Cold day atop Mont Merde: the greenhouse is MUCH taller than it appears in this picture
Many have asked, so here it goes:
Coldframe, high tunnel, hoop house, polytunnel: we just call it The Greenhouse. Folks: It will add a zone and a half to your growing season. My 6B garden? An 8A, people…Panhandle Florida!
I got the greenhouse kit from an outfit in Tennessee called Grower’s Solution. The guy on the phone was both supremely friendly and extremely kind, answering my myriad questions as well as easily and quickly supplying a hardware shortage (one measly part!). I had hoped to use a local manufacturer for my greenhouse, but my request was a small one, and the local outfit doesn’t deal with little orders like mine. Sigh.
The goods: It’s 16′ wide, 20′ long, about 9′ high in the center, and is composed of six bows (arches) that are set in ground stakes 4′ apart. For ease of shipping, the bows are in three pieces: you screw them together to create one bow. It has one central purlin (center pole) that ties the bows together. If it were self-standing and 4′ longer, it would require more bracing; as it is, it relies on a building for its one end and it is free-standing at its door end. For ventilation, I purchased one hand-rolled side (it rolls the plastic up about 4′ off the ground on one long side) and created one large gable vent above the door.
You are supposed to supply the ground boards and the end framing for the end wall (in wood); they supply the plastic to cover the whole thing, and the channels and wiggle wire to hold the plastic to the bows.
We (i.e., nonmotivated husband and myself) hammered in the ground stakes, screwed together and erected the bows, and attached the purlin in under two hours. It was Instant Gratification, I do not lie. But then it was my work from then on: I excavated the ground on 3 sides to both bury hardware cloth and the 2×8 wood ground anchor and then erect the 2×4 notched studs for the end wall/door framing. This actually took me two whole days to do…separated by a week, of course, because, really, who has two full days to work on anything?
Putting the plastic on was another battle with the husband (that is, getting his free time). He committed finally on a day that was windy: I advise you not to put plastic on a greenhouse in the wind. Ever. But that was our fate. We anchored the plastic to the endmost bow (against the building) and then went from bow to bow until we reached the door end, kind of like pulling pantyhose over a reluctant leg. That wiggle wire is quite amazing stuff. It really is great at holding down the plastic film. The film is graded to last of 6 years without significant UV decomposition: I have heard neighbors say they’ve gotten 8 years of use, which rather helps me, as plastic is not exactly the most eco-friendly of things. We held the plastic down to the last bow with some pre-soaked 1×2 furring strips.
I say this all with a rather blase’ attitude. I here admit that I am a builder of many things: neither construction nor power tools intimidate me (hahahaHA), but, well, if you have never held a hammer nor worn a toolbelt, then putting up your own greenhouse could be a challenge. (Compared to building our coop? This was a walk in the park.) But I will say that Tom’s purchase of a hammer drill greatly eased our pain: it helped put the bows together and helped put the channel atop the bows in, like, no time at all. I had gone along just fine with my 14 amp cordless drill for two houses’ worth of renovations; Tom has helped me see the light with his 18a Drill of Pain. I admit, I was impressed. (I still like mine better.)
Am I saying you all need to go out and erect a hoop house in your backyards? Well, absolutely! (I’m getting salads and veggies out of my garden in late December, are you?) Just read this guy’s books, read his wife’s gardening columns and book, and yes, you too shall Sip The Kool-Aid.
Hey, we’ve got the same drill. I like you couldn’t understand why we needed it. Until we used it to put up the shed roof for the wood pile. Then I got it.
Nice tunnel – can’t wait until we have enough room for one of those. Then we’ll be right there with you in the Florida zone…
Someday El I hope to have my very own tunnel too. I have to admit–like you—the plastic is the only “downer” for me. As you said though at least it lasts a long time. Until then–a couple of cold frames will work for me because after all it is warmer here than were you are 😀
I grew up a country girl and living on my 1/12th of an acre in Livonia is getting old and yes I want a greenhouse and chickens in my back yard.
Laura: My only problem with the drill (other than it is bigger than a cat) is I can’t stand it up on end, so I am always setting it down into something messy. Like chicken poop. Then my husband picks it up and is not pleased. Good luck with your house search: make sure it has a spot of flat land for a tunnel!
Monica! Hi! I agree, the whole plastic thing was hard to wrap my head around. But then I think about how much I can pull out of my garden versus getting shipped to us from California and it is a no-brainer: I will take my plastic, and my salad. And yeah, if you got a tunnel, yowza, you’d be in the Florida Keys.
Shayne, how funny; my husband’s from Westland, so I know what you mean. Maybe one day you will move back!
I love your hoophouse. I want one!! I live in the Thumb where it can be very windy. How has it held up in the wind for you?
My hoophouse is stuck against the side of a building, so I don’t have to worry too much about wind. Snow drifting off the building, though, is a bigger worry, so I have to go out there and slide the drifts off of the greenhouse. This one’s only 20′ long, too: if it were larger, it would have come with bracing. It’s only 16′ wide, too: if it were wider, it would have two extra purlins (like the center pole).
Our new one will not be so sheltered. Wind bracing (which are tubes placed at an angle to the end uprights in all four corners) is standard in larger hoophouses than ours. You can avoid worry by ordering an extra hoop or two, thus changing the spacing between the bows. The new one will probably still be 16′ wide, but I might make it longer, like 28′ or so, so it will need wind bracing. We’ll see!