Vern Harris likes setting up hoop houses over his vegetable beds, but he doesn’t like the hassle of working under them. Most designs require lifting the plastic sides to get at the produce. So, Harris came up with hoops that glide on rails, making access as easy as pulling on two ropes.
“Anybody who is even slightly mechanical can build one,” Harris says. “If they run into trouble, I’d be glad to help. My hoop houses have let me grow greens even in the snow.”
Building a PVC Hoop House
Harris lives in northwestern Washington state where winter temperatures are commonly in the 30s and 40s. Hoop houses make year-round gardening possible. He builds garden beds from 8-foot-long, 2-by-6-inch untreated fir. The DIY hoop house is framed with schedule 40 PVC pipe. The rails the house slides on are 3/4-inch-diameter, and the hoops are 1/2 inch in diameter. They fit into 1-inch-diameter tees that glide over the rails.
“I needed to raise the rails slightly above the bed sides so the tees can glide down the rail,” Harris says. “To get the height, I predrilled holes through the pipes and set 1/2-inch-long pieces of 1/2-inch aluminum tubing under the holes. Screws driven through the holes and through the tubing secure the rails in place.”
Harris then sliced away the bottoms of each hoop tee. This allows them to slide past the aluminum supports. He also extended the rails about 18 inches past one end of the bed so all the hoops could be pulled to that end, exposing the entire bed. The rails are braced with a crosspiece.
After placing five tees in place on each rail, Harris inserted a 9-foot, 1/2-inch PVC pipe in a tee on one side and then bent it to fit the other end into the opposing tee. He predrilled holes for attaching the plastic. Harris suggests using Dura-Film Thermax or another high-quality film recommended for hoop houses.
“I cut a plastic sheet to 9 feet by 10 feet and attached it to the hoops with the 9-foot side running the length of the 8-foot bed and hanging over each end by 6 inches,” Harris says. “The 10-foot dimension was fastened so edges overlapped hoop ends by 6 inches. I used 1/2-inch lath screws with washer heads to help prevent tears and leaks.”
To enclose the ends, Harris cut two 4-by-5-foot pieces of plastic. He attached one to the hoop at the extended end of the bed using fasteners. The other is temporarily clamped to the end hoop when the hoop house is closed.
“You could even use clothespins, but I go to a dollar store and find inexpensive clamps for the hoops,” Harris says.
To make opening easy, he installed 3/16-inch eye screws at the bottoms of each side of the front rail. To these he attached lengths of 3/16-inch clothesline cord. To open or close the hoops, he simply pulls on the cords.
“In my climate, a single layer of plastic is enough to keep my hoop houses from freezing on our coldest days,” says Harris. “In a colder climate, you could attach a second layer of plastic to the inside or outside of the hoops. It’s well worth it either way. Those fresh garden greens taste great in January and February.”
Harris is willing to help with information, a complete parts list, or even parts ordering. If desired, he will even prepare a PVC hoop house kit to order.
Reprinted with permission from Farm Show Magazine.