Living and gardening in zone 5, we can expect overnight frosts until the end of April. But I don’t want to wait that long, especially since my friend Debbie has had spinach growing in her hoop house for most of the winter. It was time to build a hoop house of our own. So after we assembled the necessary supplies, it went up in a jiffy and the planting actually took longer than building the row cover.
So here’s how we did it:
- Five 10-foot CPVC pipes (they are tan, not white, and more flexible than regular PVC), they cost about $25.
- Ten 2-foot steel rods (these were Hwy 40 constructions scraps that the road builders at the Laclede Station overpass kindly let me have – yes, over a year ago)
- 6 mil clear plastic sheeting cut into a 15 X 20 piece (my raised bed is 12 X 4 and the hoops are 4 feet tall) – I bought a large box to get the dimensions right, and I have enough plastic sheeting to make at least 5 more. Please let me know if you want some, it’s 80 cents per linear foot at 20 feet wide.
- Measuring tape (maybe a calculator if you lack the math gene)
- Sharpie pen
- Vegetable oil or crisco
- Hot air gun, optional (our neighbor is a plumber and he let us borrow his to help the PVC pipes expand before sliding them onto the steel rods)
- 10 large binder clips
- 2 x 4 boards or bricks/stones to weigh down the sides
Step 1: Measure the length of the raised bed and divide by 4. Place Sharpie marks along the boards in this distance all along each side of the raised bed, always starting at the same end, in case you get off by an inch or so.
The green “grass” you see here is rye that I planted as a cover crop in November. I tuned it over and it now serves as “green manure” to naturally fertilize the soil. You can still do this until the end of April.
Step 2: Pound the steel rods into the ground, on the inside of the garden bed, until only 12 inches remain above the ground.
If you don’t have steel rods, you could use the next larger size of regular PVC pipes cut into 2-foot pieces and pound those into the ground instead.
Step 3: Heat the ends of the pipes to help them slip onto the steelrods more easily. Lubricating the steel rods with some type of oil or grease also helps.
Space the hoops evenly apart. The hoops are as tall as David.
Step 4: Add the best compost blend you can get. I’ve been lucky enough to bring food scraps home from work and let the microbugs turn it into this beautiful, rich soil. This is the kind of thing that makes my heart beat faster!
Now the bed is ready for planting! I purchased a few early plant starts at the hardware store: napa cabbage, red cabbage, buttercup lettuce, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, collards and kale.
I use the square foot gardening method. In the dark soil on the other side I planted two kinds of spinach and a mesclun mix from seeds.
Step 5: Finally, we covered the hoop frame with the plastic sheeting. The hoops are very sturdy and do not require additional support. The plastic is weighed down along the sides with scrapped 2 X 4 boards and secured with large binder clips.
Please tell me about your new garden project!