Homemade hoop houses extend gardening season
I’m excited. I want to get going on my spring garden now. I attended a hoop house workshop put on by Western Nevada College’s Specialty Crop Institute in Fallon last Saturday. Now I want to build a hoop house for my garden next spring. What better time to plan it.
What is a hoop house? A hoop house is sometimes called a high tunnel. It is basically an arched or hoop-shaped frame covered with plastic. Hoop houses can extend our relatively short growing season, which averages May 15 to Sept. 15.
What the growers said, who taught the workshop, is that the protection the hoop house provides plants from the wind, blowing dust and the critters may be more important than the season extension.
Ideally, a hoop house is high enough to stand up in. Market gardeners often build hoop houses high enough with doors wide enough to drive in their tractors. For the home gardener, the door should be wide enough for a garden cart or wheelbarrow.
Hoop houses are usually passively solar heated, without automated heating or ventilation systems. Crops are grown in the ground with drip irrigation. Hoop houses are relatively inexpensive structures ranging in price from $1.50 to $3 per square foot.
If you are interested in a hoop house, here are some basic considerations. They need to be located in a sunny spot where the soils are well drained, fertile and free of diseases and weeds.
A water source is essential. The end walls of the hoop house are important for support of the entire structure and are often constructed of wood including a framed door.
The hoop ribs can be metal or PVC pipe attached to 2-foot rebar stakes driven 18 inches into the ground.
Ray and Virginia Johnson from Custom Garden Organics in Silver Springs suggest placing the PVC vertical support ribs three feet apart to provide added strength in our winds. Many manufacturers say four feet is all that is needed; but have they experienced a Nevada windstorm?
Ray adds cross-bracing supports on the corners of his hoop house walls. The ribs, ceiling beam, sides and end panels are covered with plastic with ultra violet inhibitor. Because PVC and wood break down in Nevada’s intense sunlight, Extension Educator Holly Gatzke from Caliente recommends painting all parts with a latex paint to reduce deterioration.
Utah State University has an excellent publication called “Constructing a Low-Cost High Tunnel” by Black, Drost, Rowley and Heflebower at extension.usu.edu/files/ publications/
If you don’t have access to the Internet, I am happy to send you a copy.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.