Grow Food All Winter With a Hoop House
Looking to grow more of your own food year-round? A hoop house could be the answer.
A hoop house is a series of large hoops or bows—made of metal, plastic pipe or wood—covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic. The plastic is stretched tight and fastened to baseboards with strips of wood, metal or wire. A hoop house is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind. Hoop houses can be erected over a patch of ground or rows of raised beds. They can cost as little as a hundred dollars or as much as a couple thousand dollars.
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With a hoop house, you can count on four to six weeks of extra production in spring and fall, says Mother Earth News. You can grow right through winter, even in the coldest climates, by adding an inner cover inside a hoop and choosing cold-hardy plant varieties.
Plants that do well in a hoop house during the winter include cool season crops, such as lettuce, spinach and other greens. Be sure to select plants that don't need much heat at night. Plant growth in late fall and winter is limited by low temperatures and reduced light. This makes it harder to grow root crops like carrots, beets and radishes, but they may be worth a try, says the National Gardening Association.
Hoop houses are not just for cool-weather vegetable production. You can grow heat-tolerant varieties of crisp, sweet lettuce during the summer by converting the hoop house into a shade house. Remove the plastic skin and then cover the south half of the frame with 50 percent shade cloth. Cool and irrigate the lettuce with mini-sprinklers on the ground or a line of overhead sprinklers.
Washington State University provides a list of websites with complete instructions and materials lists for building a hoop house. Serious hoop houses that go beyond the ambitions of backyard gardeners can check out commercial hoop house construction companies like Tunnel Vision Hoops. Or check out the video below about how to build a small inexpensive hoop house.