Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Our Hoophouse Adventure!

We decided that one of the first big steps we would need to make in order to grow our vegetable operation was to obtain a hoophouse.  A hoophouse will allow us to start and grow veggies earlier in the spring and later in the fall as well as maintain a warmer, longer growing season for crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil and many other crops that enjoy warmer nights than what normally occur on the Palouse.

We decided the best method for us was to build it ourselves as opposed to purchasing a kit.  We started with Jason researching methods and materials and the best size for us between cost and quality.

We settled on a 48' x 20' structure.  We made our hoops out of bent chain link fence piping from Home Depot using a bender we bought that was specifically designed to bend our piping to the right circumference.  We borrowed our planting table from ourselves and mounted the bender on top.  The only difficulty with that plan was that we had no place to anchor the table so that it wouldn't rotate while Jason was bending the hoops.  Luckily, Jason is big and strong enough to have been able to both hold the table and bend the hoops at the same time!  I, on the other hand, can only barely do one or the other.  Jason did the majority of the hoop bending.  We worked together to drill and label the bent piping so that it could be assembled out at the farm easily and quickly.

Jason and his Dad built the frame over the course of a weekend.  They pounded the ground posts so that they were all level and then assembled the hoops and put them up.  They installed the purlins for stability and then Jason began calling friends for assistance in putting up the plastic on the next weekend.  He got about 8 of our friends out to help with the plastic.  Luckily the day chosen was fairly windless and the plastic went up without incident.  Jason and Ronn, his Dad, spent the next two days building and installing the end walls and doors.  Jason spent another few days putting the plastic up on the end walls to close up the hoophouse so that it could begin warming the soil. 

At the south end of the hoophouse, they installed a single man-door, because it was free and already framed.  At the north end, they built large double doors to enable something as big as a tractor to enter if necessary.

 The only details remaining for the hoophouse which will likely wait until next year for installation is the piping to enable the side to be rolled up quickly and easily for ventilation.  This year we will install a few more eye bolts and some colored cord so that we can ventilate via the sidewalls.  Conceptually simple, a little more time-consuming than the piping but much cheaper for the time being.

Now that our hoophouse, one of the major installations for this year, has been built, we are seeing lots of things out growing in it along with the weeds.  Our larger starts have all been moved out to the hoophouse and there are Carrots, radishes, beans and salad mix all growing in the ground inside, all of which have now begun to grow.  Hopefully we'll have some salad mix and radishes from the hoophouse in time for the first Pullman Farmer's Market!

Come back soon because as we are gearing up for an exciting growing season, there will also be a lot more going on here as well! (Including some finished and growing pictures!)

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