her up: In just a few simple steps and with a few helpful,
or at least willing, friends, your hoophouse will be complete. (Pictured
here: Roll-up sides and baseboards at the corner of hoophouse.)
In his last installment, Don
Devault got the framework of your new greenhouse up:
21 by 48 feet of steel and glory. Visit
Part 1of the story if you haven't yet.
Want a hoophouser’s bible? Drop a $15 check in
the mail for a copy of Lynn Byczynski’s brand
new Hoophouse Handbook: Growing produce and flowers
in hoophouses and high tunnels. This 58-page how-to
manual is THE BEST how-to manual on the market. The
handbook is available from Growing for Market at:
Growing For Market
PO Box 3747
Lawrence, KS 66046
When life in the tunnel gets painfully dull, you’ll
have some worthwhile reading material that will make
your farm beginnings a lot more productive and enjoyable.
Lynn Byczynski has given us permission to reprint some
helpful resources from Hoophouse Handbook:
For more information
This site is the result of a collaboration among Extension
specialists and grower-cooperators in Kansas, Missouri
and Nebraska. Funded in part by USDA, the high tunnel
project is researching vegetable and cut flower production
in the Midwest.
Penn State's Center for Plasticulture posts results
of high tunnel vegetable research on this site.
John Biernbaum's research on winter vegetable production
will be reported here. (Site currently under construction.)
The Noble Foundation continues to research hoophouse
production for the South, and posts reports here periodically.
Atlas Greenhouse Systems
West Chicago, IL
Conley's Greenhouse Manufacturing & Sales
DeCloet Greenhouse Mfg.
Farm Wholesale Greenhouses
Farm Tek's Growers Supply
Frank Jonkman & Sons Ltd.
G & M Ag Supply
Earth City, MO
Ledgewood Farm Greenhouse
Ludy's Greenhouse Manufacturing
New Madison, OH
St. Charles, IL
Paul Boers Total Growing Systems
Castle Rock, MN
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing
North Kansas City, MO
Red Bank, NJ
APRIL 9 , 2003, Emmaus, PA: There’s a steel
skeleton rising like a science fiction Smithsonian exhibit in the
middle of your field, generating all sorts of questions and speculation
from the neighbors. Even your dog seems suspicious of the strange
addition until he’s barked it into submission and christened
the thing. But you know what you’re doing. With this framework
in place you’re about a third of the way done with construction
of your first hoophouse, a project you’ll easily see through
to completion over the next two weekends. Of course, in taking this
first step you’re setting yourself up for a job that will
never be done.
But you know what you’re doing. (It’s called ‘job
So let’s get on with it.
Your next step is to level and bolt the baseboards and
hipboards in place. You’ll need your level, your
drill and a few new bits, and nuts, bolts and washers. You’ll
also need a couple of six-inch C-clamps, which you don’t have.
So drop everything, round up the dog, get him in the truck, and
waste an hour of your day getting to the hardware store and back.
bolted to the anchor pipes: Although a 2"
x 6" baseboard wouldn't gap at the bottom, it would
cast a monster shadow. Go with 2" x 4"s and
raise the southern and northern beds level with the baseboards.
The baseboards bolt onto the anchor pipes along the outside lengths
of the hoophouse (see photo at right). There are pre-drilled holes
in the anchor pipes, and it looks like your best fit would be a
2”x6” or larger to avoid a gap under the bottom edge
of the baseboards. But since you know what you’re doing, you’re
going to use 2”x4”s. This is because the baseboard on
the south side will cast a shadow, especially during the winter
months. Even the 2”x4” you’re going to use will
cast a shadow across half your southern bed in mid-winter.
So, what you’re going to do is frame-in and raise the whole
southern bed to the level of the top of the baseboard. This will
fill in any gaps along the bottom of the baseboards and eliminate
the shadow cast in the winter. And you’ll do the same along
the north side of the house, too, knowing rain and snow-melt will
run off the house, seep in, and saturate and compact the soil along
the lengths. In the winter, especially on the north side, this saturated
soil will freeze solid and steal away workable space. Framing and
raising beds along the inside of both lengths of the house will
solve some problems for you before you have them.
details : This hipboard, positioned just below
the arch, has an eye bolt and rope to hold the roll-up
sides flush against the bows.
Now, the hipboards. These are 2”x4”s
which will serve as something like curtain rods for your roll-up
sides. They run parallel to the baseboards in one of three marked
(but not pre-drilled) positions just below where the bows begin
to arch inward (see photo at right).
and pains in this joint: When the joints of the
base and hipboards fall between the bows, they can be
secured with pieces of scrap lumber and bolts.
