Saturday, December 24, 2011

Build a Cloche/Hoop-House - Part 3 of 9

Building The Frame for Your Cloche
We begin our project by building a simple wood frame out of our 2 X 2 X 8 Ft. Lumber. These 2 X 2's can be gotten by ripping down the middle of a 2 X 4 or just purchase them outright from your Lumber Store. 

Assembling the Frame
Find a flat surface like a driveway and using the Screwdriver  and 4 large 3 inch deck screws, screw the 4 - 2 X 2 Frame pieces together as shown in the previous Diagram.  Be sure to screw the two long pieces to the short pieces as shown in the diagram. Otherwise you may have trouble setting your cloche on your 4 X 8 ft plot. Of course, you can reconfigure the 2 X 2's any way you wish if your plots are of different outside dimensions than mine. 
 Attach Corner Braces

Using a framing square, try to keep the Frame Assembly as square as you can. Begin attaching the 4 corner Braces. Attach the Braces to each corner as shown in the photos Below. For extra strength in the joint, I also apply waterproof glue along with each brace before screwing them down.  Leave the last brace loose from one screw temporarily as you use a tape measure the square-up the whole assembly - then set the last screw to hold everything in the squared-up position. You don't have to be hair-line close with your squaring but you do need to be "close" Your braces should be cut at a 45 Degree angle on each end and the screws centered with both the 2 x 2 lengths and the Braces themselves. Note: At this point. Ignore the pegs you see. They will be added at the end of the construction of the Cloche/Hoop-House Frame and are used to hold the Cloche/Hoop-House Plastic Pipe Ribs.

Squaring on the Diagonal
This method of squaring up is used for anywhere from Picture Frames to Concrete Forms, to laying out a City Lot. When the diagonals are equal lengths from corner to corner, the area is a perfect square. If you come withing a quarter inch of them being equal on your Frame, your probably OK. Any slight curves in your boards  will throw these measurements off. This is just to check to make sure you are not radically off square.

This diagonal measurement is about 109-1/2 inches .

The opposite diagonal is about 108 - 5/8 inches.

We have a difference of 7/8 inch. Stand the frame on it's side and apply pressure on one corner to force the frame slightly to move sideways. Check the diagonals. If they are withing 1/4 inch or less, Your probably close enough. Fasten the last Brace down. However, If you set this on your Raised Bed, and it's drastically out of whack, you will have to loosen one or two of the braces and "wedge" it more into square and reattach the braces. With this, you are finished with the Frame. Note: For extra strength, you might attach  iron "L" brackets to each corner. These are also available at any Hardware or Big Box Build-It-Yourself store. I found that they add extra weight and cost and  probably aren't necessary in the long run. 

At this point, we will lay the Frame aside and make our Pipe Ribs that will provide  the roof and sides of your Cloche/Hoop-House and hold your plastic covering in place. Later, we will be installing the Dowel anchors in the Frame to hold the Pipe Ribs (or "Hoops" as you may wish to call them).

Making the Pipe Ribs

From the 10 Ft Plastic Pipe you will need to cut these pieces.

    8 - 18 inch pieces
    8 - 30 inch pieces
    4 - 8-3/4 inch pieces

While a Table Saw makes quick work of cutting these pieces, use this saw - Only if Your Experienced With this Saw. Same with the new powered Miter Saws. Neither one is for Amateurs. Instead, use a hand powered Back Saw and Miter box. Or just use an old fashioned hacksaw and cut your pieces of as square as possible. 

After the pieces are cut, Use a grinder to make a square and slightly rounded end. Smooth with regular sandpaper and wipe clean of any dust. The steps for preparing to glue the pieces together are shown here. Follow these steps carefully, and you will not have any trouble gluing the Pipe Ribs together.
No. 1

 No. 2

No. 3
 Sand the Ends Smooth - It only takes a few seconds.
 Any grit from 60 to 120 should work fine. 

