[Market-farming] Hoop house blues

Kevin Wilson kevin.wilson100 at shaw.ca
Wed Nov 9 14:03:27 EST 2005


> HOMEGROWN HOOPHOUSE BLUES: What can (and did) go wrong

LOL! I built a plastic pipe/rebar hoophouse last year and found that indeed, 
it's not as easy as you mght think Mind you, our goofs and problems were 
different from yours.

Some things we did right:
* used 1" schedule 40 PVC pipe for teh hoops and ridge. This was on rebar 
stakes at each end, but we didn't run rebar all the way through and found it 
stood up to our 70-80km/h winds OK. I taped it together where each hoop 
crossed the ridge with several yards of electrical tape wound round and 
across, stretched tight. This held up very well, though the whole house 
shimmied and swayed rather startlingly in high winds.

* extended each pipe by 1ft to 21ft, to give us nearly 7' headroom over the 
12' width. My partner is 6'3" and previous experience says that 
indeterminate tomatoes and climbing peas wll go well over 6ft.

* used a "hip board" (actually about 5' off teh ground) to hold teh top part 
of teh plastic (we used heavy builders plastic too) very firmly to the 
hoops. No problems with it lifting off. The lower parts were rolled onto 
boards which were weighted down at the ground. These could be rolled up 
later for ventilation. We kept adding more concrete blocks every time teh 
wind lifted a side, until we had a block at the bottom of each hoop and 
extras at the ends.

* made vents at each end. My first job every sunny morning was to run out in 
my bathrobe and rubber boots to open the vents :-)

Difficulties we had:
* making teh ends work! I wanted a wide door so I could have 2 narrow paths 
between 3 beds in our 12' width, instead of one eg screen door in the middle 
of the end. Had intended to use sticky-back velcro to make a wide roll-up 
poly door, but turns out the sticky-back doesn't stick properly to the poly! 
We ended up with a cobbled-together setup involving multiple cedar 1x2's, 
rocks, pieces of string, etc - but it did work.

* sides lifting in wind (see above)

* the hoops eventually started to dig their way into teh ground. Next time 
there will be "washers" over the rebar before I put the hoops on, to stop 
them sinking.

> went inside the hoop house today and noticed that about half the hoops 
> have
> been BENT away from the prevailing 60 kph wind. The hoop and door frame at
> the north end of the house is leaning at about a 70 degree angle toward 
> the
> inside of the house (the door frame IS supported by 18 inch wooden stakes
> pounded into the ground and attached to the vertical pieces on both 
> sides).

18" stakes total length, not the length above the ground? Seems a little 
short to me. Our rebar stakes were about 3ft and the ends stayed upright 
very well. However, our prevailing winds were side-on to the house, not 
end-on. I also kept the vents open to let pressure equalize inside and 
outside teh house.

> It was our intention to grow greens for our 11 subscribers this winter. We
> followed EC's planting schedule in his "Winter Harvest Manual". However,
> from August to the middle of October, we had NO RAIN here and hauling 
> water
> from a nearby stream just wasn't enough. So everything is REALLY small and
> not growing much (it's November 8). I really wonder if we will be able to
> supply our subscribers. ***LESSON #8***: Start earlier than they say.

Sub-lessons:
a) don't contract to supply things until you've tried out your methods :-)
b) drip irrigation is your friend. Really, it is incredibly worth the money 
in time saved and improved growth, even here on the Wet Coast.

Kevin
Fiddlers Farm
Powell River, BC 




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