Building a Hoophouse on a Budget

Hi Lovelies,

This is the 12’x10′ hoophouse filled with ranunculus and anemones. As long as I was willing to go out and knock the snow off every couple hours, it handled about 3ft. pretty well.

Now that all of the zinnia beds are gross, and dahlias are in danger of being wiped out by frost at anytime, I’ve finally gotten around to starting to think about fixing up my sweet little hoophouse. Since I’m currently a city-dweller, there’s absolutely no possible way that I’d have room for a legitimate unheated house that you’d find on a real farm. Not to mention – the money. As someone who sold the vast majority of their belongings on eBay last year to even make starting this dream remotely possible, getting a real hoophouse will just have to stay on my wishlist for awhile.

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This was the only issue I had last year in the large house. When I glued each of the 10′ pipes together with a fitting, this one didn’t completely secure. I noticed at the time, but didn’t think it would matter – it did! Luckily, I was able to fix it with my trusty duct tape! This happened during a spring thunderstorm with about 60mph winds.

I’ve seen quite a few variations out there, to say the least. I think most people have seen low tunnels made from conduit. While this is a nice, strong material – I’d also need a conduit bender which will run about $40. There are also some very nice low tunnels made by anchoring PVC into rebar driven into the ground. I think this is totally something I’ll tackle in the future when I have the real space to justify multiple rows of crops that need cover. But, since my hoophouse would only be temporary, I wasn’t too sure that those would be my best option.

This smaller house (6′ x 12′) fit perfectly on my raised bed. You can see the lumber frame, with conduit straps attached along the inside. Pipes slide into the straps and are secure across. Poly plastic is secured down the side using a staple gun. This held the plastic secured all winter long without tearing. When deciding the width and bending the PVC, I made sure that the arch was not too extreme, I think that would have put a lot of stress on the pipe.

1007151135cIf there’s a will – there’s a way. I took to the internet in search of the simplest solution that I could find, and managed to tweak one idea quite a bit in order to best suit my needs. My first hoopho1007151135use was designed to be placed over the top of, and secured to, a small raised bed – back in my veggie lovin’ days. Most recently, I’ve expanded the same general plan to create a larger house in which I’m able to walk in and enjoy – unlike low tunnels you might see.

Having seen one of the worst winters I can remember last year, in terms of cold, snow and some wind – I think the design I settled on is fairly reliable. In fact, it wasn’t until mid September that things (mainly the poly, which is pretty cheap at the home improvement store) needed to be replaced. Though, having said that, I realize that everyone’s yard is different than my own.

The first year, I secured the skeleton with duct tape (I’m cheap, I can’t help it), but zip ties seemed to work much better. After building, I realized that I definitely needed to stake the entire structure down, just in case of wind or anything else that may have caused to shift. A few horizontal PVC pipes gave the skeleton a little extra structure that it needed. Two 10′ PVC were connected in the middle and then arched across to create about a 7′ height.

The materials I used are as follows: PVC pipe, PVC glue, boards, conduit straps, zip ties, a staple gun, and 6 mil poly plastic. In order to secure the end pieces of plastic on the large hoophouse, I ordered several row cover snap clips – which did the job perfectly.

In the end, I was able to build a 12’x10′ hoophouse for around $40. I did have some of the supplies on hand already, but all things considered – this was still a pretty cheap alternative when it comes to a real structure that I was able to walk into, pull weeds in, and enjoy. Last year, it was successfully home to around 500 ranunculus, 500 anemones, and one row of tulips. I’m so eager to fill it with spring beauty again this year!

Have you ever built a hoophouse? How did you do it? I’d love to know! Hope you’re having a great day, much love!



