For several years, I’ve been thinking about how to extend the season for growing cold crops in my garden. To this end, my husband built me a cold frame which in theory was a great idea and a good design. But, when the time came to plant cold crops and tend to them, the snow piled between my warm kitchen door and the box discouraged me from hiking out to water the plants tucked beneath the protective 6 pane windows. Alas, no cold crops. Fortunately, I later discovered that with the windows removed, the cold frame made a great raised bed for my spring/summer/fall plants.
Recently, I heard about the concept of a hoop house from a garden leader I met from Michigan. She told me that her garden community had purchased a hoop bender tool from Johnny’s Seeds and with it, one could easily bend 1/2 electrical conduit to form hoops for 4 X 4 ft. beds (and other sizes). When I researched further, I found the hoop bender was on sale for less than $50 and all of a sudden, I could imagine a whole host of uses for these hoops. Why not make hoop houses to protect my plants from the rabbit and pest invasion — and the elements?! I also found out that in the cooler season, 4 mil plastic sheeting is best for keeping the heat in while allowing light to penetrate. In the warmer season, row cover is preferred and also available from Johnny’s Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com)
My garden partner and I placed our order and once the hoop bender arrived, we picked up 20 1/2 inch X 10 ft. electrical conduit pipes at Home Depot (less than $50) and set to work. Our first goal was to make some for our community garden’s annual summer sale. If we could use them, we surmised that other gardeners could too. As expected, we sold out of our first 20 and started on another batch with more orders to fill. At the sale, we also sold three 4 X 4 raised beds with two hoops each. A big hit.
We are planning to make and share these with gardeners we know. And will soon install many in community garden plots to get a head start on cold crops and to protect from the many pests — rabbits, bean beetles, Japanese beetles — hail and hot sun threatening to decimate our harvest. I will report back how our garden crops fare in the late fall and early spring although I’m still not sure how I feel about trudging out into the yard to water plants when its cold and snowy.