How to Glue Pipes Together
 This is probably the trickiest part of the whole crafting of this project. If you have done it before, it is a piece of cake! If you haven't then it is easy to learn. You might get some of the scrap pipe after cutting and purchase a few extra joints just for practice. Here are the steps that must be followed and in this sequence to make a good, solid, dependable pvc pipe joint. And good Pipe Ribs for your Cloche/Hoophouse:

         1. Have all your pipes, joints in easy reach.
         2. Open both the Pipe Glue and the Purple Pipe Compound. Leave the caps on loosely.
         3. After applying the glue and inserting the pipe into the coupling, hold in and at the same time,
              give the joint or pipe  a quarter turn to help bond them together.
         4. When putting the pipe piece and joint together, HOLD in for about 10 seconds. The
              reaction of the glue bonding with the pipe and joint will try to force the pipe and joints apart.
              After the few seconds, you are then free to let go.

          5. When joining two pipes together, sight down the pipes to make sure everything is aligned straight.
              You don't want one pipe going "South" from the other. Glue, Insert, Twist and Sight in to place and                                      
               Hold for the required time. Sight along the length of the two or more joined pipes. They should all      
               line-up. You only have a few seconds to do these steps. After that there is no fixing the joint if you a
               don't have them properly glued and aligned. That's why you leave the caps loose on the glue and
               purple compound. You don't have time to screw the lid on one after using it and unscrewing the
               other. Close the lids when your finished!

No. 1
When you are ready to start assembling a Pipe Rib,
Be sure to loosen the lids of the Glue and Purple
Primer. Tighten when your finished. 

No. 2

No. 3
Coat it well. Messy is OK - Probable!

No. 4
Don't forget to coat the inside of the Coupling as well!

No. 5
Next coat the Pipe with Glue right on top of the Primer.

No. 6
Quickly apply Glue to the already Primed Coupling.

No. 7
Push the Pipe into the Coupling, Twist 1/4 turn, Hold 
Pipe into Coupling while Twisting.  Quickly  Alignment with the 
other Pipe if you have one already joined on the other
end of the Coupling.

No. 8 -Not This!
If your joint looks like this, you will most
likely have to make a new  Rib. There is no
redoing after a few seconds of misalignment.

No. 9 - Look at this!
Slight Misalignment of Ribs is OK. You 
can see it by the "V" space while looking 
down the 3 joined pipes.

No. 10.

No. 11.
Each Finished Rib has two "sub-assemblies".
Carefully Join these two together to make one
Pipe Rib. You should end up with 4 finished
Pipe Ribs for your Cloche/Hoop-House.

No. 12
This show a finished Pipe Rib. If you pre-assemble before 
Gluing, You can align all the pipes and joints perfectly, then 
Mark  across the joint and pipe with a marker just before you Prime and Glue.
All you have to do is Glue, Push the Pipe in. Align and Hold the pipe/joint Marks
for a few seconds. Wa-La. A perfect Rib!

Here is a Diagram of a Complete Rib Assembly

Building a Hoop-House/Cloche Part 2 of 9

Material List
2 treated 2 X 4 X 8 Ft.  to rip into 4 -  2 X 2's  To build the Frame. If you don't have experience with a table saw, have an neighbor do it for you. Never use a table saw yourself without first getting some minimal training from an expert! They are always dangerous. You could use untreated 2 X 2 X 8 Lumber but it will not last much past one year.

1- 7/8 Inch Dowel. Usually sold only in 3 to 4 Ft. Sticks. About $4.  An old Wooden Broom Stick  or Mop stick would work if you can still find such an animal. Ask your Great Aunt who saves Everything.

1 Roll of 3 Mill Plastic - 10 X 25 Ft. Long - I got mine at Ace Hardware for $13.99.   A friend in Construction may have throw-a-way Clear,  Construction Grade Plastic Sheets for Free. If you happen to have a friend like that consider yourself lucky. They may even have scrap lumber you can have!  You may find cheaper 2 Mil. Plastic at the Dollar Stores - which may get you through the winter - but don't bet on it.
About $4. 6 Mil is Greenhouse Grade - if you can afford it.

4 PVC 3/4 Inch White Water Pipe. Cost about $7 total.  Gray Pipe is  slightly cheaper but can heat in the sun enough to melt holes in your plastic covering where it touches! Be warned.