18 thoughts on “Building a Hoophouse on a Budget

  1. Very nice! A hint from someone that has done it – 1) The zip ties are easier than the duct tape but neither lasted in our heat or cold here in Colorado. The PVC is perfect – get some pvc glue and “T” or cross connectors to put your pipes together. We still use PVC in our greenhouse (see my older posts from 2011-construction of our greenhouse-we created it with in-ground plots – still growing (ha ha) strong!) for an added layer of protection on our hot weather crops in the winter. Since we grow year around, the extra pvc makes it easy to section off part of our plots for more heat, or helps to hold shade covers on top to protect the cooler weather crops in the summer. You might also want to invest in a small space heater (if it works for you). We have some in special plots during our worst/coldest parts of winter and during out early seed start periods to keep it a set temp in the hoops. We have great little ones we got from Home Depot which stop at a set temp, and if they should fall over they turn off automatically! Keep up the great growing! Love to hear stories of the city dwellers with the farmer heart!!

    1. Yes! This is fantastic advice! I imagine that in Colorado you may get much more cold than I do here. It’s so awesome to hear what works and what doesn’t from everyone! I’m definitely going to use the cross connectors next time around! (and hope that I’m smart enough to measure things correctly! LOL). I looked into thermostat heaters last year, but I’ll admit, I may have gotten scared away by some of the views that I’d read online.

  2. This post came at the perfect time! I am getting ready to build a low tunnel on a budget! Thanks for that. I have a question, I am in Zone 8, and was wondering if you had a tip on what soil I should use for my low tunnels. I had success with varieties of zinnias and sunflowers over the summer, but as I get ready to plant Fall bulbs such as ranunculus and peony, I am afraid my soil may not be rich enough. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. So glad! Are you planting ranunculus in low tunnels? I wonder if they would even be okay without a tunnel in zone 8? Either way, I’m totally jealous of your warmer zone! Haha! As for soil, that’s one area that I wish I knew more about. Before planting I just make sure that there’s lost of compost mixed in. I usually do biweekly foliar feeds with kelp until freezing starts. Once winter hits, it’s very rare that I water or feed anything until spring comes. Hope I could help!

  3. Good work! I have used the kind similar to your low tunnel picture (pvc & wood frame) with my raised beds. I just built a couple of pvc/rebar low tunnels last week, actually. It worked fairly simply. There is some initial investment, though. I like your staples on the pvc, and that it lasted! I have used plastic and debated about plastic vs agribon and decided on agribon because I want to try it as an insect barrier next year. But, it is about budget too. I love your big hoophouse!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I think rebar will be a good option in the future. I probably could have even used rebar for the larger house, but I already had most of the materials I used laying around. I was so worried that the poly that I bought from the hardware store wouldn’t work since it was technically not for greenhouses – but I was very pleasantly surprised to it last so long and get my money’s worth 🙂

  4. Mr. Fairweather built a small polytunnel for my dad and uncle. He drove steel rids down into the ground and then took lengths of water pipe and slotted them over steel and bent them into an arc until they reached their steel counterpart on the other side. If that makes sense?

  5. Wish I could use PVC pipes like you do for your low tunnel. I did try once. Here in zone 4 Wisconsin a few inches of wet snow collapsed my trial. Now I use EMT conduits to make low tunnel hoops which is stronger than PVC pipes. Still I need to add fence wire under the greenhouse film to keep the film from sagging under snow, and need to sweep snow off the film during heavy snow storm. Sometimes I need to sweep snow 3,4 times a day. Envy!

  6. Envy! I tried PVC pipes to build tunnel once. It collapsed under wet snow in my zone 4 Wisconsin. Now I use EMT conduit plus wire fence to keep film from sagging under snow. I need to sweep snow from time to time to save the tunnel.Sometimes I need to get up at night to sweep snow. The most troublesome is the snow sleet combination,which is difficult to sweep off , and I must waddle like a duck in the tunnel and pat upwards to knock off the caking ice.

    1. I imagine you do get much more snow than us! We got three feet last year, and at one point I was religiously sweeping snow off the hoophouse! Now that I think about those terrible ice storms, I start wondering how well I could make things hold up! My fingers are cross that this warmer weather will hang around and I won’t have to worry about snow this year! 🙂

  7. Thank you for such clear and concise instructions. This is something I hope to build for next winter. My dream is to turn my yard into an edible landscape. It’s a leap of faith. I have the desire but very little real experience to draw from. I’ve just begun a master gardener class to help keep me inspired and motivated.

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