Hoop House Up and Running..

My time has been spent, lately, building my square foot garden. I put a deadline to myself of having things ready and waiting for transplants by February 25th, and I got it done early…thanks to some warm weather. Daytime temps have been running in the 50s and 60s the past week or so, and that melted off our snow and ice from New Years. Yes, we’ve had snow cover since New Year’s Day-ish. That’s a crazy long time for the St. Louis area.

I have a meat thermometer in the hoop house as we speak. I am going to monitor the temperature in there for a day or so to see how the temps behave with the plastic cover over the soil. I am hoping to get some nice temperatures inside there to both warm the soil and give me confidence that the garden can handle some subfreezing night temps based on ambient air temps inside.

I have about 12 lettuce plants going inside, one cauliflower, two broccoli, and a celery plant growing. I need to learn more about starting seeds inside because mine are very “leggy” and seem fragile. However, there is time for that. I purchased a seed warming mat to keep the temps up above 70F. My basement runs 59-61F and that won’t sprout tomatoes and peppers….which get started soon.

Right now, it’s 63F outside my house. However, when I check inside the hoop house, it’s … 82F!! And, I’ve only had the plastic on for about a half hour or so. I will check again around 1pm and update the bottom of the blog.

The hoop house “should” get me a few weeks either side of our frost date in STL. As of now, our last average frost is around Tax Day…April 15th. And, our first frost of the fall is around October 20th. Our growing season is typically 188 days relatively frost free. I, however, am trying to push for earlier in the spring and later in the fall. I would like to still be harvesting lettuce, spinach, and some other salad greens past Thanksgiving. So, I need an artificial environment changer. We’ll see how the hoops work out.

I had read that covers can give you a full zone to a zone and a half’s worth of season extension. I live in 6a. A cover would get me to 7a or 7b. By my estimations, my frost dates would move back to March 25th and November 5th, respectively. With cooler season vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli, I can likely hit my goals consistently because these veggies can withstand some frosting.

I will keep you updated as the garden grows. But, for now…..we’re ready for that first planting.

I just ran back outside to check the temp in side the hoops. I noticed some fluctuation earlier directly proportional to the intensity of the sunshine. Granted, it’s 69F today….but the hoop house was 97F! I was shocked to see such a difference, but if you are like me, you look for other things to confirm. I saw ants inside the house zipping this way and that. The ones on the outside I saw earlier were moving rather slow. That’s confirmation for me.

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4 Responses to Hoop House Up and Running..

  1. JerzyJen says:

    I will definately be watching this post. I’m about to do hoop houses for the first time in hopes that I will be able to get my tomato seedlings in the ground a few weeks early (and in turn, get to harvest a few weeks early). I can’t believe it heated up that quick.

    • It really shocked me, too. But, I guess a more experienced scientist or gardner would have expected as much. I am beginning to think I will get that climate extended nicely.

      I may post HOW to build it, but it really was easy. Hoops bought in 10′ lengths, bent from one side to the other and bracketed down with normal conduit brackets and a couple screws. Hoops spaced every 2 feet. Then, a length of PVC to run as a ridge support. The plastic was bought at least 10′ wide to get over the entire width of the structure. Then, clipped on the ends and nailed to a couple of 1×3’s on each side to help me roll up the plastic. Any excess is pulled taught and pinned to the sides with rocks/bricks. The only thing that will hurt me is wind.

  2. Hey there, another aspiring WordPress person I see!

    I am enjoying reading thru your blog! I found you on the Square Foot Garden forum. Your hoop house thing is just too cool, and I’ll be following your progress. I’m slowly working on getting some of my garden photos & stuff up on my blog too.

    Thanks for the info!

    • Not a problem. Glad you are getting something out of it. Hoops are easy to do, but I am a little surprised by how little protection they provide without a little additional help. Water jugs are a necessity I am becoming convinced. The single layer of plastic only will really only keep the frost off. However, these things heat up so fast with a little sun. Gotta watch the tender veggies so they don’t cook before you even get to pick them…lol.

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