Start a Hoophouse, Grow Fresh Veggies ASAP

Spring crops can be planted up to three weeks earlier in an easy-to-make hoophouse.

Start a Hoophouse, Grow Fresh Veggies ASAP

A hoop house like this one lets you grow greens sooner. But yours can be even simpler.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—For dedicated locavores—or anyone who likes to buy food that's fresh and in-season, February and March can be the bleakest food months of the year in most parts of the country. The winter squash have started to disappear, spring peas and spinach are still a month or two off, and everyone has run out of creative ways to cook yet another Yukon Gold potato. But you can speed up your spring harvest by raising a hoophouse—a kind of seedling shelter that allows you to grow cold-tolerant spinach, salad greens, and radishes up to two months earlier than you normally would.

What It Is

Hoophouses are what they sound like—miniature, unheated greenhouses, constructed from a series of metal hoops covered with plastic, set over a patch of soil or a raised bed to trap heat. "It's a fairly low-tech thing to build," says Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the use of backyard gardens as a means for creating a more sustainable food system. "Essentially, what you need is a support structure," he says, which can be PVC tubing or standard metal pipes. "Cut that to the size you need, and poke both ends into the ground in an arc." Once you have a row of hoops that's as long or short as you need, cover them with plastic, and you're finished. (Doiron recommends downloading hoophouse plans from a local extension service for a more detailed how-to.)

One advantage to hoophouses, Doiron notes, is that they're easily modifiable. You can construct a small hoophouse to cover a single row," he notes, or build one large enough for you to walk into. The simplest hoophouses can cost as little as $50 for materials. A caution, though: Because these structures are so lightweight, Doiron advises that you make sure your hoophouse is well secured, so it doesn't blow away in a stiff wind. Install the posts deep in the ground, and be certain that the plastic cover is well secured with staples or tacks.

You've built your house, now read on for what to plant inside it.


Published on: February 3, 2010

More from our Authors

Don't have acres of land for your garden? Not a problem. Vertical Gardening shows you how to get a bountiful harvest and stunning florals from the smallest of spaces by reaching to new heights.
Are You Weight Loss-Resistant?
You're doing everything "right," but you still can't lose weight? Sign up for our newsletter and get JJ Virgin's 7 strategies to break through your weight loss-resistance as our thanks! Click here to learn more.

Free Newsletter
Sign up for the FREE daily newsletter and get useful tips to keep yourself, your family, and the planet healthy and thriving.

  The Daily Fix
The food, health and environment news you need to help you live a healthy life on a healthy planet.

  Maria's Farm Country Kitchen Newsletter
Get cooking tips, learn about healthy living and even raising chickens.

Your Privacy Policy