her up: In just a few simple steps and with a few
helpful, or at least willing, friends, your hoophouse will
be complete. (Pictured here: Roll-up sides and baseboards
at the corner of hoophouse.)
In his last installment, Don Devault got the
framework of your new greenhouse up: 21 by 48
feet of steel and glory. Visit
Part 1of the story if you haven't yet.
Want a hoophouser’s bible? Drop a $15 check
in the mail for a copy of Lynn Byczynski’s
brand new Hoophouse Handbook: Growing produce
and flowers in hoophouses and high tunnels.
This 58-page how-to manual is THE BEST how-to
manual on the market. The handbook is available
from Growing for Market at:
Growing For Market
PO Box 3747
Lawrence, KS 66046
When life in the tunnel gets painfully dull,
you’ll have some worthwhile reading material
that will make your farm beginnings a lot more
productive and enjoyable.
Lynn Byczynski has given us permission to reprint
some helpful resources from Hoophouse Handbook:
For more information
This site is the result of a collaboration among
Extension specialists and grower-cooperators in
Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Funded in part
by USDA, the high tunnel project is researching
vegetable and cut flower production in the Midwest.
Penn State's Center for Plasticulture posts results
of high tunnel vegetable research on this site.
John Biernbaum's research on winter vegetable
production will be reported here. (Site currently
The Noble Foundation continues to research hoophouse
production for the South, and posts reports here
Atlas Greenhouse Systems
West Chicago, IL
Conley's Greenhouse Manufacturing & Sales
DeCloet Greenhouse Mfg.
Farm Wholesale Greenhouses
Farm Tek's Growers Supply
Frank Jonkman & Sons Ltd.
G & M Ag Supply
Earth City, MO
Ledgewood Farm Greenhouse
Ludy's Greenhouse Manufacturing
New Madison, OH
St. Charles, IL
Paul Boers Total Growing Systems
Castle Rock, MN
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing
North Kansas City, MO
Red Bank, NJ
APRIL 9 , 2003, Emmaus, PA: There’s
a steel skeleton rising like a science fiction Smithsonian
exhibit in the middle of your field, generating all sorts
of questions and speculation from the neighbors. Even your
dog seems suspicious of the strange addition until he’s
barked it into submission and christened the thing. But you
know what you’re doing. With this framework in place
you’re about a third of the way done with construction
of your first hoophouse, a project you’ll easily see
through to completion over the next two weekends. Of course,
in taking this first step you’re setting yourself up
for a job that will never be done.
But you know what you’re doing. (It’s called
So let’s get on with it.
Your next step is to level
and bolt the baseboards and hipboards in place.
You’ll need your level, your drill and a few new bits,
and nuts, bolts and washers. You’ll also need a couple
of six-inch C-clamps, which you don’t have. So drop
everything, round up the dog, get him in the truck, and waste
an hour of your day getting to the hardware store and back.
bolted to the anchor pipes: Although a
2" x 6" baseboard wouldn't gap at the
bottom, it would cast a monster shadow. Go with
2" x 4"s and raise the southern and northern
beds level with the baseboards.
The baseboards bolt onto the anchor pipes along the outside
lengths of the hoophouse (see photo at right). There are pre-drilled
holes in the anchor pipes, and it looks like your best fit
would be a 2”x6” or larger to avoid a gap under
the bottom edge of the baseboards. But since you know what
you’re doing, you’re going to use 2”x4”s.
This is because the baseboard on the south side will cast
a shadow, especially during the winter months. Even the 2”x4”
you’re going to use will cast a shadow across half your
southern bed in mid-winter.
So, what you’re going to do is frame-in and raise the
whole southern bed to the level of the top of the baseboard.
This will fill in any gaps along the bottom of the baseboards
and eliminate the shadow cast in the winter. And you’ll
do the same along the north side of the house, too, knowing
rain and snow-melt will run off the house, seep in, and saturate
and compact the soil along the lengths. In the winter, especially
on the north side, this saturated soil will freeze solid and
steal away workable space. Framing and raising beds along
the inside of both lengths of the house will solve some problems
for you before you have them.
details : This hipboard, positioned just
below the arch, has an eye bolt and rope to hold
the roll-up sides flush against the bows.
Now, the hipboards.
These are 2”x4”s which will serve as something
like curtain rods for your roll-up sides. They run parallel
to the baseboards in one of three marked (but not pre-drilled)
positions just below where the bows begin to arch inward (see
photo at right).
aches and pains in this joint: When the
joints of the base and hipboards fall between the
bows, they can be secured with pieces of scrap lumber
You want the joints of both the baseboards and hipboards
to fall between the bows so you can secure them with a mending
plate or short section of scrap lumber and a couple bolts
(see photo at right). So, since the bows are spaced four feet
apart, you’ll be using board lengths of 10’, 12’,
12’, 8’, and 6’ to cover the 48’ length
of the house.