16 - 3/4 X 45 Degree White Water Pipe Fittings - About $3

Pipe Glue - $2.50 to $3.00 - 4 oz can is sufficient.

Pipe Purple Primer Compound - $2.50 - 4 oz can

56 - 1-1/2 Dry Wall Screws for attaching Batten Slats to Frame and Frame Braces to Frame..

4 - 3 inch Deck Screws to join Frame boards together. Check your Deck...Or "borrow" from your neighbor

12 - Drywall or Coated Screws for attaching Hinge Brackets that you will make.

10 - 1/4 X 1-1/2 x 4 Ft. slats to use as Batten Boards. ( Could use ripped 2X4 slats as I did.)

1 - Pint Bottle of Waterproof Wood Glue. I use TiteBond III. Available at most hardware stores or Lumber Yards. About $4. Fast and Permanent Bond even in wet locations. Holds fast in about an hour under warm day conditions. Sets Permanently within 24 hours.

1 small box of Copper Screen Nails - About $1.50.  Also found in Plastic Window Winterizing Kits. About $1.50. These will be used to help hold the Plastic Sheet to the Frame as you mount it. Later Battens will be more permanently hold the Plastic Sheet Covering of the Cloche firmly to the frame.

3 - 3 Inch Screen/Storm Door Hinges (Common Steel Hinges but not expensive)  to attach Frame to Raised Bed. About $5.00.  Mine come from True Value Hardware - National Hardware Brand in packages of 2 each including screws. Other types seemed to pricey to me. You will have one hinge left over if you put one on each end and one in the middle of the frame. Or just use all 4 hinges for extra strength. These are zinc coated for exterior use.  You might find some Free hinges if you find hinges off an old door. Ask your Brother - or if all else fails, your neighbor again. After all, he will benefit from the Cloche house's extra produce. If he is nice to you.

Links to Article Sections

Part 9: Attaching the Cloche/Hoop-House Cover

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

Making Hoop-House/Cloche -Measuring Cover 8 of 9

Measuring and Cutting the Cover to Size
You will probably start out with a roll of plastic that looks something like this:

This roll is 3 Mil plastic purchased through Ace Hardware. It costs about $15 and is heavy enough to last you through one season - maybe two if your very careful and the weather conditions are not two brutal. Greenhouse recommended thickness is 6 mil. The thicker you get the better it withstands the weather. My first hoop-house was made using 2 mil. that I purchased for $4 at the local Dollar Store. It lasted through the winter till next spring. I had to patch one little tear about 1 inch long in the middle of winter. I will show you how that is done quickly, easily, and expensively and what to use. Without buying an expensive Greenhouse Patch Kit! To Continue:

        Measure the Hoop-House/Cloche from the Bottom of One End to the Bottom of the Other End
Measuring the Cover can be a little daunting but we will take it step- by-step. First we start from one End of the Cloche. we measure off 1 ft (Bottom Roll over piece) + End Height (to the top) + the length (to the other end) + Down the End + Bottom Roll over piece. You will end up with 5 lengths total.

Roll out your plastic Mark each section along the rolled out plastic with a permanent marker as you go. (A mark about 4 to 6 inches long at each section should be plenty which you will use as a guide when you position the finished strip on the Cloche. You will end up with one long rolled out piece of plastic with several sections marked along it's length which looks something like this:


My total length = 192 inches T
Your Hoop-House Cloche might be a little longer, shorter, taller than mine. These measurements are just for illustration although you should allow at least 6 inches on each end (as shown) for roll over and trim. 

When all the sections are marked off on this long strip
  of plastic, Cut the strip off from the left-over plastic.

I have cut a little extra as seen by the marks of one end.
You should have about 9 foot left over from your 25 ft roll if you hoop-house/cloche is simular to mine in length and height. A nice amount of extra material to use as plant covers, etc.if you like.

Lay the length of plastic along one side of the Hoop-House/Cloche. At this point you could probably use
 a helper. Especially if there is even a whisper of wind. We are now ready to cover the hoop-house/cloche.