Saturday, December 8, 2012

Garden Tutorial - How to make a super-cheap hoop-house for winter

Oooh!  "Content!"

Okay, so the other day, I yakked about the cheesy POS "mini-greenhouse" I'd purchased, online, last summer.  And how the thing basically imploded after the first big wind-and-rain storm.

Instead, I put this up:

Finny Farm - Getting ready for bed!

Yesterday, I put one layer of Floating Row Cover fabric over the bed.  I don't think it rained last night, but it got pretty dewy.  When I went out to check it this morning, it seemed to fare pretty well, actually.  It wasn't oozing down onto the plants or anything like that - so I think this may turn out to be a Successful Experiment (That's one in a row!!!).

Finny Farm Tent, Day #2
(one layer of fabric - at this point)

So here is my mini-tutorial on how I accomplished this amazing feat!

First off: The raised beds are appx 4'x6'.  We used 2 @ 10-foot lengths of 2x12 pressure-treated lumber to build two of the beds (yes, I know pressure-treated isn't ideal, but that's what was readily available, at the time).  I think the third bed is actually redwood. "Build-a-raised-bed" is a fairly simple endeavor.  Just cut your wood to the appropriate lengths, use flat "L" brackets and BIG screws to hold 'em together, make a big ol' square or rectangle, place the bed wherever you want it, and fill it with good planting mix.

The "Poor-Man's Hoop House" is constructed from 4 @ 2-foot lengths of rebar (per bed).  I think they were appx $2 at Home Depot (just checked - yep, they're $1.98 apiece).  I drove them into the ground, with a hammer, at each corner of the raised bed.  Not *just* into the planting-mix soil, but clear down into the rock-hard clay underneath.  I think I left appx 6" sticking straight-up at each corner.

Then, for each bed, you'll need 2 @ 10-foot lengths of 1/2" diameter PVC pipe ($1.68 apiece).  Basically, you take one end of the pipe and slide it over the exposed rebar, then bend the pipe and slide it over the rebar in the opposite corner of the bed.  This part's a little tricky because the pipe is bending down at an angle, but the rebar is standing straight-up.  It takes a little jiggering and re-jiggering, but eventually you'll be able to get the pipes to slide *almost* all the way down.  It doesn't have to be ALL the way down, but far-enough that the pipe can't flip-up and "Boi-oi-oi-oi-oing" up and slice your nose off your face!

Hoop-base with appx 2" of exposed rebar
(FF Bed, I was able to get the PVC to go all the way down to the soil)

The trickiest part of all is getting BOTH pipes situated so that they touch where they cross in the middle of the bed.  The next step requires the use of one of mankind's greatest inventions:  Duct Tape!

Amazing stuff!

I honestly don't know if this step is necessary, but I figured it can't hurt, right?  Duct-tape the pipes together so they can't wobble around.  We get some pretty windy storms here, so I figure the duct tape will help add rigidity...

Next, you'll need some floating row-cover fabric.  I used Harvest-Gard HG-50 Plant Protection Fabric ($18.99 from Amazon).  You could probably shop-around and find it for less but I was already placing a big Christmas-Shopping order from Amazon and wanted to take advantage of Free Super-Saver Shipping!  

This is super lightweight unwoven fabric that allows sun and water to penetrate, and will protect my plants from freezes as low as 29* (single layer) or 26* (double-layer).  To be honest, I am less concerned about frosts (we only get a handful of nights where temps dip below freezing), but I am interested in protecting my Brassicas from BUGS!  So there you have it!

Anyway, the fabric comes in 5' widths or 10' widths.  10' would have MORE than covered my raised beds, but would have been rather unwieldy!  So I chose 5'.  The first layer went on the long side of the bed (which is 6' wide), so the first layer came-up a little "short."  I used cheesy-cheap clips, situated about 18" up from the soil level, to secure the fabric.

Cheesy Magnetic Clips (that the magnets fell out of!)
I think they came in a 6-pack from the Dollar Tree!

If you scroll back up to the Finny-Farm Pic, you'll see how the 5' width couldn't quite cover the 6' long side.  Ahh well!

So, drape the fabric over the "long" side of the bed, clip it off at all 4 corners, then attempt to cut the fabric so there is some "overhang" at soil-level.  Unfortunately, I did not take measurements, so I can't tell you actual lengths.

And, BTW, use a GOOD pair of shears to cut the fabric.  This stuff does NOT like to cut in a straight line!

Next, drape the fabric over the "short" side of the bed.  When you do that, you'll have enough overhang at the sides to make-up for the shortfall on the first run!  Use the same clips to secure the second layer of fabric.

It's like a little tent!

The last step will be to secure the fabric down at the soil-line.  You can either use dirt (excuse me, SOIL), or plant-fabric staples, or - ultra-cheesy and über cheap! - get yourself some old wire coat-hangers and a pair of heavy-duty wire cutters to make your own fabric staples by cutting 6-8" lengths of hanger-wire and bending them into 'U' shapes.

Originally, I thought I would use my staple-gun to secure the fabric to the sides of the raised bed - but that would prevent me from easily checking on (or HARVESTING) my veggies, so I think I'll be using Garden Staples (appx $6 for 40 of them @ Home Depot).

The 5' x 50' length of fabric was MORE than enough for two raised beds.  My third bed has a Very Tall artichoke growing in it (and is far too close to a MASSIVE Yucca tree), so I won't be able to construct a similar tent over that bed ("Oh, well!").  

All-told, my "Poor-Man's Hoop House" cost less than $25 per bed to construct. (It'd be closer to $20 if I went with home-made staples).  That is certainly less than the $35@ for the cheesy greenhouses I bought online (that didn't survive one measly storm!).  I actually like the "height" of these houses - more than the $35 greenhouses anyway!

So there it is!  My "Moment" of Ingenuity!  Hope you find this helpful!  And, of course, I'll post updates if anything noteworthy occurs................


No comments:


View my page on Meet the Phlockers