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Houston, We Have a Problem

February 5, 2013

photo (57)

Our hoophouse survived the wind last year but wasn’t up to the heavy snow loads. The weight broke the PVC between the sides and the midrib. Even before the total failure though, the plastic was ripped in a few places, so we knew that something needed to be done before spring. Mr. B and I are trying to decide what to do for this year. We have two choices:

1) Replace the PVC with metal ribs (probably the top rail of a chain link fence), and make the ribs solid from one side to the other. You can buy a tool to bend the hoops (for example). We would also need to replace the plastic with the same kind of plastic or upgrade to nicer greenhouse plastic.

2)

Buy a real greenhouse. Harbor Freight sells a 10×12 greenhouse that appears to be the IKEA product of greenhouses. They apparently have trouble standing up to snow or wind, but because of their low cost many people buy and retrofit them to be stronger. There are so many posts about them on GardenWeb that they use the abbreviation HFGH.

We were pretty set on the greenhouse until we started talking about what I wanted to use the space for. Hoophouses are by far the most common greenhouse type on farms (that I’ve seen). The floor in hoophouses is often bare dirt, and most people use them to both start seeds and to grow crops in the ground. This allows you to use the same space for multiple purposes: starting seeds, growing heat loving crops, housing chicks or chickens – you are just adding a cover to ground. In contrast, a greenhouse (especially the HFGH) is seen as a permanent structure that requires a more solid base. Most people use them to provide heat, but grow plants in pots.  Obviously, these are broad categories  Many people put down gravel and only use their hoophouse for plants in pots. Other people probably have their greenhouse on dirt and grow plants in the ground. However, Mr. B feels like the HFGH will require a more structurally sound base than our hoophouse, including gravel to prevent water from collecting in and around the base.

The greenhouse is attractive because the polycarbonate panels will likely keep heat in better than the plastic. By the time we replace the ribs and plastic on our hoophouse, we will have easily paid for the greenhouse as well. I can also build some raised beds in the greenhouse to grow plants in, and putting down gravel would make it very nice to work in (my hoophouse is full of mud and tall weeds). I can always build a mobile hoophouse out in the garden to cover tomatoes in the summer and cold weather crops in the fall. Of course, if we upgrade the hoophouse it could last for several years before the plastic needs to be replaced.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. John Brown permalink
    February 5, 2013 1:06 pm

    The greenhouse looks small enough that you could use Eliot Coleman’s concept of moving the structure after getting a good start on some early plants in the ground. His book “The Winter Harvest Handbook” is probably familiar to you. Chapter 10 gives the ideas of a movable greenhouse. Anyway, I love what you two are doing there and so enjoy your blogs. The best to you.

    • February 5, 2013 1:08 pm

      That was the plan for the hoop house (or some future version), and it was specifically inspired by mr. Coleman. Unfortunately, the harbor freight greenhouse needs to be well attached to the ground to prevent tipping over in the wind.

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  1. New Hoop House Pt. 1 | Home in the Straw

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