A hoop house is simply a tent frame constructed over a garden bed. This easy-to-build, inexpensive structure allows you to manipulate the growing season and protect plants from pests, depending on what material you place over its top. Drape it with ventilated plastic and it becomes a greenhouse; tent it with row cover fabric to create a physical barrier between your plants and hungry insect pests or protect plants from frost; or cover it with shade cloth to keep salad greens cool during the summer.
• 1/2- or 3/4-inch-diameter flexible plastic tubing
• Two 18- to 24-inch rebar or bamboo stakes for each length of tubing
• Ventilated plastic, row cover fabric or shade cloth (60 or 72 inches wide works best)
• Three garden clips for each length of tubing (medium for 1/2-inch tubing; large for 3/4-inch tubing)
1. Cut several pieces of plastic tubing into 5- to 6-foot lengths, or lengths that will allow the tubing to arch about a foot above your plants when they are mature.
2. You want the hoops to arch crosswise over the bed. Position the stakes in each corner of the bed and then directly across from each other at 3-foot intervals (in my 3-foot-wide, 6-foot-long beds, I have three hoops, one on each end and one in the middle). Pound the stakes into the ground, leaving 8 to 10 inches of each one exposed. Be sure to buy rebar or bamboo that is a smaller diameter than the tubing. Otherwise the tubing won’t fit over the stake.
3. To make each arch, slide the tubing over a stake, bow it crosswise over the bed, and slide the other end of the tubing over the stake on the opposite side of the bed.
4. Drape plastic, row cover fabric or shade cloth over the arches. Cut the material to fit, making sure you leave extra that can be weighed down or staked into place.
5. Secure by clipping the fabric/plastic to the arched tubing using garden clips (manufactured expressly to clasp material to hoop house frames) or large binder clips. Use bricks to weigh down the material, or buy special row cover clamps that fasten to the row cover and then stake into the ground.
This article is adapted from the excellent guidebook Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Willi Galloway.
For more season-extending ideas for the autumn garden, read the original article, “Maximize Your Fall Harvest.”