This weekend, Dan and I added wiggle wire to the hoophouse to fix the roll-up sides into place for the winter. It is such a simple idea, yet the perfect method for fastening the plastic cover. Whoever invented this deserves every penny of patent royalties they get.
I purchased the wiggle wire from Griffins Greenhouse & Nursery Supply in Gray, ME. The base was actually much heavier gauge than I expected. It was quite a job to cut it to length with a hacksaw and drill holes for screws through it. This is good, as I hope I will be re-using it for years to come. The wire is some kind of spring-tensioned steel I imagine, fairly light in gauge. I suspect this might be something I will need to replace, but time will tell.
The first step was to determine how to attach the wiggle wire base. If you look at the hoophouse construction page, you will see the single biggest mistake we made when constructing the hoophouse –we attached the hoops to the outside of the wooden base frame. We realized it was a mistake later, when we put the plastic on, but I don’t think we really understood how challenging this would prove until now, when installing the wiggle wire. The wiggle wire needs a straight plane for attachment. We decided to simply attach a length of 1″x3″ strapping on the outside of the hoops, supporting it with blocking made from more strapping.
Once this was completed, we measured and then cut the base to length. Dan cut each piece of the heavy aluminum with a hacksaw, then filed the cut ends to reduce the likelihood of the plastic tearing on the sharp ends. While Dan cut, I drilled holes for the screws. Next, we screwed the base to the hoophouse frame with galvanized flat-headed screws. This part went pretty quickly, and soon we were ready to fasten the poly down.
This part was actually more complex than it would appear to be, perhaps because of our flawed design. We added additional framing to the sides of the hoophouse last spring when we made the roll-up sides. In retrospect, we should have made the vertical framing pieces flush with the outside of the base frame, but we did not. This meant that when securing the poly with the wiggle wire, it is slightly contorted. It works, and in a perfect world it would not look like this, but, as I frequently try to remind myself, perfect is the enemy of good, and the hoophouse works.
The impact of this was most apparent when attempting to fasten the cover. I first fastened the side shown above, then the long bottom edge. When I went to attach the entry end side, the plastic was to taught to allow me to push it into the base track. I needed to remove the wire from the bottom edge, and then I was able to fasten the side down. The final step was to fasten the bottom edge. As I inserted the wiggle wire, which is indeed accomplished by wiggling the wire into the base channel, up, then down, I tried to pull the poly as taut as possible without tearing.
When I removed the wiggle wire from the bottom edge, I did notice some tearing in the plastic. I’m not sure whether this is a standard result of inserting the wiggle wire, or because of the age of my poly or the fact that the bottom of the plastic has abraded over the years. I did not even attempt to repair these small tears, I can only hope the covering will be firmly enough in place to reduce friction wear and that it will last another couple of seasons. I did patch with repair tape one other larger hole that was just above the base framing on the side wall.
One thing I noticed, which in retrospect doesn’t surprise me, is the wiggle wire expands in length as when inserted. This is no doubt due to the pressure on the beds from the channel, but it caught me by surprise and on the side verticals, I cut the wire too long and had to trim it at the end. I’m sure the wire could readily be cut with a hacksaw, but we have some nice bolt cutters which worked great. Heavy wire cutters just didn’t cut it in this instance.
It is a huge relief to have this project completed, and I feel much less intimidated by the idea of constructing a larger hoophouse at some future point now that I’ve used the wiggle wire. We have a few more items on the list to button up the hoophouse for the winter and then we can move on to planting garlic and shallots and putting the garden to bed.