Hoop Houses – Evening the odds for Nevada Gardeners

If you have gardened in northern Nevada for any length of time, you know our challenges are many: wind, short seasons, low humidity, drought, poor soils, weeds and critters. Sometimes I wonder why we bother, until I taste that homegrown tomato. There is a way to even the odds in the gardeners favor. Build a hoop house.

What is a hoop house? A hoop house, or high tunnel, is a way of extending the growing season. Inside a hoop house, you can plant earlier and harvest later in the year. It gets its name because it is made of hoops covered in plastic. The sides may roll up for air circulation or go down to keep crops warm. A hoop house is less expensive, easier to build than a greenhouse and is low maintenance. Having a rounded structure helps it shed snow and water. A more controlled environment helps improve a crop’s quality.

Before you build a hoop house, consider the site. It should be moderately level with good drainage and good soil for planting, unless you are using raised beds or containers inside. Around here, you have to construct it to withstand the regular gale-force winds. You will want a water source nearby and possibly an electricity source. Ideally; the house should be positioned in a north – south direction to better ventilate and keep hot air from building up inside. This orientation also is best for sun penetration to the plants.

Actually building a house requires selecting the size, squaring the corners, laying out the outline and then driving in 24 inch rebar stakes every four feet to a depth of 12 inches. These stakes should be at a 30-degree angle. Then you use PVC pipe to make the hoops. You lay wood baseboards. Finally you cover it all with polyethylene plastic covering.

If you are interested in building a hoop house, join me for a hoop house-building workshop on Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will have a how–to workshop in the morning. In the afternoon, with the help of an expert hoop house building team and the students in the morning workshop, we will build a house 14 feet wide by 33 feet in length. The cost of the materials for the house is around $700. The workshop is free, but you must register in advance. Call me at 887-2252 or email skellyj@unce.unr.edu.