Innovative Hoop Houses

By designing and building their own portable hoop houses, Anne and Eric Nordell are making the most of their farm space.

| January/February 2018

Anne and Eric Nordell like their hoop houses, but they are also believers in crop rotation and cover crops. That’s what prompted them to come up with easy-to-move “portahoopies” with space in between for cover crops. They recently outlined the pioneering system they have used for 25 years.

“We grow produce in the tunnels for two years, followed by two years of cover cropping,” they say. “This simple rotation reduces weed pressure while preventing the buildup of salt and disease in the soil.”

Their gardens are laid out with alternating 18-foot strips of hoop houses and cover crops. The cover crop strips are planted, mowed, and tilled with a team of horses. Every two years the hoop houses are moved laterally onto fresh soil, and the previously planted soil is rejuvenated for two years.

To move each house, the Nordells take them apart and move the 4-by-4-inch rough-cut beams that run down either side. They are placed on 12-foot centers and are anchored with 20-inch-long, 5⁄8-inch rebar driven through drilled holes every 4 feet. They are driven to a 12-inch depth, leaving 4 inches of rebar above the beam.

“Even in our stony soils, the rebar is easy to pound in and pull out,” say the Nordells.

The hoops are 20-foot lengths of 1-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe that slide on over the exposed rebar. A ridgepole made with 20-foot lengths of PVC pipe are secured to every five hoops with 1⁄4-inch carriage bolts. PVC couplers left unglued connect the ridgepoles.

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