Saturday’s weather was perfect for putting the film on the hoop house, warm and sunny and only the slightest breeze. It took about two hours to get the plastic on and all the wiggle wire into the channels that hold the plastic tightly in place. Imagine trying to do this on a windy day!
The next task is to build and install end walls with doors and venting.
What we’re constructing here according to Eliot Coleman, is a moveable “cold house,” on three or more contiguous plots that will enable year-round gardening. It will be used in winter to grow cold hearty crops able to withstand low temps with a little extra protection. The inner hoops covering the rows of crops inside are also covered with a layer of Reemay fabric. Each layer adds a hardiness zone. For example, our farm is in Zone 6, so we will be able to protect our plantings as if we were in Zone 8 (think just north of Atlanta, Ga, rather than Massachusetts!…) In another area of the garden, we are currently growing a large lettuce crop just underneath quick hoops and reemay. Without a doubt, it’s the best lettuce we’ve ever eaten!
Our goal is not to have to pay large energy costs. Therefore, this new hoop house is not meant to be a heated, or “hot house,” traditionally used to grow hot weather crops like fruit, tomatoes or eggplant during the coldest parts of the year. Instead, during that time, it will harbor cold hearty greens such as mache, bunching onions and lettuce, planted in mid-September. These are crops that will withstand freezing night temps (down to the 20s F.) Amazingly, as soon as the sun comes out and things warm up in the hoop house, a peek under the Reemay cover reveals a crop of bright green, edible and delicious salad fixings! These crops must mature to harvestable size by early December. As daylight wanes, the plants stop growing, but the hoop house becomes a large refrigerator to hold the greens for harvest throughout the winter months.
Along about February, we will plant the entire hoop house to carrots. As soon as these can survive outdoors,we’ll get out the tractor to pull the greenhouse down a plot. The now-exposed carrots will be protected under the cover of quick hoops and Reemay. An early crop of greens will be planted under the hoophouse. One more greenhouse move will enable us to get off a batch of early greenhouse tomatoes! That’s where the house stays throughout the summer. Then, toward fall, another crop of greens goes where the carrots were, to extend the season yet again.
Our plan is to construct three such greenhouse systems in a row, but staggered diagonally so they don’t ever shade each other. This way, at any given time, we will have three crops under double protection. In the future, we will add to our year-round capabilities by constructing a “cool” house, with minimal heating to keep things just above freezing, and one hothouse, or heated nursery for starting plants.
Click here to view the hoop house film installation slide show. When you click on the link be patient, it may take a minute or so to load, then, click on each image to advance to the next.