Detailed Hoops Experiment with Twisted Ending..

I have been trying to organize my thoughts the past few days, and trying to learn WordPress well enough to get my pictures in an individualized order to coincide with telling the story. I, however, have figured “screw it” I don’t operate that way. I am no professional writer, and never intend to become one. Even when I used to to a little public speaking, I mostly flew by the seat of my pants. To me, preparation helps, but can hinder. Sometimes it’s just best to jump in with both feet.

The hoops are holding great!! They give me a consistent 5-8 degrees over the outside air temps. That gets me down to 25 degrees at night before I really need to worry about my tender plants freezing to death. As long as I get ample sun during the day, my milk jugs heat up enough to retain heat at night. Here is how I’ve come to this conclusion/knowledge/experience this season….

First, build your hoop house. There are many ways to do this. Google them and do what you feel most comfortable with. Your main goal is to have a decent looking cover for your plants that will effectively keep the frosts off. However, it’s natural to see if you can’t push that envelope a little bit to see if you can’t get your plants in a little earlier in the spring than Mother Nature typically allows. And, to see if you can’t extend your fall season as long as possible beyond that first frost/freeze. Here is a shot of mine…

Katelyn taking an interest in gardening...shown here outside the hoophouse.

To extend your season, you will need to add a few things to help you retain the heat inside your hoops overnight. First night experience immediately taught me that a single layer of plastic does nothing once the sun goes down. Placing a little thermometer inside the hoops allowed me to monitor things and learn about the new climate I had created. The hoops heat up quickly with some sunshine, and can quickly get up to 50F degrees over the outside air temps. However, once the sun loses a little intensity in the evening, the air temps and hoop temps quickly match up again. That plastic does nothing. So, you need a little help. I added a couple of things after doing a lot of reading on the net.

1) Milk jugs filled with water.

Water is an amazing insulator over a shorter time period. It heats up slower than air, but cools off slower, too. This can be harnessed to your advantage. I use about 20 single gallon milk jugs. I filled them with water and placed them around the edges of my garden UNDER the hoophouse. However, this wasn’t enough to handle temps much below freezing. In fact, I noticed no temperature help. My conclusion was because the volume of air inside the hoops was still too big for only 20 gallons of water to affect.

2) Paint the jugs black.

This was my second step. I read that painting them black would absorb more sunshine and heat them up faster and hotter than leaving them clear or white. Well, that made a lot of common sense to me, so I didn’t question it….I just did it. However, that still wasn’t enough to overcome the volume of air inside the hoops.

3) Add another layer of plastic.

For me, I read a couple of things. First, the layers can’t touch because they will just act as a single layer and provide no help over what the first layer does alone. Second, create a little space between the layers. I thought of bubble wrap, but heard that was a disaster to maintain….and didn’t do too much. I thought of installing another “level” inside the hoops, but thought that would just be a pain to put up and take down. Then, I read…again…about floating row covers. These are simply tarps, or cloth, draped loosely over the plants. I figured I had the milk jugs inside that could sort of act as a frame to keep the second layer of plastic about 12 inches off the ground. That should trap that heat from the jugs closer to the ground and make any warmth work harder to get out of the house entirely. After one night of doing that, it clearly helped. I stayed 8 degrees over the air temps! Quite the victory. Here is my current setup inside the hoops…

If you look deeper into the house, you will see the plastic bottles underneath the “floating row.” The black milk jugs are farther back into the plastic and you don’t see those. But, you get the point of how this works. I have since maintained a consistent 6-8F degrees over the nighttime low temps every time I’ve used the second row.

So, I figured I was covered down to 25F at night. Now, my frost date for planting had changed quite a bit. I move from April 15th back to March 30th. A lot of cooler season veggies can withstand some frost and be put in the garden up to 4-5 weeks before the last frost date in your area. I ran out and planted some peas, carrots, and spinach in a couple of squares just to see how long they would take to germinate. (Plants germinate faster at 60F than 40F.) I figured I had a few weeks before I would see anything, but wanted to try. I also have seeds started indoors that are ready to go outside now. So, I started “hardening off” the seedlings by placing them under the plastic during the day and bringing them back in at night.

HH

You can see the squares I planted, my thermometer, and the seedlings being hardened off. But, if you look closely, you can see I left the hoops open on the ends. Normally, that isn’t a problem. You don’t want things getting too hot in the HH when you have plants inside….they could cook. So, when daytime temps get up into the 40’s, you start opening your hoops a little to allow some heat out. That was the plan. But, I didn’t prepare for….

devastation

Yes, I forgot about critters. Man, are they quick, too! I assume this was the work of a squirrel since I have never seen a rabbit in my yard since moving here in September. But, I also have a dog that loves to investigate things, and she was outside quite a bit that day, too. Either way, I didn’t prepare for critters. Not only did the animal turn over my seedlings, it also dug up some of my seeds in the squares. So, my little seed starting experiment is on hold until I can restart it.

But, as I’ve said throughout this blog…..learn from my experiences. I will make every mistake possible…I promise. You just have to take notes, and hopefully, a little humor from some of the things I mess up. As of right now, I only open the tops of the ends of my hoops. I have two spring clips on each end where I fold over the flaps and clip them closed. I, now, open the top clip. When both ends are open, I get pretty good ventilation, and the temps normalize inside the HH. Best yet, the critters don’t try to get inside because the ends are closed still at the bottom.

And, you know the motto when something sets you back…….Keep Chuggin’!

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2 Responses to Detailed Hoops Experiment with Twisted Ending..

  1. Larry Clipperton says:

    Thanks for all the good info. I have been thinking about using a solar pop can type heater in mine. look on youtube.com there are lots of ideas there some are simpler to make.

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