Category Archives: Garden Improvements

Garden Improvement – Hoop Houses – Update 2

At the end of the previous Hoop House Update, I had the 3/4″ EMT bent and attached to the two 12′ long beds. Since then, I have also attached hoops to two 4’x4′ beds. One is a bed I built this year specifically for my 5 year-old daughter to have her own garden. Jordyns Box, Grid Done, Hoops On 03-05-2014The other is for a dedicated herb bed. You can see both my daughter’s bed in the foreground, and the unfinished (at the time) herb bed (as well as the two uncovered 12′ beds 🙂 ). Next step was to cover them with plastic. I am using 6 mil thick greenhouse plastic that I purchased from greenhousemegastore.com. You do pay a little more for the thick plastic, however, it will last a few years before it needs replacing.Hoop House Putting Plastic On 03-05-2014 The thinner (4 mil and lower) plastics generally do not last longer than a single season before the sun deteriorates the plastic to the point of disintegration. Once the plastic was over the hoops, I had to cut pieces to cover the ends, and I temporarily held everything in place using spring clamps that I purchased from a hardware store. Hoop House Covered 03-05-2014However, I do not intend to use those clamps on a permanent basis, at least not for holding everything in place. Nope! For that, I am using snap clamps purchased from the same store as the plastic. These are nice and handy for holding the plastic to the EMT. They snap in place and securely attach the plastic in place. Hoop House End Completed 03-30-2014 Removing them isn’t very difficult, it just involves prying them off.

Once that was complete on all 4 beds, I trimmed the plastic so it is a little more manageable. I, currently, simply raise the sides and semi-neatly fold it at the top. I am still using the spring clamps to hold the plastic in place, one at either end (so 4 per bed). It is effective, for now, to do it this way. Once I have a little more time, and with less pressing tasks to do, I intend to attach each side to a 2×2. I want to do this for two primary reasons. One, it will add a little weight to each side, which will help keep the plastic down and secure. Two, it will allow the sides to be rolled up much easier and quicker. I do not think I will do an update when I finish that, but I may.

I think the hoop houses are a good investment, and I definitely see them being valuable next fall, and into winter. I think, perhaps. next spring I will attach them to the other 12′ beds, and possibly to the upcoming 24′ x 3′ bed. I haven’t decided.

Until then, Happy Gardening!

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Garden Improvement – Hoop Houses – Update 1

One of the first garden improvements I am doing this year is adding hoop houses to four of the beds (1 existing, 3 new). I am constructing low hoop houses, specifically. Why? It is one of the best ways for extending the growing season. I do not have the space or money for an actual greenhouse (one day!), and with hoop houses, I don’t really need one. With these on some beds, it allows me to get plants in the ground about a month earlier than without. It will also allow me to grow plants far longer into the fall, and for some crops such as the lettuces, spinaches, kales, etc., I will be able to winter them over and be able to harvest fresh veggies very early the following spring. I had intended to have this completed around the 1st of March, but Mother Nature thought otherwise this year, as I posted about previously, however, that is not a complaint. It just means I have to really haul butt to get them done ASAP.

As in most things, there are many ways to build hoop houses. A very common, and inexpensive, method is to use 1/2″ Schedule 40 PVC pipe. I, originally, was going to go this route. Then I learned that PVC was very bad for the environment. Further, PVC can leach toxins into the ground, which would mean into the garden and into the plants. And, lastly, unless a protective paint is applied, the PVC will deteriorate quickly in the sun. All three of these factors where big negatives for me. I do not want to use something bad for the environment, I definitely do not want chemicals and toxins leaching into the garden, and I do not want to have to replace the pipes every couple of years. I would rather use a solution that would last a long time, and that would not cause harm to its environs.

The other option I looked at was using electrical conduit (EMT) similar to what I used for the trellises. I eventually settled on 3/4″ EMT as opposed to 1/2″. This was for added support and strength. It can get rather windy at times, and I would rather spend a little extra money (still very reasonable, however) for more support. The next issues was, how do I bend the EMT into 4′ wide hoops? Thanks to the Internet and Google, I was able to find a site that sells an appropriate bender to do what I was trying to do. Now that I have explained what and why, allow me to show you how.

Hoop Bender 03-08-2014 Here is the bender attached to the corner of my deck. It is really easy to use, and it allows for both 1/2″ and 3/4″ EMT. Make sure you have plenty of room. The EMT is 10′  long, and it is all used. I had to reposition the bender three times before I was able to bend without difficulty. EMT Being Bent 03-08-2014

For the 12′ long beds, I am using 5 hoops, one every 3′. For the 4′ beds, I am only using 2, one on each end. I have extra EMT in case I need to add extra hoops for stability. Once I had all the hoops bent, I began attaching them to the sides of the garden beds.

