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Hooping It Up! Hoop Houses

posted by Lambykins on Nov 26th, 2011 at 12:06pm

The Darlin' Man and I experienced Total Garden Failure last season. A combination of the natural desert climate and hotter than average temperatures combined with the ongoing Texas drought spelled it's doom. Watering did no good as the temperatures were so high for so long, the heat killed the plants before they could make it to maturity.

This year, we plan on building Hoop Houses and garden in them.

We have never tried Hoop House Gardening, so research is our first step!

A great resource is this page:

www.hoophouse.msu.edu

If you go to the links page, there is MUCH more. Also lots of good stuff on the resource pages.

They have a pdf file that we downloaded to read at our leisure. So much to learn!

On The Kerr Center website, they have a wonderful download that includes plans and material lists!

www.kerrcenter.com/publications/hoophouse/index.htm

In fact, no matter what you want or need to learn about farming or gardening is probably on the Kerr Center website!

Of course, there is absolutely no substitute for "hands on" experience! With that in mind, we have found someone locally that has built and gardened in Hoop Houses and is willing to come out and teach/help us how to build and maintain one and all the other details of this. Of course, we are paying them for their expertise and assistance in building our Hoop House. This will be a small (26 foot by 26 foot) Hoop House. We will be building it on our concrete basketball court in the back yard. The court was there when we rented the place, so why not utilize it?!? We don't play basketball and the concrete pad has mainly been use as a place to stage lumber and supplies for other projects. We are lucky to have a level solid space to put a Hoop House!

I know some of my fellow Earthineers have Hoop Houses or have used them in the past. I am hopeful that some of you will chime in so we can add to our knowledge base and spread Hoop House enthusiasm around Earthineer!

I am curious about a few things (never having had a Hoop House):

What was the biggest mistake you ever made in building/maintaining Hoop Houses?

What were the difficulties in "regular" gardening that you didn't have with your Hoop House?

Pollination...what do we do about that?

Any materials you heartily recommend? Any you swear you'll never use again?

What vegetables and fruits did well for you? Which were a complete flop?

Let's start the discussion!

 

About the Author

Lambykins Lambykins  

This is Frippery Farm, a one acre plot of land in the desert. Living west of El Paso with my Darlin' Man as he winds his way down to retirement from the Army. Raising goats, chickens, peafowl, turkeys, geese and rabbits. Add in a couple of teenagers and a couple dogs and you have a great recipe for chaos!

Comment by Spun Gold Farm on Nov 26th, 2011 at 12:32pm 0 Likes

I tried one, but my problem was the wind. If possible orient toward your prevailing wind, so it goes up and over the rounded exposure.

You can open the ends for breeze and insect pollinators, you can use shade cloth for cooler temps--but if you are building on cement, you lose some of the bennies of the cooling power of the soil. I built mine over a section of garden and planted direct. In colder climes, you can build smaller hoops over the beds to have a second preserve of soil temps close to the plants.

Comment by Catherine Lyon on Nov 26th, 2011 at 12:51pm 0 Likes

Thank you both Lambykins and Spun Gold for the info. I have always been interested but have never gotten that ambitious.

I would enjoy hearing your results. Living in W Texas, I have experienced the same tribulations for gardening that you have and have tried to troubleshoot with ways to beat mother nature and extreme heat and wind.

I had put hoops up over my veggy boxes, but the winds stripped off the plastic cover like no ones business. I too would love to hear great trouble shooting ideas for veggy boxes and your hoop houses.

Comment by Lambykins on Nov 27th, 2011 at 4:15am 0 Likes

We will be using raised boxes. The soil here is absolutely useless, unless we add tons of compost. We have compost, just not tons of it! So, we have found a source for good soil to fill the boxes.
As for the concrete and the cooling effect of soil, the soil around here bakes your plants in the heat, even with almost constant watering. We figure, that if we soak the concrete under the hoop house, the natural evaporation will keep it cooler in the hoop house.
I am worried about the wind, but am hoping that we can find solutions to mitigate that issue.
We are planning on having "hoops within hoops", i.e., smaller hoop houses in the larger one.

Comment by Killalunie on Nov 27th, 2011 at 8:33am 0 Likes

I had a hoophouse for a short time and hope to have one again. My problem too was wind. I had buried the one side in the ground and that seemed to keep the cover from blowing off, but the wind twisted the metal structure and ripped the cover. I had it so the wind was going against the sides hoping it would survive. Next time I will build with wood and reinforce it well. Then attatch the plastic in more places to keep it from becoming a sail. I thought mine would be ok because we have tree protection. But there is an opening in the trees and the river beside it becomes a wind tunnel.
At a different place I lived I had one that survived amazing amounts of wind, but it had trees on all sides.
When I build again, it will also be sunk 4 feet into the ground. That should do the trick.
I will miss mine this Winter because there is nothing nicer when it is way below freezing but the sun is shining and I can be out there puttering. So good luck.

