How to make a hoophouse on a raised bed

We have been meaning to write about this for a while, and today friend and blog-reader Melinda provided the impetus when she emailed to ask how our hoophouses are constructed. I know they are working with a raised bed, so I took some photos to illustrate how we have ours set up!

It was warm and sunny today, and when I looked under the hoophouses to see what was up, I was hit with a blast of glasses-fog. So I opened them all up to get some fresh air inside and reduce the moisture levels, since too much moisture leads to mold.

As you can see/guess, our raised beds are constructed of 1x12s. Due to paths and other constraints, many of the angles aren’t right angles, so we did our best to support the corners by screwing into sections of 2×4.

The hoops of the hoophouses are 1/2- inch PVC pipe (in varying external widths) in 10-foot lengths. Any size of pipe works fine, as long as you are using clips and pipe sized to suit each other. The hoops are held on with some brackety things that are very simple — just one screw on either side.

Anecdote time! As we were building the first hoops on these raised beds, last fall, Garth said, “I am envisioning a small bracket that holds the hoops and costs 25¢.” Then he went to the hardware store, and seemed a bit sad when he returned (though his pockets were full). I asked, “Did they not have the brackets you were envisioning?” He said “No, they had them. They were 29¢ each.”

The brackets are easier to apply if you put one on each side, insert the PVC pipe, then have a helper hold it steady while you add the second bracket on each side according to where the PVC hoop wants to rest.

The plastic is just a clear-ish plastic dropcloth or tarp from your local hardware store. Ours come from Ace or whichever store we are standing in when we remember we need another one.

The plastic is held on the hoops by some very handy hoophouse clips that can be obtained from various sources. Territorial Seed has them, but only in 20 or 50 packs; Peaceful Valley has 1/2 inch and other sizes that are cheaper in large amounts. (Garth wants me to note: if any readers need a dozen clips, let us know, and we will give you some in exchange for coffee or beer next time we go out. If any readers need more than 50, let us know, and we will go in on an order of clips.)

Pro tip! If you put the two hoop-holding brackets far enough apart, you can put one of the plastic clips in between the two, as above. This clip, snugged up against the side of the raised bed, provides extra security, especially when it’s windy.

On our non-raised beds, we buy a larger diameter (1 inch?) of PVC and cut it into 12-16 inch sections. We drive these into the ground until about 3-6 inches are sticking out, and place one approximately parallel on the other side of the planting bed. Then we put the 1/2 inch pipe into each of those and bend it over into the other side. The hoops and plastic and clips are the same as above.

If it’s windy, you may need rocks on either end of the tarp to secure it. It will let you know by making a lot of commotion and flapping around in the wind.

  33 comments for “How to make a hoophouse on a raised bed

  1. April 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Great pics. That’s exactly how I built mine. Well, I added top bracing to provide additional support, and I installed permanent 1/4″ bigger PVC pieces on the sides with the same brackets you used. That way I can slip the smaller PVC pipes into the stands and remove them anytime I need to.

    Oh, and I used cheap jumbo binder clips to hold the plastic in place. I couldn’t see spending the money on the clips. My brother’s going to try slicing an old hose. Whatever works.

    I only wish I hadn’t gone and saved $5 by getting different sized PVC pipes for each bed. Now I’m up a creek with interchangability. Ah well. Live and learn.

    Great post!

  2. April 5, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Yay! I was hoping you would comment, Sinfonian; I knew you had a different clip method but couldn’t remember what it was. An old hose is a good idea, too — let us know how it goes!

    How do the binder clips hold up in the wind? How many clips do you put per hoop?

  3. Autumn
    April 6, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Hi Lauren,

    Great post and pictures! I’m planning on making some type of hoophouse this week so I can plant salad mixes, beets, chard, carrots, etc in the ground. I’m a very visual learner, so your pictures help me a lot.

    I was also wondering if you would be open to me re-posting this on intheloop.groworganic.com with a link back to your awesome farm website/blog? It’s great information!

  4. garth
    April 6, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Autumn: Please re-post, we’re happy to share. I’m glad you found our post useful.

  5. April 6, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    I found one binder clip per post at the bottom (well two per 10 foot pipe actually) works well, with one at the top of the arch. It works very well. The only time I’ve lost the plastic is when the entire pipe is blown out of the stand. I have a post on my blog about it. I just got more binder clips to hold everything more secure.

  6. Marisa
    October 26, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I plan on making a hoop house “lid” that has a base frame and can be flipped over for easy tending. Any tips or ideas?

  7. October 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Marisa: interesting idea! Hinges on one side, I assume? You might want to put latches on the other 3 sides. If whatever you’re using to attach the plastic to the hoops is strong enough, and your frame is light enough, the whole thing might move or blow away with strong wind. Those simple hook & eye latches should do it though.