You want the joints of both the baseboards and hipboards to fall
between the bows so you can secure them with a mending plate or
short section of scrap lumber and a couple bolts (see photo at right).
So, since the bows are spaced four feet apart, you’ll be using
board lengths of 10’, 12’, 12’, 8’, and
6’ to cover the 48’ length of the house.
Once the baseboards and hipboards are in place, bolt the strips
of channel lock onto the hipboards. It’s important to bolt
on the channel lock because when the sides are rolled up and the
wind gusts to 50 mph, a few screws in pine may not be able to hold
a 1300 sq. ft. kite that wants to fly.
We’ll deal with channel lock, roll-up sides, and the interesting
logistics of managing a huge sheet of plastic in the wind in detail.
But right now why don’t you fire up that tiller you rented
for the weekend and start off with a slow, fairly light till, slightly
overlapping each pass, working your way progressively deeper over
the course of a few successive runs covering the entire 21’x48’
area inside the framework. You’ll probably have to do this
a few times, and it’s slow going, so be patient. And don’t
run over the dog.
a good face: When piecing together your faceboard,
eliminate any sharp corners to avoid ripping the plastic
when stretched over the edges. (Note: the hipboard right
below the arch extends back the length of the house.)
After you’ve got the area roughly tilled once-over,
take a break to let the earth breathe, and begin framing out your
ends. Start with the faceboards, (see photo at right) piecing
together sections of board along the arch of the end bow. You want
to try to cut down any board corners that project beyond the top
of the pipe, or roofline edge of the end bow, because eventually
you’ll be pulling and attaching plastic over this edge, and
any sharp board corners may stress, stretch or tear holes in the
plastic. This is where your 2”x6”s will really come
in handy, as they offer more space to cut down to shape.
Once you have your faceboards bolted on the end bows, and your
channel lock bolted onto the faceboards, take a minute while you
make another run with the tiller to consider how you want to frame
out the endwalls. Keep in mind your endwall isn’t load-bearing,
so you don’t have to overdo it.
The best design for framing your endwalls is dependent on what
sort of door (or doors) you want. Since you’re thinking of
expanding next season, though, you really only need to hang one
door at what will be the permanent end of the house. And since you’re
not dealing with monstrous machinery, and you’ve got roll-up
sides, you won’t need a monstrous barn door for access or
better ventilation. You can reuse an old storm door. Or frame out
your own door and cover it with plastic. As long as it hangs fairly
straight and closes tight, you’re fine.
So, once you’ve found your door, just lay a plate, or baseboard,
along the end width. Measure it out and run jack studs to a header,
set king studs to each side, and hang your door. On a house with
a 21’ width, all you really need beyond the door frame is
another stud to each side. You can skip the header and jack studs
on the other end. (See photo above for a view of door and studs.)
Take another spin with the tiller and head home to get yourself
and the dog some dinner. The next step’s the last: The plastic.
Now, to get your hoophouse covered without catastrophe
and casualties, you’re going to need a calm day,
some rope, a few folding lawn chairs, a case of beer, two pounds
of burger, a pack of hot dogs, buns, chips, and a grill. What I’m
saying is you’re going to need friends. You’re dog’s
not good enough. You’re going to need HELP.
at work : Make sure you pull the plastic tight
before securing it with wiggle wire in the the channel
Unroll your plastic along the length of the house, and bunch it
up and synch with about a 50 ft. length of rope at each corner and
in the middle of the sheet. Tie the other end of each rope to about
a foot-long piece of scrap lumber and toss it over the framework
to the other side. Have your friends haul the plastic slowly and
carefully over the skeletal structure of the house while you supervise.
Square the sheet with a couple extra feet on all sides, pull it
tight, and start securing it along the hipboards and faceboards
with wiggle wire in the channel lock (see photo above).
Cut two sheets of plastic from what you have leftover from your 96’
roll to cover the endwalls, and attach them with staples through irrigation
tape or batten tape (see photo at right).
the endwalls : You can prevent ripping and tearing
when covering the endwalls by stapling through a layer
of irrigation tape.
Having already fit the pipes together for your roll-up sides and
secured them with self-driving screws, place them at the end of
the plastic overhanging the baseboards along the lengths of the
house and roll them up into the plastic until they hang just off
the ground against the baseboards. To keep them from riding-up when
the wind blows, set eye-screws opposite each other in the baseboards
and hipboards and tie a length of rope taught between them.
Right now, why don’t you fire up that grill and crack a beer
with your friends. Maybe even pour some out for the dog. Wax philosophical.
Enjoy your accomplishment. While it may seem a relatively small
step for mankind, you just took a giant flying leap into a dream.