Archive for the ‘hoophouse’ Category

DIY hoophouse renovations

June 12, 2011


We built the hoophouse in 2008, and finally this year have gotten to making roll-up sides.  Between the shade cloth and the roll up side, I hope it will be a great climate in there for growing hot peppers, tomatoes, melons and cukes — nice and hot, but not so hot they cannot set fruit!

lathe fastens the plastic to the upright

Here’s what we did.

1) In the corner, on the inside of the hoophouse, we added an upright between the side purlin and the wooden base frame.  We use metal L brackets on the side purlins because we had some in inventory, and screwed the upright directly to the base frame on the bottom.

2) Using some lathe (from inventory) on the outside of the hoophouse we screwed the plastic to the upright as we did on the end walls.  We left a wide space for adding wiggle wire to hold the side in place when we close the hoophouse up in the fall when the weather cools.

cutting the greenhouse film

3) We cut the plastic next to the lathe.  It is now free to roll up or down.  I need to order some wiggle wire before the cooler weather arrives.

4) We used fencing staple pounded into the purlins to tip the cut sides up and keep them tidy and out of the way.  We will also us fencing staples to tie down the shade cloth and prevent it from blowing away in the wind.


Hoop house wearing shade cloth

note the repaired cracks above the hole

We only opened one side for now.  If it still gets too hot in the hoophouse for plants to set fruit, we will open the other side and/or add a larger shade cloth.  This cloth is a small one I had on hand from using with my mini hoops in past years.  You can see a photo of the shade cloth on the mini hoop here.  It also helped reduce the rodent predation before we had a fence.

We still have one more project to tackle on the hoophouse before fall.  On the front end wall, when we constructed the hoophouse, I used a piece of ordinary 4 mil plastic sheeting for a small section next to the door.  Over the years the plastic became more and more opaque, and more and more brittle, until this spring, it began to fall apart.  I’ve taped it together in a few spots, but it has become so brittle it cannot be repaired any more so I need to replace that with some real greenhouse plastic before the fall weather.

I am still extraordinarily happy with the hoophouse, and will build another without thinking twice when this one reaches the end of its life.  We talk often about constructing an even larger hoophouse, with space enough for a table and 2 chairs for some winter sun therapy.  Ahhhh.

March gardening

March 27, 2011

It has been cold here at Henbogle.  At last, though, after what seems to be a very gray and dreary March, the sun has been out for three consecutive days, and while temps are about 10 degrees below normal, at least today in the hoophouse it was spring-like.

Under the row covers, I have some lettuce coming along nicely.  I lost a few plants, but these overwintered well.  I hope I can find my notes on what variety I planted there!

Note the trace of snow outside the hoophouse.  Inside the hoophouse, daytime temps are now routinely in the 70s and 80s on sunny days, but still in the 30s at night.  I need to take a soil temp, but the soil did not seem too cold this afternoon.

Spinach sowed in the late fall is coming along, but pretty slowly, with sporadic germination.  I filled in the empty spots with seed today.  In 2009 I planted it earlier (mid-October) than I did this year with much better success.

I used my new seeding jigs for the first time.  They worked well.  I can’t wait to see tidy little squares of seedlings.  I sowed mache, orach, tatsoi, pac choi, lettuce, and spinach.  I hope next weekend I can get a few more hardy greens started. 

After I finished sowing, I covered everything back up with floating row cover.  The weather forecast is not predicting a big warm up anytime soon, unfortunately.  Tonight’s temps call for the high teens, and daytime temps for the week are predicted to be in the mid-low 30s.  Brr.  March appears to be going out like a lion.  Let’s hope April is a bit more lamb-like.

It was great to spend a couple of hours in the warm sun in the hoophouse smelling the dirt.  Ahhh.

Welcome, Spring!

