22 Feb What are some resources for designing hoop houses?
G.F.WisconsinAnswer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. I am pleased to provide you with information on design plans for hoop houses. Below is a brief introduction to hoop houses along with an extensive list of resources and design plans. Hoop houses are simple unheated “greenhouse-like” structures that provide less control of environmental conditions than full greenhouses at substantially less cost. They are usually covered with a single or double layer of agricultural plastic and can be built in many different lengths and widths. Extending the season can be achieved with low tunnels that cover planting beds or high tunnels that can be stood in or driven through, or a combination of both. The key to any hoop house design is ventilation which should be addressed in the design phase. If wind is common in your area, you will need to consider placement for your greenhouse and materials used. Unless you plan to remove plastic for the winter, gothic types are better able to withstand snow loads and wind, compared to multi- bay types. A more sturdy material for greenhouses that have more extreme weather pressure is a rigid polycarbonate material. This material is more expensive, but it will typically weather hail and wind storms and has a 15 year life span. If you already have a structure in place for a plastic film, then it may be easier just to buy another set of film and use extra precautions to insure that it remains intact during a wind storm. Hoop House Design ResourcesThe ATTRA web site contains several resources related to hoop houses. One such resource is a webinar that ATTRA Horticulture Specialist, Tammy Hinman, and I presented in 2009. Topics include the uses and benefits of hoop houses, including increases in crop quality and yields; different types of hoop houses; construction, materials and cost estimates; management of crops, soil fertility, pests and weeds; and the economics and marketing of crops. It is available at: http://www.attra.org/video/. An ATTRA publication that has general information on how to extend the season also includes information on low and high tunnels is Season Extension Techniques for Market Gardeners. This can be accessed online at the following link: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/seasonext.html. The topic of the April/May 2009 ATTRAnews featured season extension. The newsletter contains a section on design and construction along with an extensive resource section.: http://www.attra.org/newsletter/attranews_0509.html. Here is a list of non-ATTRA related resources:HighTunnels.orghttp://www.hightunnels.org-great on-line resource for constructing and utilizing high-tunnels. Site contains several different design plans on how to build simple hoop houses as well as cultural information on growing certain vegetables and fruits in them. It seems to be the best, comprehensive, and farmer-friendly resource about high tunnels on the internet. Cornell University High Tunnel http://www.hort.cornell.edu/hightunnel/structures/index.htm#choose -web site provides great information on how to select a site and the correct materials given your climate and property. University of Vermont High Tunnelshttp://www.uvm.edu/sustainableagriculture/hightunnels.html -the following is a link to a great manual on how to properly install a hoop house. University of Minnesota High Tunnel Productionhttp://hightunnels.cfans.umn.edu/-site contains information on high tunnel research and link to the newest edition of their high tunnel manual for commercial production. eXtension ? Season Extension for Organic Vegetable Productionhttp://www.extension.org/article/18622- eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the smartest land-grant university minds across America. This section contains information on hoop houses. Growing Powerwww.growingpower.org-Milwaukee-based urban farm organization that incorporates aquaponic systems ina high tunnel. Site contains design plans and construction tips for building high tunnels.Books on High Tunnel Construction:High Tunnels. Using Low-Cost Technology to Increase Yields, ? Improve Quality and Extend the Season. Ted Blomgren and Tracy Frisch. Download at: http://www.uvm.edu/sustainableagriculture/hightunnels.html? Four-Season Harvest. Eliot Coleman. Information at http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html#harvest ? Winter Harvest Manual. Eliot Coleman. Information at http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html#handbook ? The New Organic Grower. Eliot Coleman. Information at http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html#grower The Polytunnel Handbook. Andy McKee & Mark Gatter. Information available at http://nofavt.org/books-merchandise.