Our First Hoop House

We set up our first hoop house last weekend. It’s been chilly and raining the past few weeks, so with Sunday having sunny blue skies we jumped on the opportunity to get this thing built! I’m operating on a shoestring budget, and by shoestring I mean a microscopically thin thread, so I spent some time researching other low-tech hoop house plans online and this is what I came up with. This style of hoop house is referred to as a caterpillar tunnel due to its segmented appearance and is tied down tight at each end. Access and ventilation are acquired by simply lifting up the sides of the plastic.

Here’s my materials list and total cost for this 12 x 45 foot tunnel:

  • 6 mil greenhouse plastic, 24 x 65′ = $214
  • PVC pipe, 1″ x 20′, 12 qty = $108
  • 1/2″ rebar (#4), cut into 2′ lengths (had to buy 40′ total) = $28
  • 3/4″ rebar (#6), 4′ lengths, 2 qty (had these on hand) = $0
  • 15″ corkscrew earth anchors, 6 qty = $18
  • White twine, 2 rolls of 500′ = $6
  • Brute strength for the rebar bending and pounding = priceless

Total cost = Around $374

First, the land was plotted out, leveled, and good soil dumped in. Then we squared off the 12 x 45′ footprint and pounded in the 2′ foot rebar pieces at the four corners and every 5 1/2′ along the sides, leaving about 6″ sticking out for posts. This required 18 pieces of rebar. The PVC pipe slipped right over the rebar posts and within minutes the framework was up! We made a purlin along the top using more lengths of PVC, hanging under the hoops and tied it tight with twine.

For ground anchors, we put in six of the corkscrew anchors right next to the hoops – one at each corner and two more in the middle. For the remaining 12 anchors we bent more 2′ pieces of rebar into a candy cane shape, like a super heavy-duty tent stake. We were able to bend these by hand using a cheater bar and bending them around the hitch on a truck bumper. Then these were pounded into the ground beside each post, slightly angled away from the hoops, and almost flush with the ground but leaving a small gap to run the twine through.

Time to raise the plastic! We spread it out and it was easily pulled over the hoops with two people. You need a good 10 feet or so of extra plastic at each end to be able to pull it down tight to be flush with the ground, so my 65′ sheeting was perfect for a 45′ hoop house. For the end anchors, we bent the #6 rebar in half, making a U-shape to pound in like a giant staple. We rolled up one end of the plastic, tied it with twine, and pounded a rebar staple down tight over it. We wrapped the plastic with some cloth at this point to protect if from coming in contact with the rebar. The excess plastic was then looped over the staple and tied again with twine.

The final step is to secure the whole thing to the ground. We ran twine through each anchor, criss-cross style on each segment of the tunnel. We used individual pieces of twine for each segment so in case one breaks the integrity of the entire tunnel won’t be affected. I’m going to place some sandbags at each end and maybe a few along the sides, just to help keep the plastic sealed to the ground as much as possible.

IMG_0064

And it’s done! With a firm plan and two efficient workers, a tunnel like this can be erected in a matter of hours with no cursing. My plan was slightly vague and we had one efficient worker plus me, so the work was spread out over two days, but still – no cursing! Almost none. Really, these are easy to build and we’ll be adding more as the budget permits.

I found these sources very helpful in putting together my project:
http://broadforkfarm.com/2012/04/27/putting-up-the-caterpillars/
http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2011/04/02/experimenting-with-caterpillars-another-option-for-season-extension/
http://www.olivettefarm.com/blog/2016/11/15/building-our-caterpillar-tunnels

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