    How are you planning to attach the hoops to the frame? Once we tried using very long screws and screwing them only partway in, leaving ~2 inches sticking out, and putting the hoop ends over that, but they didn’t want to stand up straight and also it wasn’t long enough to hold them; they kept popping off and shooting across the yard. The little clamps like in these pictures are way sturdier I think. Maybe you could use a 1×4 or 2×4 the tall way, so it’s tall enough to fit a couple clamps?

    We haven’t had too much trouble with just pulling up the plastic on one side to weed or harvest, though. You get a bit wet inside from condensation, but it’s not bad. Is there a particular reason you want the frames?

  8. Marisa
    October 26, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Lauren – My plan so far is to create a frame out of PVC pipe then attach the hoops via the 3 “prong” (I am not very good with the tec. jargon so bear with me) thing’s that go with the PVC pipe then drilling holes at either end and at the middle through the side of my raised Veggie bed and simply zip tie the hoop house to one side of my veggie bed that is all ready securely staked into the ground. Then on the opposite long side (6 ft x 4 ft) I “plan” on attaching a locking hook and screwing the eye into the wood of my raised veggie bed. (most likely 2 to be on the safe side since we do get a bit of wind here on the coast of California). Thus I would have a “lid” hoop house that would completely be removable and allow easy access to my veggies. Any tips? Ideas? Or insight’s on my plans?

    P.S. I plan on using the pvc clips to keep the plastic sheeting attached to the hoop house. Any better ideas? Id also like to make flaps on either end for ventilation too. Maybe glue screening to the inside to keep bugs out with a removable flap that attaches with Velcro (the glue backed kind).

  9. Marisa
    October 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Oh and I am trying to plan and build before winter hit’s too hard here (not that it ever really does here but better safe than sorry) and having it ready for early spring planting and hopefully start producing all year long. I have mobility limitations so being able to get in there and really move around is a MUST but I would also like to have fresh veggies all year long too.

  10. Lucy
    March 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I have never had a vegetable garden but want to start one this year. I live in northern nevada with high winds and lots of wild animals who will eat the crops. I thought about a hoop house and wondered if I can grow in these all summer or if i have to remove the plastic so they get direct sun?

  11. Lucy
    March 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

    What’s the best way to keep rabbits out of the hoop house?

  12. Marisa
    March 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    @ Lucy : If you use the right grade of plastic you should have no problems with getting enough sun the porblem is with humidity build up and mold. Gotta have vent’s or flaps that you can leave open. For your situation i would build the frame of the hoop house then add chicken wire to create a real barrier for the rabbit’s ect. Also supporting the plastic from those high winds (we get a lot of it here on the coast of california as well) then lay a sheet of plastic over that. I used PVC clip’s to attach the plastic. Good Luck

  13. March 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Lucy —

    I don’t know what to tell you about rabbits — Marisa’s suggestion of using chicken wire is probably a good one, though. You might have to experiment a bit to find a way to do it that will still allow you to get in and out of there to weed, harvest, etc. without too much trouble.

    And Marisa’s right about the plastic, too. Your problem will be keeping it cool enough in there! I suspect you will want to take the plastic down once it gets towards summer. Keep an eye on the temperature in there — you can just stick your hand in periodically to see how it feels — and make sure it doesn’t get too hot or humid. When it gets warmer out, you can lift up the sides for the day and then put them back down in late afternoon. Once it gets to July or so, I take it down completely. I’m in a totally different climate from yours, though, so do whatever makes sense based on how the plants are doing!

    There are lots of pest-repellent things, from chemicals or naturally-derived stuff you can put around the garden, to shiny or blinky things designed to keep specific critters out, to just getting a good garden dog! :) Your local garden store will probably have lots of ideas about what critters will give you trouble, and ways to try to keep them out. You can also search for garden blogs in your area to see what they are up to, and how they are resolving the same problems you might face (here’s search results for northern nevada garden blog). And another good resource for info is the county extension: here’s a list of UNR county extension offices.

    Good luck!

  14. March 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Oh, and I also meant to say, ours blow down all the time. This is not usually a huge deal as we aren’t usually below freezing, so when it blows down I just go put it back up. If it meant exposing the plants and soil to lots and lots of snow, though, you’d want to do a lot better job of affixing the plastic than we do. Many folks will bury the edges or weigh them down with rocks, or use garden staples (or all of the above). Make sure to cut the plastic way longer than you think you need, on all sides, so you have lots of extra plastic to weigh down. You might want to search around a bit more to find more permanent ways to secure the plastic.

