Hoop houses are budget-friendly and versatile structures that can be extremely useful on the homestead. Whether you are wanting to provide protection for your plants to extend your growing season, build a temporary animal shelter, or keep your hay or firewood dry, these affordable shelters could be just what you’re looking for.
What is a Hoop House?
A hoop house can be as simple, or as fancy, as you choose to make it. Basically, a hoop house consists of a series of large hoops made from plastic or metal and then covered with a tarp or greenhouse plastic, depending on the purpose of the hoop house. They can be placed over your raised garden beds, or you can build a wooden frame to attach your hoops too. They can be built very cheaply, for as little as a couple hundred dollars, or you can build a large hoop house (or high tunnel) for a few thousand. Keep in mind that the plastic components of a hoop house will most likely get brittle and need to be replaced periodically, depending on your climate, so some maintenance will be required if you want to use the structure long term.
Uses for a Hoop House
A hoop house makes a great season extender in the garden. Not only will it protect your plants from early or late frosts, but it will also help the soil to warm faster in the spring, so you can start planting earlier. If you build a hoop house greenhouse, you can grow vegetable and herbs for your family all year long. You will probably have to stick to cold hardy varieties if you live in a colder climate, though.
I’ve used hoop houses as animal shelters for pigs, chickens, and goats over the years, but they would work for other animals, too. They make a great temporary shelter and can even be a year-round shelter in warmer climates. They can also be put out in the pasture to give your animals a place to get out of the wind and rain. They’re also great as a portable shelter that can be moved around your property. I love to use them in conjunction with portable electric net fencing to rotate grazing areas.
Hoop houses are great for storing things like hay and firewood that needs to be kept dry. We even kept our riding lawnmower in one for a couple of years. Just remember that, while things will stay dry in a hoop, they are not rodent proof. If you want to keep rodents out of your stored items, additional protection will be required. For example, if you want to store grain in the hoop house, put it inside a metal trash can with a lid.
How to Construct a Hoop House
When constructing your hoop house, be sure to keep the corners square and cover the hoops with plastic on a day that’s not windy. There are a few ways to construct a hoop house, so choose the method that best suits your needs. The sizes listed below can all be adjusted to suit the size of your project, but the basic technique will remain the same.
- Probably the easiest way to construct a hoop house over a garden bed is to drive metal stakes (rebar) into the ground at equal intervals along both sides of your garden bed. Remember to keep everything square and even, to make the next step easier. Next, you’re going to take 6-foot lengths of PVC pipe and bend them across the bed, sticking the ends over your metal stakes to form the hoops. Stretch plastic over the hoops and use bricks, rocks, or dirt to hold the sides down.
- To build a small hoop house that can be moved around your property, construct a 4-foot by 6-foot rectangle with two by fours. Decide how tall you want your structure to be and cut your PVC accordingly. Bend your PVC over the frame and attach it with PVC clamps right to your wooden frame to form the hoops. Cover your hoops with plastic or a tarp and attach it securely to the wood with staples. If you want to be able to ventilate the hoop house on hot days, you can use clamps to hold the plastic so that it can be rolled up to allow air to flow through.
- If you want a taller hoop house that’s sturdier for housing animals or keeping hay and firewood dry, follow the same general technique as above, but use a cattle panel to form the hoops. Bend your cattle panel over the wooden frame, attach it securely with staples and then cover it with plastic. You can adjust the length of the frame and the number of cattle panels you use to suit the needs for your project.
- This same general technique can be used to build a 7 and a half foot tall, 165 square foot hoop house greenhouse to grow food for your family year-round. You will need to build a frame that’s 11 feet wide and 15 feet long. If you prefer, you can use metal stakes to hold your hoops in place, just like in the first example. You will need six PVC pipes that are 20 feet long to construct your hoops. Strips of wood will need to be attached every few feet on the inside of your hoop house arches to add strength and wind resistance. The braces can be screwed into place or attached with zip ties. If you’re handy, you can even build a frame on the end to hold a door. You may want to add a couple of 2 x 4 props on the inside if you get a lot of heavy snow where you live.
I’m sure this article has given you lots of ideas for how a hoop house could be useful on your homestead. Do a quick search online, and you’ll find lots more ideas and detailed building instructions to go along with them. There’s really no limit to the possibilities!