (about $3/10' length) I cut them down to 5' lengths for the lettuce box and attached them using 1/2" plumbing clamps.

Then I bought a 3/4" length of pex to cut in to smaller pieces for the clamps. I checked at the store to make sure that the smaller pipe would fit inside the larger pipe... I recommend doing this if you decide to use different sizes.

For the 3/4" pipe, I tried several different sizes and lengths, and depending on whether you want your clamps to be hard or easy to remove, you'll want to have enough tubing to experiment. I've found that what works best for me is lengths cut on the circular saw in about 2" lengths, then use a box cutter blade to cut a straight slit down the side, and then a second about 1/4" away .. .. and it's not as easy as it sounds. Once the first cut is made, then you make the second cut.. to end up with a 'C' shaped 2" bit of tube.

 

Then the plastic: we had some leftover 6 mil plastic from either the water feature episode of the rehab or from various paint jobs around the house, and I started with that.

I wrapped one long sheet over the top of the hoops and used the clamps to hold the plastic in place. Works like a charm.


Then whenever we want to get to the lettuce (arugula here) we just pull the clips off and pull the plastic back.

In fact, it worked out so well that I went full scale on the raised beds as well, but instead of using 5 foot lengths, I used the full 10 foot length for the maximum height.

x


Another difference is that I decided to use clips that were harder to pop off (at first, when we got a strong storm, the smaller clips could get popped off from the plastic. I got tired of that, so I used longer pieces and smaller channel cuts that held better.

Because the clips held better, it was easier just to install a zipper, the kind used for drywall containment areas. (Find them next to the 6 mil plastic at the store.) MUCH easier than popping off the clamps and then reinstalling them afterward.

I also used three separate pieces of plastic instead of just one, as for the smaller lettuce box. One large sheet across the top and two smaller squares for the rounded ends. I just clamp them all together as shown in the image above.


The best part of it is that when it gets warm enough, I remove the plastic and replace it with a 25% shade, permeable garden cloth which I have sewn into a full Quonset hut shaped cover. It's one solid piece and allowed me to grow cucumbers and zucchini for the first time in years without having the cucumber beetles kill the entire crop.

 

It took me hours to hand sew in place, but I guess it was worth it considering the results.

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