March 21, 2011

Happy Spring!  Despite the fore cast for snow later today, it does feel like spring is progressing.  Much of the snow in the backyard is gone, and the garden is beginning to show signs of melting.  Friday we had unusually warm temps in the 50s with a lot of wind, and the snow just disappeared.  Early in the day it was mid-shin, by the day’s end, the snow in my footprints had melted to the bare ground. The large piles of snow alongside the hoophouse have retreated, and parts of the raised bed where I planted the garlic are emerging.

I finally got into the hoophouse to take a look at the state of the overwintered crops. Some of the radicchio, endive and escarole survived, and some lettuce, too (I think Winter Density but need to check my notes).  Another patch of supposed winter hardy lettuce did not fair so well, with only 2 plants surviving.


surviving lettuce

My late-seeded spinach has spottily germinated, and is slowly growing.  I definitely planted it too late this fall. Early October appears to be the optimal date for planting and overwintering in the hoophouse based on my April 2010 harvest success.  I just need to get it done.  I may pre-sprout some spinach seeds to plant in there to fill in the spaces.  I’d like to sow a lot more in the hoophouse, but the soil in the beds is still very wet.  We’ve more snow and rain predicted for the week, so instead  I will sow some flats with an assortment of lettuces for transplanting.

Soon, we’ll be enjoying our own lettuce again.  Happy Spring, everyone!






Today’s high

February 5, 2011

Today’s high temperature: 79.3°F at 1:18 pm (and similar temps yesterday).  No, that was not the temperature in the kitchen, that would be the more typical 64.7°F.  No, it was 79°F and sunny in the hoophouse today.  I need to get a small table and chair set up in there for sunny weekend lunches.  With 10 hours of sunlight and daytime highs in the upper 70s, things will soon be growing in the hoophouse.

I wonder what the temps get to be in the hen’s low hoophouse?  I am certain they are enjoying it.

Naturally, it has since clouded over, and the National Weather Service forecast is calling for 3-7″ of snow overnight.  Sigh.


DIY metal hoophouse

January 4, 2011

Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a new metal “Quick Hoops” jig to bend 1 1/3″ chain link fencing into hoops for a sturdy and long-lasting hoophouse.  They also have a spreadsheet calculator to help you estimate the cost which includes a list of all the needed parts.  They also sell greenhouse cover at a very reasonable price.  I just love Johnny’s, although I’m wondering if they are enabling my habit.  Is this a healthy relationship?  Our extension service purchased a smaller Quick Hoops jig to loan out, I think I’m going to ask if they will get this new one, too.

Fall garden chores

November 14, 2010

Dan and I continue to plug away at the fall garden chores.  Today I pulled more of the IRT mulch, which I must say despite how fussy it is to lay down, I love.  There were NO WEEDS under it.  None.  The soil warmed earlier, cooled later, and needed less frequent watering.  Amazing.  You can be sure I will be using it again.

I also planted garlic bulbils and spinach in the hoophouse.  I hope the bulbils will lead to garlic chives, and the spinach will germinate and overwinter for early spring spinach.  I should have planted the spinach earlier, but am just getting to it now, nearly a month later than last year. Sigh.  Ah well, at least it is planted.

The hoophouse is feeding us some nice fresh greens right now.  Terrific lettuce, arugula, Asian greens, sage and parsley are gracing the dinner plate, and I have carrots and young seedlings of lettuce and arugula planted.  Will they live through the winter?  Who knows, but why not try.


The hoophouse today

October 17, 2010

We’ve been eating well from the hoophouse just now, but I have too much unoccupied space.  Time got away from me in late July/early August and I didn’t start enough plants.

I need to pull the two tomato plants and sow some spinach, and maybe see if I can get some scallions going in there to overwinter.


August 7, 2010

I picked a pile of cukes this morning from the hoophouse planting.  They are a mix of Super Zagross and Marketmore76.  I haven’t decided which I like better yet — I like the thin skin on the Super Zagross, but I think I prefer the flavor of the Marketmore 76.  Further taste tests are in order.