Comment by Killalunie on Nov 27th, 2011 at 8:35am 0 Likes

P.S. I found it interesting too that the wind was not nearly as much an issue on the side that the wind was blowing from as it was on the back side.

Comment by Wild Squirrel 2 on Nov 27th, 2011 at 9:35am 0 Likes

We have had a hoop house since "99". If 26x26 is small than every thing is bigger in Tx. One of the best things you have going for you is the concrete floor. The one thing I will never use again is off the shelf poly. A total waste of money. UV protected greenhouse poly is a must. As far a pollinating we leave the door open and hang fake bright colored flowers above the outside of the door. Bees seem to come up to the fakes and go in and work. Heat is the biggest problem shade cloth even if it's old sheets are another thing we had to have. In Wyoming we thought that in Texas you could throw out some Cheerios and grow donuts. Is that a myth?

Comment by Ann Martin on Nov 27th, 2011 at 10:19am 0 Likes

i want to build a hoop house, too...we live only about 80 miles from lambykins, so i know what she is talking about with the soil...it is sand over clay...it's what is used to make adobe...it is a sucking muck when wet and then dries to concrete like hardness...it is great for adobe houses because of the flywheel effect (absorbing heat in the day and releasing it at night) however, it will bake plants and will choke the everliving crap out of them (pardon the language!) lol...we use raised beds for most of our garden...the only thing that seems to do okay directly in the soil is watermelon and cantalope...

we have a couple of compost pits that has produced wonderful compost, plus we have a neighbor that gives us all the horse manure we want...so our raised beds are a mixture of the adobe soil, manure and compost...works pretty well for us...we want to expand our garden production and that is why we are interested in the hoop houses...can't wait to read more about it!

Comment by Lambykins on Nov 27th, 2011 at 10:33am 0 Likes

Wild Squirrel, some places in Texas are like that...in Beaumont (where I used to live) anything and everything will grow. Unfortunately, that meant the weeds were huge, too! Thanks for the tip about the off the shelf poly!
Ann is right about the soil here. If I lived closer to the river (Rio Grande), my garden would probably do well. The soil a scant 10 miles away---by the river---is amazingly fertile. But I am where it it is absolutely desert.

Comment by Ann Martin on Nov 27th, 2011 at 10:50am 0 Likes

@ wild squirrel...i lived in texas (snyder and abilene ) for a number of years before moving to new mexico...i can tell you i never had any success with cheerios!!!..lol!!!...maybe if i had been more in south or east texas, it would have worked!!!

i also want to thank you for the off the shelf poly tip...that had been my plan, but, now i know better...told the hubby and he said he already knew that!?!...guess we need to work on the communication skills, huh?!!! lol

Comment by hapy4now on Nov 27th, 2011 at 1:08pm 0 Likes

I worked for a feller when I was a teenager that used hoop houses for his waterbed tobacco plants. After several failures in keeping the plastic in place we built baseboards all the way around then wrapped the plastic around Another board and nailed every foot. It might have been over kill but it lasted till he quit raising tobacco.

Comment by Catherine Lyon on Nov 27th, 2011 at 5:09pm 0 Likes

Thank you Wild Squirrel for the tip on the shelf poly. I just bought some poly from Home Depot and it is the strongest that they have, but shreds super easy.

Ann, I too live near Abilene, down in Rising Star, we drive up through Snyder when we go to West Texas A&M where my son goes to college.

I have read in many different places that a cement floor was NOT beneficial to keeping moisture. But it was mentioned above that it is the only way to go.
OK, why would a cement floor help with moisture? Would not the cement floor get too hot which would evaporate the water too quickly? I would think that it would be a great greenhouse effect (and good for plants), but again, wouldn't the water evaporate too quickly?

Comment by melvin buck on Nov 27th, 2011 at 9:50pm 0 Likes

the best material i can think of is poly coted netting or camo netting as it would also creat partial shaade

Comment by Ann Martin on Nov 28th, 2011 at 7:36am 0 Likes

@ catherine...i was born in new mexico, but grew up in snyder (hated it!), then lived in abilene for about 12-13 years...after kids were grown and on their own, i moved to new mexico, just south of alamogordo...my daughter and her family still live in abilene, getting ready to move out to her husbands family's ranch, just south of abilene...

just goes to show this is a small world...!

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