    You could also see if the orientation of the bed makes a difference — that is, if your wind comes from the South, would a N-S oriented bed (which would get the wind on the short, flat side) work better than an E-W oriented bed (which would take the wind along the long, but rounded edge)? I don’t know the answer! Maybe *you* can write the next blog post once you have figured it out! :)

  15. Marisa
    March 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I made my hoop house as a lid with a crude make shift hinge on one side and a latch on the other. That way the entire hoop house would lift and open and give me full access to the plant’s inside. This I found wasted space on the side where the hoop house would tip (space outside the bed) so I simply made it so that the entire thing would lift up and off. It’s light weight due to the PVC and easy for me to handle alone.

  16. May 9, 2011 at 2:26 am

    I LIVE ON ZONE 4/5 ON A MOUNTAIN TOP WITH LOTS OF WIND AT TIMES. I DISCOVERED YOUR SITE LAST YEAR AND FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS BUT SOMEWHERE I MISSED SOMETHING. USING BOARDS ABOUT 1 1/2 INCHES THICK MY RAISED BEDS ARE KNEE HIGH, 8 FEET LONG AND 4 FEET WIDE AND ARE PERFECT….EXCEPT I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO FIND CLAMPS LARGE ENOUGH TO SECURE THE PLASTIC TO THE EDGE OF THE TOP BOARD. STAKING TO THE GROUND DOESN’T WORK FOR ME BECAUSE MOST OF MY LAND IS ON LEDGE. ANY SUGESTIONS WHERE I COULD PURCHASE CLAMPS THAT ARE EASY ON AND OFF. NANCY

  17. May 9, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Hi Nancy,

    We don’t secure the plastic to the top of the board, actually. But if you are in a high-wind area that might be a good idea for you. Could you stake it to the soil *inside* the bed? You could try using something like this: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-8320-row-cover-hand-peg-pkg-of-25.aspx

    Or maybe you could use heavy-duty staples for part of it, and then something semi-removable for the parts you need to be able to open up? It doesn’t look like there are any of the office-supply-type binder or bulldog clips that would be big enough, but maybe there’s something else …

  18. Pamela
    May 26, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I’m curious to know if Sinfonian’s brother tried the sliced hose as clip idea for securing the plastic to PVC pipe idea. Sounds like a great way to use a retired old hose. I am concerned about using large binder clips to secure the plastic to the PVC as it might tear the plastic if I’m not very careful. I hate to have to order the fancy plastic clips although they do look pretty.
    I’m going to be making some hoop houses for the first time on my raised beds this year because our weather in Washington State has been so cold and wet and things are not growing well. Our season is short enough without weird weather!
    Thank you for the great topic and to everyone who has shared their experience!

  19. Michael
    September 20, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Instead of bracketing the PVC to the outside, I bracketed some 3/4 inch PVC to the inside. This way, I can easily add/remove the hoops as needed.

    You can see and example at http://mdeeter.imgur.com/2011_garden

    This way I can also use those same holders to put vertical tubes in to hold chicken wire (for keeping pests out) or for a trellis system (like you can see in my photos.

    Adding and removing those brackets seem like an awful lot of work.

  20. September 20, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Hi Michael! You are right that it would be super tedious to have to unscrew them all the time whenever we wanted to add or remove the PVC. The brackets are loose enough that we can just slide the PVC out when we want to remove it, though. Getting them back in is just a tiny bit trickier, as you have to get the right angle on it, but it works fine.

    That said, I don’t remove them very often. I just take the plastic off. I will probably be putting up some mesh over them next year like you describe, though I was thinking about just putting it over the existing hoops … guess it depends if I go with bush beans or pole beans!

    Your trellis looks awesome though. I am still trying to find my preferred tomato trellis system. I did the center stem twine thing this year and it worked pretty well, except my horizontal support thingies weren’t strong enough — I used baling twine tied to t-posts. Am concocting something with 4x4s and metal pipe for next year, maybe.

  21. Michael
    September 20, 2011 at 6:50 am

    For my tomato trellis, I used copper wiring for my drops from the PVC. I had about 30 feet of wiring left over from a project. I cut it into 4 pieces (about 7ft long), which gave me 12 strands (once removed from the sheathing). I then twisted hoops every 8 inches or so (you can see them here: http://imgur.com/k7bNb). These hoops gave me something to tie to. Since the cable is copper, it should handle the weather okay and be re-usable for years to come. I was mostly worried that twine might not handle the weather and could break under the weight of the tomatoes.

  22. Leslie
    October 1, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We have been searching for an easy way to have a green house over our newly built planters. We want a winter garden here in San Diego and all of your comments and suggestions have been so helpful! Particularly using the old garden hose for the clips to keep the plastic on the PVC pipes. Thanks again!