I’ve been watering as it has been pretty dry here.  Next year I need to get some irrigation in the hoophouse.  I pulled the plastic mulch as it made watering too difficult, and now I am knee deep in weeds, and it’s been too hot and I’ve been too busy to weed, sigh.  I’m loving the IRT mulch.

Spring’s progress

April 11, 2010

Last weekend, we cleaned up the Russian sage and lavender beds, where the crocus were already blooming.   The unusually warm weather not only rushed the crocus to bloom, it led to the early demise of the crocus as well. 

This weekend, we continued puttering about the garden.  Saturday, we cleaned more of the briar thicket out.  We hauled 4 loads of debris to the local transfer

station and put it in the biomass burn pile, not wanting to put it with the compost pile to prevent the knotweed and briar rose from spreading.  When we were cleaning out this area, we found chunks of asphalt, leading us to believe that at some point, the area had been filled in, which is probably how the knotweed arrived.

We will now be able to use a grub hoe to remove as much of the briar rose as possible and see the emerging knotweed.  After consulting with experts at my Master Gardening class, we’ve determined the best option is to treat it with Roundup, allowing it to sprout and then cut the tops off the plant and treat it with Roundup down the hollow stem, as we did a few years ago.  To be successful, we will need to treat it probably 2-3 times this season, and be diligent about following up every time we see any sprouting anywhere in the yard.  We noticed it today growing in the lawn.

Sunday was sunny but cooler and windy.  It was a great day, though, for working in the hoop house as the cooler temps kept it a reasonable temperature for gardening inside.  I prepped a few more beds and planted more spinach, lettuce and broccoli seedlings (Blue Wind and Southern Comet).  The blue cups around the seedlings are for slug prevention.  I also thinned the spinach and picked a big bowl for salads today and tomorrow.  While I was busy in the hoophouse, Dan was hooking up out hoses so that I have water in the hoophouse and at the garden sink,  I was so happy to have water at the garden sink I didn’t even let him clean the sink before I used it to rinse the spinach.

It was great to be outside working in the garden, smelling the soil, seeing the worms, and reaping the rewards of the work.  I just love this time of year.

Let us experiment

February 21, 2010

Today, Dan and I ventured to the hoophouse to get our hands dirty, bask in the upper 80s temperatures, and sow some seeds.  It is all just an experiment, but why not see if we can push the envelope a bit?  I for one would love to be eating salad from my own garden in 2 months!  A few years ago (before blog) we successfully planted early lettuce in our raised bed hoops, shoveling off the snow, setting up the hoops and starting lettuce seeds in mid March.  We celebrated May Day that year with salad from the hoophouse.  Maybe this year we’ll be celebrating Tax Day with homegrown salad?

Things in the hoophouse are mixed.  The fall planted spinach is still alive, and actually seems to be growing a bit.  The leeks are hanging in there, looking pretty tattered but still delicious.  The Swiss chard was dead, and the lettuce seedlings I planted in early September did not make it either.  The lettuce plants looked ok for a long time, but when I checked last week, they were very dead.  Poor things.  Maybe if I’d done floating row cover, then a row of plastic?  Something to think about next year.

Today, we pulled the Swiss chard, weeded the area, spread a nice layer of compost, and planted seeds.  I marked out 1 foot squares using a milk crate, and we planted 4 lettuce/endive/escarole per square, and 16 arugula.  The daytime temps in the hoophouse have been in the upper 80s with the mild weather we’ve been having, dropping to a few degrees above the outdoor temperature at night.  The soil is not frozen, and is uniformly moist no doubt thanks to the melting snow.  Nonetheless, I did water in the seeds as the compost was dry.  We left a few squares empty for succession planting — planning for another seeding session in 2 weeks.

Below are some scenes from the Henbogle vegetable garden.

We’ve had a long stretch of mild weather, and much of the snow covering the garden is gone.  It looks more like March 21 than February 21 –if only!

Some overwintering parsley.

Busy, busy hens.

The blueberry hedge, edged by my leaning fence section.  You can see some overwintering scallions in the raised bed on the right.  Spring is coming, but I’m feeling very impatient!