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How to Build Your Own Hoophouse

May 07, 2012

Building a hoophouse is a bit like having children: there's a lot of pleasure involved at the idea's conception, but limited knowledge of the real work involved down the road. But just as it is difficult for me as a family man to imagine living without my children, I'd have a tough time living without my hoophouse. It is a central part of my gardening life, not to mention a favorite hang-out for my little boys. This page is meant to give you the inspiration and know-how to start a hoophouse project of your own.

With the frame in place, we turn our attention to installling the hoops
 

First, a few words of inspiration: tomatoes, melons, and peppers. Need I say more? A hoophouse provides the extra heat units you need to realize your wildest kitchen gardening fantasies. It allows you to have an earlier start, a later finish, and lots of extra warmth in between. The first year I had mine up, I was so excited about all the possibilities that I gardened right through the year and was harvesting Mache and Claytonia salads in the dead of winter which is not bad seeing that I live in Maine (Northeast USA). As if that weren't enough, here's the show stopper: with a hoophouse, you can garden in the rain and not get wet!

 
Defintely a two-person job and three's even better
 

Now the nuts and bolts. There are many plans available on the internet for building a hoophouse (see links below). The first one is the one I used for mine, adapting it from a 12' x 14' to a 12' x 16' in order to enjoy that extra row of whatever. Some of you will cringe with fear when you open up these plans and see that there's some basic carpentry involved. Fear not: I'm living proof that you don't have to be a handy person to build one, nor rich for that matter. What you do need is courage, patience, and a bit of creativity to deal with the problems that will inevitably arise as you go along. There will be rips in your plastic, cracks in your joints, and (in my part of the world) snowstorms that will try to make your hoophouse into a large plastic pancake. Once again, do not worry for most of these problems can be resolved with some clever thinking on your part and several rolls of duct tape.

 
Hoops and sides are in place
 
 

Three words to the wise: secure, support and ventilate. Once the plastic is on, your hoophouse will catch the wind like an oversized kite. Make sure that the four corner posts are dug deep into the ground. Although the plans below don't call for it, I would also suggest adding some additional deeply-dug support to the front and back walls. Similarly, if you live in the snowy north like I do, I would recommend that you envisage an internal support structure (2-3 beams supporting the spine will do) before the first snowstorm threatens. Once the snow has fallen, be sure to remove it quickly from the top of your structure to prevent stressing the joints. Finally, a hoophouse is for growing plants not for baking bread. If you feel uncomfortably warm inside, then your plants probably do too. Make sure you open it up and allow the air to flow.

 
View from inside
 

Download the plans here:

Small (12' x 14') hoophouse plans from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/postharv/green/small_greenhouse.pdf

 

Hoophouse instructions from the Washington State University

http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/em015/em015.pdf

 

Comments

What materials have you used for the plastic cover? In our good experience with our tomato house, the 6mil visqueen lasted slightly less than a year before it started to deteriorate & had to be gathered off so as not to spread plastic trash on the wind. Our climate is probably just a little colder, snowier & sunnier than yours - in the central mountains of Idaho. What is the most cost-effective cover these days?
Here's the part Drupal just cut off > Our winter climate is probably just a little colder, snowier & sunnier than yours - we're in the central mountains of Idaho. What is the most cost-effective cover these days?
On the allotment next to mine they are building a polytunnel [hoophouse]. The are using 2.5 inch OD plastic water pipe for the hoops and they are fed onto 5 feet long scaffold poles which project above ground by three feet. This gives a vertical side which seems to give greater access at the edges of the house.
This seems to give greater access to the edges of the house. PS: It cut of the end of my previous comment, and their is no facility to edit.
Yes.Increasing the sidewall's angle to bottom,as measured inside the structure,yields additional space inside.Sidewalls could also be inclined slightly outwards to enhance the effect.
The North Carolina Coop design is very nice,but the Washington State University solution I find excellent: definitely a contest winner candidate.However,both designs will need additional ridge support for withstanding any snow loads to speak of.Something like a temporary beam under the ridge with columns at 3 -5 foot spacing.
.....columns spaced 3-5 foot.
Hi Antonis I think the Washington State hoophouse plan is actually over-complicated because it constructs solid ends. If you can dispense with that then erection time will be down to less than an hour (and one person can do it) and you can dismantle and relocate in about an hour. I am not suggesting that the ends are left open but the covering fabric is used to seal them. .../
Yes. But we must not forget,that the structure gets it's transverse stiffness practically completely from the ends.Also,the ends will be built only one time: at initial construction.After that they are handled and stored as single units.And if they are not too big there may be some smart ways to shift them with one person only,provided there is no wind at the time....
But we must not forget transverse stiffness.Here this comes solely from from the ends.Also they will be built only one time:at initial construction.And,may be,there are some smart ways to shift them with one person only if they are not too big,provided there is no wind at the time.....
I would use 1 1/2" or 2" irrigation pipe for the arches which are slid over rebar hammered into the ground along the edges. The amount or rebar left above ground determines the amount of vertical sides you have, but I would suggest at least 3'. In my experience that ensures enough rigidity without the need for bracing. Your cover needs to be big enough to not only stretch over the arches but also to drape over at both ends to form a seal. Unfortunately
If you use a fabric row cover to cover your hoophouse you can make it large enough to not only cover the arches but long enough to drape over and seal the ends too. I realise that plastic is not suitable for this because it tears too easily but a fabric row cover will do the job.

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