If the thought of closing up your summer garden is making you dread the cold winter months, why not extend your growing season through the fall and spring with a hoop house? Not only are they relatively inexpensive compared to a more permanent greenhouse structure, hoop houses are easy to maintain and set up. Here are the basics of what you need to know to keep on growing!

What is a Hoop House?

A hoop house (sometimes stylized as “hoophouse” or otherwise known as a “polyhouse”) is basically a cover for your garden, using some large hoops made of anything from plastic to wood, that’s then covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic; the plastic is stretched over the hoops then fastened down to the ground with baseboards, strips of wood or even large stakes. By creating a covering for the plants, you’re increasing the amount of heat supplied to them.

The best part about a hoop house is that it can be as permanent or temporary as you want. (For example, if you want to extend the life of your hearty greens, just cover them with a hoop house!) Plus, they can cost as little as $50 (or you can always spend thousands if you want to create a robust, permanent solution).

hoop house

If installing a large hoop house that covers a large portion of your garden is not viable, another option is to try a row cover where all you need are some stakes, heavy greenhouse plastic and much smaller hoops to only cover individual rows.

A key point to remember is that even though the hoop house is providing extra warmth during the day, as the temperature continues to dip at night, it will still get cold inside the hoop house. According to Mother Earth News, however, a hoop house can extend your growing season for about 6 weeks in the fall and spring.

Hoop House Placement

It’s not just the temperature that’s winding down before winter, it’s also the sunlight, which is a key component of a plant’s growing process. It’s important to check your current garden spot to make sure that the sun’s lower position in the sky isn’t blocked by anything. (Remember, leaves will be falling so there may be more sunlight in places that are typically shady.)

hoop house

What to Grow

Now that you’ve secured the hoop house, it’s time to figure out what to plant. Greens such as kale, collards and spinach don’t mind the cooler temperatures at night, making them a great option to include in your late fall garden hoop house. In the spring, think of it as your staging center for seedlings to move from pots to outdoors; when summer comes around, you can turn it into a shade house for crisp lettuce greens that ordinarily wilt in the hot sun. Keep in mind that some plants – like tomatoes – won’t last for long in the fall with the reduced light and low temperatures.

Some gardeners even attempt to grow root vegetables, or at least get a last batch before winter weather sets in. It may be easier to do this if you have a raised bed and insulate the bottom part of the bed to keep the soil temperature a bit warmer. As for those that are determined to grow into the winter, a small heater works wonders. Just remember to install safety measures.

For a complete list of facts (and FAQs) about hoop houses, be sure to read through this PDF published by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture pertaining to temporary greenhouses.

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