THE HOOP-HOUSE I RECENTLY BUILT over a raised bed in my Herb Garden may not be the most beautiful thing in the world, but it is certainly functional. It permits sunlight, air and water to reach the tender plants within, while keeping Jack Frost out. If you have salad greens and other cool-season plants you’d like to keep harvesting well into November (and maybe even December), a hoop house will serve you well. I assembled mine in just 10 minutes:
To outfit my 6×4-foot raised bed, I used 3 flexible PVC pipes, each a 1/2 inch in diameter, and 10-feet in length. These were surprisingly cheap — about $2.00 each, as I recall. I remember the roof, a standard 10×15-feet frost blanket, cost $11.95. So my total investment in a prolonged harvest was only $20.00 or so.
I did not bother to clamp the pipes to the raised bed. Instead, I simply inserted the ends 8 inches into the soil, against the inside walls of the bed’s wooden frame. (If you try this, and your hoops do not seem stable, go ahead and clamp them to your frame.)
The frost blanket is draped over the hoops. To hold it in place, I weighted the ends with bricks, as shown. When I want to inspect, water, or harvest plants, I simply lift a brick and raise the frost blanket. How easy is that?
Growing in this bed are crops of autumn-planted arugula and beets, plus one big lemon verbena shrub. These, kept comfortably warm under their gossamer cloak, will likely keep growing until temperatures dip consistently below 26 degrees. Such low temperatures usually don’t occur here until mid- to late-December.*
After the ground has solidly frozen and the arugula and lemon verbena are history (I’ll pull up the beats well before that time), I’ll remove and store the frost blanket. The PVC pipes, however, will stay in place. For a hoop house is not only useful in autumn, but in spring, too, when it protects young seedlings from nibbling insects.
Because it is reusable, and also because it costs so little, I’d say a temporary hoop-house is not only a good idea, but a good investment in food-growing, too. Maybe you can arrange one as protection for your own late- or early-season crops. No structure could be easier to build.
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