  23. Michelle
    December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Hello….. I’ve been looking for a way to build the hoop houses over our raised beds, and this site is perfect! My partner and I are planning on trying to grow a produce garden all year, and this will make it more possible. Of course, living in Central Florida doesn’t hurt either! It’s the beginnning of December and it was 85 degrees today. Gorgeous beyond all doubt. I’ll be checking back periodically and letting y’all know how it’s going.

  24. December 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for commenting! With weather like that, do you even NEED hoop houses? Or maybe that’s abnormal? I know nothing about Florida weather! :)

    It can get too warm and damp (and therefore mildewy etc) inside quickly, if the plastic isn’t opened up on sunny days — even cold sunny days. How cold does it get in winter? One thing you could try is to put some slashes in the plastic on the top of the hoops, so that hot air can escape. Obviously you’d lose some heat on cold days, but it might help with ventilation on the hot days.

    In the spring I’m usually doing a lot of starts of cold-resistant crops (kales and other brassicas, chard, carrots), but I tend to take the plastic down completely once it hits about 65 during the day, no lower than 50 at night. The brassicas can handle much lower temps than 50, of course, but when they are tender seedlings or even direct-seeded seeds, it helps to baby them a little bit.

  25. Leslie
    December 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for the recent comments about mold and fungus in a greenhouse that’s too wet. We have experienced that in our garden here in San Diego. It is warm during the day, but freezing at night (36 degrees when we wake up). The dog’s water bowls are frozen over slightly when we get up. Now we are faced with having to pull out the sickly plants. Does anybody have a suggestion about how to grow winter vegetables successfully? Is it a matter of the temperature not falling below 45 or something?

    We’re discouraged, but learning! Leslie

  26. December 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    What are you growing in those beds? It’s possible that you don’t need to cover them. The brassicas, carrots, parsnips, and several other things can withstand light freezes just fine. (In fact, with brassicas, it can make them sweeter, as the cold converts some starches to sugar, or something.)

    Otherwise, you could just open the beds up during the day, especially if it’s sunny.

    Day length is also an issue for winter growing, at least up here, but you have much longer days than we do. Right now it is only light from like 7:30 to like 4:30. :( In general we assume that stuff is not going to do any growing in the ground during the winter here.

    You could check out the author Eliot Coleman, who has written extensively on growing year-round in Maine. A lot of his stuff will be seriously overkill for you, though. I do think you might not even need to insulate your stuff over the winter.

    PS. I don’t know! I’m just guessing! :) Can you ask around in your area? Garden store? Friends?

  27. Leslie
    December 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Lauren: Thanks for answering! We are growing everything they said we could grow in our zone for winter (like over zealous beginner gardeners): onions, garlic, beans, sweet peas, radishes, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, and squash. Nothing is doing well but the garlic, peas and broccoli. Yes, it is sunny every day with no clouds so it’s freezing at night. We have light from 6am to 5pm.

    We did have the planters open 24 hours a day, but felt that might be the reason nothing was growing in the last month (highs in the days in the 70s and lows at night in the high 30s). (We planted all this late October). So we closed up the plastic so the warmth would stay inside during the nights, but I think it’s getting too hot and steamy during the days.

    I will check with a local gardener…thank you for taking the time to answer me. Leslie

  28. Jack
    March 17, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Just finished building new raised beds. I put 1″ pvc conduit (not water pipe) inside the beds. I’m using 1/2″ pvc conduit for the hoops.

    Like Michelle I’m in Florida but probably further North. She said Central Florida, whereas I’m about 25 miles Northeast of Ocala in the forest.

    My purpose for building is to get a jump on the season – and extend in the fall. we typically see a half dozen or so nights in the mid to high 20′s. Most winter nights are in the 40′s. Should the ends of the tunnel always stay closed?

  29. March 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Hi Jack! Thanks for commenting.

    How muggy are your days? Really, you’ll just want to play it by ear re: opening the ends. Check on it in the AM, maybe take the soil temp, or you could even leave a little thermometer in there and check the temp in the AM and then again midday and then again in the evening, just to get a baseline. But if it is muggy or humid in general, you may want to open it even if it’s cooler, as it can easily become a mold factory in there.

    Not sure if it’s preferable to open the ends, or just pull the sides up and then lower them again … let us know what you learn!

    What’s the goal of putting conduit inside the beds?

  30. Glenn
    March 31, 2012 at 11:25 am

    where do we get the clips?????

  31. April 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Hi Glenn,

    I don’t *think* I’ve ever seen them in person, but the clips can be ordered from lots of places online. The Territorial Seed link in the original blog post still works, but the Peaceful Valley link is dead. They call them rowcover snap clamps, though, and that’s a link to the search results on their site for that phrase. Johnny’s Select Seeds also sells them, and calls them snap clamps.

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