Once the baseboards and hipboards are in place, bolt the
strips of channel lock onto the hipboards. It’s important
to bolt on the channel lock because when the sides are rolled
up and the wind gusts to 50 mph, a few screws in pine may
not be able to hold a 1300 sq. ft. kite that wants to fly.
We’ll deal with channel lock, roll-up sides, and the
interesting logistics of managing a huge sheet of plastic
in the wind in detail. But right now why don’t you fire
up that tiller you rented for the weekend and start off with
a slow, fairly light till, slightly overlapping each pass,
working your way progressively deeper over the course of a
few successive runs covering the entire 21’x48’
area inside the framework. You’ll probably have to do
this a few times, and it’s slow going, so be patient.
And don’t run over the dog.
on a good face: When piecing together your
faceboard, eliminate any sharp corners to avoid
ripping the plastic when stretched over the edges.
(Note: the hipboard right below the arch extends
back the length of the house.)
After you’ve got the area roughly tilled once-over,
take a break to let the earth breathe, and begin framing out
your ends. Start with the faceboards, (see photo
at right) piecing together sections of board along the arch
of the end bow. You want to try to cut down any board corners
that project beyond the top of the pipe, or roofline edge
of the end bow, because eventually you’ll be pulling
and attaching plastic over this edge, and any sharp board
corners may stress, stretch or tear holes in the plastic.
This is where your 2”x6”s will really come in
handy, as they offer more space to cut down to shape.
Once you have your faceboards bolted on the end bows, and
your channel lock bolted onto the faceboards, take a minute
while you make another run with the tiller to consider how
you want to frame out the endwalls. Keep in mind your endwall
isn’t load-bearing, so you don’t have to overdo
The best design for framing your endwalls is dependent on
what sort of door (or doors) you want. Since you’re
thinking of expanding next season, though, you really only
need to hang one door at what will be the permanent end of
the house. And since you’re not dealing with monstrous
machinery, and you’ve got roll-up sides, you won’t
need a monstrous barn door for access or better ventilation.
You can reuse an old storm door. Or frame out your own door
and cover it with plastic. As long as it hangs fairly straight
and closes tight, you’re fine.
So, once you’ve found your door, just lay a plate,
or baseboard, along the end width. Measure it out and run
jack studs to a header, set king studs to each side, and hang
your door. On a house with a 21’ width, all you really
need beyond the door frame is another stud to each side. You
can skip the header and jack studs on the other end. (See
photo above for a view of door and studs.)
Take another spin with the tiller and head home to get yourself
and the dog some dinner. The next step’s the last: The
Now, to get your hoophouse
covered without catastrophe and casualties,
you’re going to need a calm day, some rope, a few folding
lawn chairs, a case of beer, two pounds of burger, a pack
of hot dogs, buns, chips, and a grill. What I’m saying
is you’re going to need friends. You’re dog’s
not good enough. You’re going to need HELP.
wire at work : Make sure you pull the plastic
tight before securing it with wiggle wire in the
the channel lock.
Unroll your plastic along the length of the house, and bunch
it up and synch with about a 50 ft. length of rope at each
corner and in the middle of the sheet. Tie the other end of
each rope to about a foot-long piece of scrap lumber and toss
it over the framework to the other side. Have your friends
haul the plastic slowly and carefully over the skeletal structure
of the house while you supervise. Square the sheet with a
couple extra feet on all sides, pull it tight, and start securing
it along the hipboards and faceboards with wiggle wire in
the channel lock (see photo above).
Cut two sheets of plastic from what you have leftover from your
96’ roll to cover the endwalls, and attach them with staples
through irrigation tape or batten tape (see photo at right).
the endwalls : You can prevent ripping
and tearing when covering the endwalls by stapling
through a layer of irrigation tape.
Having already fit the pipes together for your roll-up sides
and secured them with self-driving screws, place them at the
end of the plastic overhanging the baseboards along the lengths
of the house and roll them up into the plastic until they
hang just off the ground against the baseboards. To keep them
from riding-up when the wind blows, set eye-screws opposite
each other in the baseboards and hipboards and tie a length
of rope taught between them.
Right now, why don’t you fire up that grill and crack
a beer with your friends. Maybe even pour some out for the
dog. Wax philosophical. Enjoy your accomplishment. While it
may seem a relatively small step for mankind, you just took
a giant flying leap into a dream.