Hoop Attachment 03-15-2014

I am using two conduit straps for each hoop, again for extra stability. Soil covers the lower strap, so I did not tighten the screws completely. I want to slip the hoops off easily (or extend them by adding additional EMT) when the plants are large enough without having to disturb the surrounding soil (and plants).

Here is one of the 12′ beds with all 5 hoops attached. Both of the 12′ beds are at this point, and the 4′ beds’ hoops will be very soon.

Hoops Attached to Bed 03-15-2014

Next steps:

  1.  Add greenhouse plastic
  2.  Add an easy way to raise the sides
  3.  Add vents in the ends to prevent over heating
  4.  Monitor daily temperatures

I will make an update post once the hoop houses are completely finished, which really must be soon. The peas are not going to wait much longer!

Until then, Happy Gardening!

Waiting For Spring

I have the planting planned. I have the improvements planned. I have the budgeting planned for said improvements. I have materials acquired to start implementing said improvements. I have seeds arriving. I am ready for gardening! Mother Nature? Not so much.

Snow Covered 02-11-2014

This is what the garden looks like. It is under approximately 6″ of February snow, which is a little unusual this time of year, but certainly not out of the question since it is still winter, and this is the Pacific Northwest. I love snow. Really love it. I love the winter and having four seasons, however, when it gets to February, I am about done with winter, and so ready for spring. That feeling is more intense this year than in years past. And, of course, this is because I am ready to get started.

Luckily, it is also the time of year that I can start tomatoes, peppers and some herbs from seed so the are ready to be transplanted into the garden beds in about 6 weeks. I have tried to do this in the past, and because of my ignorance (lack of knowledge), I did not achieve success. I tried to start seeds in a windowsill. Sounded like a good idea to me. However, this produced “leggy” starts due to the lack of a good, direct light source. Leggy starts end up being a much weaker plant, which means they will not grow as well and thus not produce as well. I also attempted to transplant them into the main garden far to early.

Well, I learned my lesson, so this year I planned on building a grow area with a good light source that would enable me to grow good, healthy, strong starts for planting when the time was right. I decided to make a space in the unfinished basement for this purpose. This was mainly chosen due to limited space on the main floor. The basement is used for storage only, and is rarely visited by anyone other than me. After much research, watching many videos on YouTube and reading several articles on the Internet, I settled on my design, and I went about putting it into place. This is my first expansion/improvement over last year’s garden!

GrowShelf 02-10-2014

Here is the completed grow shelf. It is an inexpensive shelf unit. It provides 4 shelves, 3′ wide and 18″ deep, on which to start/grow seed starts. Each shelf has a dedicated fluorescent lamp. I am using a T5-type fluorescent bulb that provides 6500 Kelvins. The Kelvins indicate the color temperature that the light outputs. In this case, 6500 K is the same color temperature as daylight. My research indicated that this is the ideal amount to grow seed starts indoors.

One of the concerns, is temperature. Seed germination generally occurs best if the temperature is around 75 degrees plus or minus 10 degrees depending on the type of plant. Because the basement is unfinished (read: unheated), and it is February, it is definitely not warm enough. I considered a few possible ways around this issue, and performed many different tests and layouts looking to hit the magical 75 degrees mark. In the end, what looks to work the best is simply covering the bottom of the shelf with aluminum foil and running foil over the top of the light. When using foil, make sure the shiny side is facing the light to achieve maximum effect.

GrowShel Tinfoil 02-10-2014GrowShelf TInfoil2 02-10-2014

I know the thermometer only reads 52 degrees in the picture. I had just turned the lights on for taking pictures. 🙂 I know I will need to, most likely, alter how I have the foil arranged once I get the seed trays in place, however, I am confident that I can achieve the correct temperature. If I need a little extra warmth, I have some heat lights I can clip to the sides of the shelf.

GrowShelf Chain 02-10-2014

I also hacked the shelf a little. I wanted to attach the lights to a chain so that I could easily raise and lower them as the situation called for. The shelves did not have any holes in the bottom along the center, and I did not want to hang the hooks off-center. I simply drilled some holes in the bottom of the shelf and put the hooks through. Simple and effective!

GrowShelf Timer 02-10-2014

I have all the lights plugged into a power strip. The power strip is plugged into this simple timer. Seeds like about 16 hours of light a day in order to grow the best. I certainly did not want to have to remember when to turn the lights on or off. It makes much more sense to install this timer, set it, and automate this step. I’ll be busy enough watering, fertilizing, and growing the seedlings!

And there you have it. An improvement to the garden, a solution to the problem of growing good, healthy starts indoors, and a simple way to combat the winter blahs all in one. My daughter and I will be planting the first batch of seeds as soon as I get some good, organic, sterile seed starting soil, which will be in about a week.

Until then, Happy Gardening!