Extend Your Growing Season – Build a Hoop House

Gardening can be rewarding, especially at blossom time and harvesting. It can be that much MORE rewarding, if you can extend your growing season by starting earlier, and harvesting longer. No matter what USDA Zone you live in, one way to achieve this goal is by protecting your plants from the cold, and sheltering them from the blistering heat.

As you may have seen in my blog, I have a hoop house covering not one, but now two, of my garden beds. Both aquaponic garden beds are fed by the (2) interconnected fish tanks, and today I will give you all the information you need to build your own hoop house!

Material: You are going to need supplies. While many people choose wood to construct, I prefer PVC (schedule 40). In my opinion, there is no real cost difference between the two, and for me it is just a personal preference. Plus, as a former plumber, I have several pieces and fittings already lying around, and quite frankly, I’m not much of a carpenter, and not all that great with a circular saw. Or hammer and nails.

IMG_4357I prefer PVC because, for me, it is easier to use. Easier to construct, disassemble and store, and it is both lightweight and sturdy. While many people use PVC glue to secure and attach their pieces, I do not. Simply insert the pipe into the fittings, making sure the pipe goes all the way into the fitting. You can look inside the fitting to verify the pipe is ‘made up’. You may need to use a brick to ‘hammer’ the pipe in. I use the ground.

IMG_4340First thing you need is some 3/4″ piping. It is both flexible and sturdy enough for our needs. The hoop house we are building will be 12′ long and 5′ high at the apex. For this you will need 90′ of schedule 40 piping, (6) 3/4″ crosses, and (6) 3/4″ tee’s. Make sure you use pressure fittings. They are deeper and thus hold together better.

Now, take (6) of those 10′ pieces of pipe and cut them in half. I use tubing cutters, but a hack saw works just as well, assuming you ream the edges to remove any plastic burrs. A gloved finger works just fine, though a knife works well. You should have (12) pieces each measuring 5 feet long. Using (3) of the 5′ pieces, connect them using (2) 3/4 crosses. Repeat this process. With the remaining (6) pieces, connect (3) pieces like above, only this time use 3/4″ tees, and repeat this process.

IMG_4361     IMG_4362

You should now have (4) pieces 15 feet long. 1 set connected with tees, the other set with crosses. The tees will be the bookends, and the crosses will go side by side in between the two.

With the remaining (3) pieces of pipe, cut (12) pieces 36″ long . Connect the tees to a corresponding cross. and then connect the crosses together. When you are finished, you should have a lattice type configuration that measure 15′ x 12′.

IMG_4360To anchor the hoop house I use cinder blocks, but you might choose wood framing and pipe clamps or even some more PVC piping, staked into the ground with couplings. Whichever method you use, connect (4) ends of the lattice to one side, then bend the lattice, making a hoop, to the other side, and connect.

IMG_4139Finally, you can buy some 6 mil plastic sheathing from the home improvement store to wrap it all up. This will help trap the heat, keeping everything inside nice and toasty during those cold snaps and cool nights. Of course, you need to watch the daytime highs as things can get quite warm rather quickly. Sure, it’s a bit of extra work, but it  will pay off handsomely when I continue my harvest through the winter months! And then again when I harvest my spring and summer plants that much earlier. A coat of spray paint will protect the piping from the harmful UV rays, and as such, help your materials last longer. Also, the cinder blocks or wood frame will be heavy enough to anchor the plastic, though additional blocks may be needed for the ends of the tunnel.

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