Building Hoop Houses for Raised Garden Beds
As colder weather approaches, I’m experimenting with growing a few vegetables in my beds over winter. My original plan was to just use comfrey as a cover crop, but I’ve decided I’d rather try and collect some data on the full growing season in this area, given that I think our climate patterns have adjusted slightly in recent years to more traditional wisdom about what and when to grow.
Depending on where you live, hooped greenhouses like these may either extend your growing season through part of the winter, or even allow you to grow year-round. I’m not sure yet what results mine will produce, but I’ll be sure to post updates about it later.
I know that many of my permaculture mentors aren’t nuts about raised beds for mostly aesthetic reasons. However, for me, they help make this space more accessible for comrades with back and balance needs. In addition to the gravel stones that help drain water from the area, prevent mud, and provide a color tone contrast to the stepping stones, the frame of the beds provides a clearly defined garden space that helps visitors know where it’s best to step and where to be more cautious.
For beds like these, you can use practically anything. However, for the hoop house component, it will be necessary to construct at least a wooden frame large enough to secure the PVC pipe to. I would recommend using two brackets per pipe, so a frame as small as 2”x4” may work. If you don’t need or want the hoop house component, using cinder blocks or any stones can work instead of the wooden frame.
You may also understandably be cautious about what type of lumber to use. Some wood is pressure treated with fungicides and pesticides. These processes are included on the labels of each piece, and you can research whether you believe they are appropriate to use in your garden or not. In my own research, I have found that the general consensus in the industry is that today’s pressure treated wood is safe for gardening, however, the same has been said for previous treatments no longer in use because they were later determined to be toxic. Today’s science suggests that contemporary pressure-treated wood will not leech undesired chemicals into your vegetables.
Read more here: Should Pressure-Treated Lumber Be Used in a Vegetable Garden?
To assemble beds like I’ve done here, you will probably need at least one helper for holding the walls of the bed frame even while they are screwed together. With one other person, I was able to assemble the beds in about 15 minutes.
Adding the Hoop House
For this project, the hoop house was the most difficult component. It was necessary to mark where each pipe would go on both sides of each bed before starting. You will again need at least one helper to steady these pipes while you screw in the brackets. Note: by using screws, this project will also be easy enough to undo during warmer weather. Owing to the precise nature of this work, this part of the project took almost an hour to complete.
Preparing the plastic sheeting was easier. I used 3mil grade sheeting from the hardware store, which came in a 25 foot long roll. This roll covered both hoop houses and provided material for the detachable entryways. I used staples to attach the cover to the bed, and duct tape for the door, but other examples I have seen simply cut the sheet to be longer and use heavy stones or bricks to weight it down on the sides.
All in all, this project cost under $130. Your price may vary based on availability of material and the size of the beds you’re designing. You may find that some hardware stores offer discounts for larger quantities of material—so like, we got a 50% discount on the PVC pipe because we bought ten of them together (even though we only needed nine for this project). Also, if you do not have a drill or other tools that may be handy for this project, check with your local hardware store. Some offer lending programs where you can rent out these tools to use.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org