Hoophouse Trouble

Well, the hoophouse almost kicked the bucket, again. Yesterday night we experienced 50 miles per hour gusts of wind that got through every crack and gap in the hoop house and almost lifted it up off the ground. Almost. When I woke up this morning after a pretty fitful sleep it was still there, but only just.

Our hoophouse skeleton is made entirely of flexible pvs pipes and rigid pvc connectors, and it is covered with 6 mil landscape fabric, attached to the ribs by pvc clips. It is anchored to the ground by sideways (squeezing) pressure on its base, through galvanized stakes hammered in the ground on one side and the two wooden boxes of the garden beds on the other.  There is one small cable inside that is mainly for correcting the top from leaning over too much, because the whole thing sits on slightly sloping ground.

Our initial door design very quickly proved a bust, and we never even  installed it, so now the entrance is simply a flap of plastic that we clip and unclip as we go in. This is a major gap in the structure. There are also big holes along the covering of the side walls.

When I walked out this morning to set things aright before the big snowstorm – we know how the house, even in its better days, performs under snow loads! – I found that it had jumped all of the anchors but one. It had jumped over all of the stakes and even one garden bed (a foot high!). Only the corner of the other garden bed and the tight  (now too tight) plastic covering held it in shape and in place.

In short, in a place where it gets windy and snowy, I would not recommend going with this simple design, or even this choice of materials. It is simply underbuilt.

We decided to add wooden frames on its short sides. In one of those we can place a more convenient and air tight wooden door, and in the other we can stick a window that can open for cross-ventilation.  We’re also contemplating a low wooden wall all around its base for the now sliding off. We’ll replace the ripped and punctured cover with a more transparent and durable one.

We’ll rebuild it in the Spring, before we move it to its Summer position. The idea is still to have it be mobile, but instead of picking it up in one piece, we’ll make it modular.

That said, I am glad we made this house. It got us going, we’ll be able to use most of its materials, and it taught us a lot about good (and bad) design.  Also, all the plants inside survived the calamities so far, and I think it won’t be long before we can harvest some lettuce and mache and replace them with new seedlings growing in the basement as we speak.


Caught two more mice. Bought more covers in case there are more mice. Gearing up to do a huge planting over the weekend. Got more seeds too, mostly chard and spinach. How could I possibly have enough of those!

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  1. Ooh, I sooo feel your pain! We have raised beds and I put small hoops the plastic over each one, so carefully. They lasted until the first fall storm and I lost everything in them.

    DH thought I was crazy to start with, but now that he has read a little more on them, and sees what I was trying to do, has some better ideas. Like frames with plumbing pipe, over rebar pounded into the ground. He’s willing to spend the money, I’m willing to try it; at the very least they can be trellises for the summer.

    Elliot Coleman has plans for a wooden structure using the plastic that is movable; maybe that would work better for you? It’s in Four Season Harvest.

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