A Hoop house is basically just a greenhouse which uses rigid poles bent into curves (half hoops) and attached at ground level. Then the “ribs” are covered with some sort of fabric or plastic turning it into a greenhouse. Most dome shaped greenhouses use this exact same design but we are going to deal with a much smaller version.
Hoop houses from garden boxes
Converting your garden boxes to miniature greenhouses using the hoop house model is relatively quick and painless. It should greatly increase you planting season by at least a couple weeks in the spring and a couple more weeks in the fall.
What you will need
1/2 inch Polyethylene Pipe – 100 foot roll: ~ $20
1/2 inch wooden dowels – 4′ lengths ~ $3
Drill with 1/2 inch drill bit
Wire- plastic coated if possible
Staple gun (with staples – always important)
Some sort of covering – Plastic sheeting will do
So since the title says converting an existing garden box, we will assume you have a nice garden box ready to go. You can build these as soon as the snow is gone and it warms just enough to get outside. So lets begin.
The basic premise is that the dowels will be cut to a length, inserted into the top edge of the garden box, then the PVC pipe will attach over the exposed dowel on either side of the box forming an arc. Then we will cover the whole thing with our plastic/garden fabric.
Start measuring from one end of the box. Measure every two feet along the long sides of the Garden box and mark. The marks should be on both sides directly across from each other.
Using the drill, drill holes at each point marked and near the ends of each side. These will be the holes into which the dowel will go. The depth of the hole should be a few inches, with the dowels being cut a few inches longer to allow the pipe to fit over it.
If you drilled, say, 3 inches into the garden box. you should cut your dowel into at least 6 inches (try one and experiment first.
Now you have a garden box with a bunch of pegs sticking out – time to get the pipe out.
Using the open end of the pipe, attach it by sliding it over the dowel, then arc it and put the other end near where it should go. You are determining a reasonable height/distance from which you will cut the pipe.
Once you figure out a good form/shape for the “rib”, – measure it and record the measurement. Now using the hacksaw cut the pipe into sections of that length—one for each pair of dowels in the garden box.
Then you can place the ribs over the dowels, and now you have a hoop house form over your garden box. Structurally, the higher the hoops, the more unstable they are. If you feel they are unstable, attach a piece of strapping wood or even a straight piece of pipe on the top of the ribs for the length of the garden box. Tie it to each rib with the plastic-coated wire. You can even add side braces if need be.
Now that you have a nice sturdy frame let’s get out your covering. Unfold/roll your covering so that it is at least 4-5 feet longer than the garden box. Plastic sheeting comes in 10′ and 8′ foot wide (50 and 100-foot rolls). Be aware of the proper dimensions to get the most out of your covering. You can double up and tape Plastic with tuck tape (red sticky stuff) if need be.
I am using garden fabric which is more than long enough.
Attach one side of the covering to the box using staples. Next, pull the covering over the hoops and attach it with staples to the other side, or use rocks to hold it down on the other side so you can open it up on warm days or to have a good look. The ends can be stapled or weighted down with rocks as well.
There, technically you are done. You can pretty it up, make it look all nice and professional, but it’ll work the same.
For a sturdier, more permanent house, concrete metal mesh makes for a very sturdy frame and makes a great permanent structure for some of your larger plants. It’s a little harder to work with, but with some bolt cutters to cut the wire, some nails to attach the sides and a friend to help out, it’s very easy to do.
If it’s going to be really cold, a string of old “hot” style exterior Christmas lights will keep the contents all warm and cosy. Probable will make your garden look all glowy at night too.
Square Foot Gardening
Links and Resources
I highly recommend the following book to understand the
basics of Square foot Gardening.