This week at Growing Hope I was able to learn a lot more about what goes into maintaining a garden bed outdoors versus one inside a hoop house. I wouldn’t want to give you my biased opinion about what I think works best…(hint, start with the letter h)…so here’s some information from what I have been able to gather on the subject.
Why are so many gardeners interested in having a hoop house in their backyard? A hoop house provides warmth, shelter from storms and heavy rains, and serves as a structure that can allow a gardener the ability to start crops earlier in the season. It helps to allow produce to grow that would not normally ripen during the cooler months. That’s why these plastic covered structures are called “season extenders”.
The plastic covering is actually a type of plastic called polyethylene film, something you’d find in water bottles, plastic bags, and other packaging supplies. Fun fact from Wikipedia on Polyethylene film: Polyethylene can also be made from other feedstocks, including wheat grain and sugar beet.
A hoop house can extend the season of plants for 3-4 months, and for more time, another layer of plastic can be added with a small fan to keep the top layer elevated. It seems like a lot of investment for a garden, but farmers are known to use hoop house to grow their more expensive crops, and thus justify the cost of the produce (Source: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation). The “green-house quality” plastic is treated to avoid accelerated degradation with the continuous exposure to ultra-violet light, and to decrease the amount of heat loss that the hoop house potentially experiences during days and nights of fluctuating temperatures. Condensation usually develops on the underside of plastic when exposed to moisture and heat, so the plastic also is treated to avoid condensation, thus decreasing the possibly of plants developing diseases from the moisture.
A hoop house, depending on it’s size, can take from a couple days to a couple months to be fully constructed. I asked the program manager at Growing Hope about the time it took to build their 30 x 96 feet hoop house that allows them year-around production. Although there isn’t a concise way to quantify the total time that it took to prep the ground, build the skeleton structure, cover and secure the plastic covering, and put in the raised beds, you could say that it took a long time. “And a lot of volunteers!”
Continue Reading by clicking on Week 7 under Weekly reflections.