Saturday, December 24, 2011

Building an Inexpensive Hoophouse/Cloche (1 or 9) - Cool Weather Gardening - Part 1 of 9

 Building A Hoop-House/Cloche
So you want to grow a month or two longer but the quickly cooling Seasons won't allow for it. Or you'd like to set out your seedlings maybe a month or so Earlier and get a head start on the Spring Season. An expensive Greenhouse is out of the question - especially one of any practical size. And how many of us can afford the Big Power Bills of Electric Heaters, Humidifiers, Auto Misters etc to grow year round. However, even if you can't grow 12 years out of the year, you can grow an extra month or two longer when Fall comes and a month or two Sooner in the Spring! I live in zone 6b (New Zone 7 according to the Arbor Society). I found from earlier experiments with a small hoop house that I could grow Lettuce, Green Onions, Leek, Spinach, and many other cool weather crops up until and through December. January and February was to cold to grow anything in an unheated Hoop-house. But come about Mid-March, The Onions and Leek would resume their growing. New starter tomatoes could be set out about mid April.  Peppers could also be set out but wouldn't show much growth until the first of May. Your own experiments will be your best guide for your area.
How Big is this Hoop-House/Cloche
 The size of your Hoop-House or Cloche can vary according to the size of your growing plot that it will be set upon. I use Landscape Timbers to enclose my plots. New methods of treatment make them much safer than the old timbers. These timbers happen to be 8 ft long. The Cloche you will build can be larger or smaller than the one here. You may also need to do some creative adjusting of my measurements and your needs.  You might use 2 X 12 Timbers to build your beds, or even Cement Blocks.

In the coming months, I hope to put out an article of  how to make and prepare a 4 Ft. X 8 Ft. Bed out of Landscape Timbers. Simple and Cheap. About $10 each.  Just add a good garden soil mix - which Can get Pricy if you want to use expensive prepared Garden Soil Mixes from the Big Box Stores. . I mix my own and it always works nicely. All measurement here are based on a 4Ft X 8Ft area Plot.

Sometimes, for practical purposes, I will call the Hoop-House/Cloche, simply a Cloche. Cloche seems to be an European word that means Covering and is a little looser than "Hoop-House. They may or may not curve like a "Hoop"-House.  A Cloche can be as small as a 2 liter bottle with an open cap set over your plants to protect them. Or a Cloche can be much larger  and cover the length of a long row and be 2 or 3 feet tall - or taller. For Americans, lets call it a Hoop-House. For Europeans - A Cloche. I will call it a Cloche quite often because it is easier to type!

Cost to Build Our Cloche
If you have a friend who owns a construction company, he have heavy clear plastic to throw away!
If your luck you might have some wood planks or a old lawn timbers laying around. They need not be new. Just straight and in good shape. You will need 4 - 10 ft PVC or CPVC pipes and Glue and Primer plus fittings to make Ribs for your Cloche. You might have left overs of these from a remodeling job.  Minimum Cost - if you scrounge - a couple bucks. Maximum if you buy everything about $35 to $45.  It is possible to construct you Cloche in one day with a little help - mostly to make conversation and to pass the time!

Tool List
Table Saw - Only if your experienced. Otherwise, a simple Hand Saw, or Hacksaw can be used to cut off  pipe lengths and Dowel Pieces.

Hand Wood Rasp - to help fit the Dowel to the Pipe if necessary.

A Belt Sander would be nice, but this job can be done by Hand.

A Hammer

An Electric  Drill with a 1/8 wood bit to pre-drill Screw Holes.( Size could vary depending on Screws you use. Bit should be slightly smaller than the shaft of the screw. Slightly better than snug!

A Phillips Head Bit  for the Electric Drill to drive screws - or

A Hand-Held Phillips Head Screwdriver. 

A Framing Square to help Square up the Frame.

A Tape Measure to Check the total Squareness of the Frame.

Part 9: Attaching the Cloche/Hoop-House Cover

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