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Avid gardeners are always looking for anything that will help them extend the growing season. Hoop houses are relatively inexpensive and easy-to-build structures that add warmth and provide plants a bit of protection from pests and the elements.
While many garden supply companies sell pop-up systems, it’s relatively simple to DIY your own hoop house with a few easy-to-find materials.
First, you’ll need the materials to create the hoops themselves. Look to something as simple as bamboo from your yard or PVC or copper tubing, both of which are available in the plumbing section of most hardware stores. If you opt for copper, you may need metal working tools to fit your lengths together, which is why using flexible ½” PVC is a much simpler choice. Determining how many lengths of hoop material will vary based on how long and wide your tunnel needs to be – and how tall your plants beneath will become. Fortunately, your bamboo cuttings are free, and last I checked, a 10’ length of ½” PVC, which lasts year after year, cost less than two bucks.
You also need short lengths of rebar – about 18” in height should suffice. Try inserting the rebar into the end of PVC for fit. If it doesn’t fit, you may need PVC with a larger opening or thinner rebar. Purchase two pieces of rebar for each hoop of your tunnel. (For instance: if you plan to build a 3-hoop tunnel, you will need 6 pieces of rebar.)
Next, pick up a package of 3.5-4 mil semi-opaque plastic sheeting. This will form the covering for your tunnel house.
Lastly, you will need something to hold your plastic sheeting onto your hoops. If you have an old garden hose, you may be able to cut the hose into short lengths about 3” long, split the lengths, and use the split pieces to clip over the plastic onto the tunnel hoop. Or, check to see if your hardware store, farm supply or local nursery offers hoop house clips, which are perfectly formed to slip right over the plastic to hold it to the hoop.
Now that you have your sized PVC, rebar, plastic sheeting and clips, assembly over your prepared beds is a snap.
Begin by pounding a piece of rebar into the soil at one end of the bed you intend to hoop. Leave about 8-10” of rebar above the soil.
Slip one end of PVC over the exposed end of rebar. (Again, how wide your bed is and how tall you want your tunnel to be will determine how long that piece of PVC needs to be.) Then, pound a second piece of rebar into the soil opposite the original piece. Slip the other end of the PVC over that piece of rebar. Then, about 3’ away from the first hoop on the parallel, repeat building another hoop. Continue adding hoops as needed for the length of your bed.
Once your hoops are in place, unfold your plastic sheeting and slip it over your hoops evenly. Be sure to leave some of the plastic draping to the ground at the ends as well. If it is too long or wide, just trim off the excess with your Fiskars® Garden Multi-snip.
Then, add clips to secure the plastic in place by starting at one end of the tunnel and clip down the middle of your arch. Then, clip the sides in place. To secure the ends of the tunnel closed, fold back and double clip any extra sheeting. Keep a few extra clips handy for folding and securing the open ends or bottom of your tunnel house when you need to plant, weed, water, harvest, or when it gets hot and humid inside. Ventilation is important to suppressing many plant diseases!
When the season warms up and your bed is overflowing with flourishing plants, either exchange the plastic sheeting for floating row cover, which offers protection from flying pests, or unclip and store everything away until the weather begins to turn again.
Hammer or Rubber Mallet