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Whether you call it a polytunnel, hoop tunnel, polyhouse, hoop greenhouse, or hoop house, this arched-shaped structure has been a preferred choice for gardeners looking for a protected growing space for their crops. But before we go into details, let us know the basics of a polytunnel.
Hoop houses are arched ground covers constructed of hoop-shaped tubular covered with a plastic film. They offer benefits like protection from harsh weather conditions, extended growing season, and high yields.
Not only this but there are many other things that a gardener can benefit from these passive solar structures. So, if you want to know more about the purpose of a hoop house in your garden, here is a list of benefits that might help you see if it is the right option for you or not.
Hoop Houses Can Extend Growing Season
The extended growing season remains to be one of the primary benefits of a hoop house. Gardeners love how a hoop house can increase their growing season. With this arched-shaped structure, the growing season can start earlier and end later.
With proper knowledge and management, growers can extend the growing season for frost-sensitive crops by around two months, i.e., a month in the beginning and a month at the end of the growing season. This is because the heat trapped inside the hoop house can help warm up the soil and promote the growth of crops.
Even cool-season crops like leafy greens can also benefit significantly from hoop houses. This is possible by using different varieties that have different lengths of growing seasons in multiple plantings. This will not only maximize yield but can also increase the availability period of veggies and fruits.
Hoop Houses Act as Environmental Barrier
The peace of mind offered by a hoop house is worth mentioning. Field-produced crops are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, which can severely damage, reduce yield, and hamper the growth of the crops.
With a hoop house, one can protect crops from wind, rain, minor hail, snow, and frost. Moreover, a hoop house helps in keeping the soil warm, which can further benefit frost-sensitive crops. Maintaining an ideal growing condition for crops becomes a lot easier and manageable with hoop houses.
This reduces problems like temperature-related stress, petal scarring, and sunburn on fruit. This, in turn, can improve the overall fruit size and the shelf life of the crop.
For instance, growing raspberries can be quite difficult in hot climates. But with the help of a hoop house, one can force primocane varieties for late fall harvest and floricane fruiting varieties for an early summer harvest and grow fresh and healthy raspberries even in high temperatures.
Hoop Houses Can Lower Disease Pressure
Crops grown in an open field are exposed to more moisture than those produced in a hoop house, making them less susceptible to disease and decay. Diseases can develop in a crop with a favorable environment, an easy host, and a pathogen.
Usually, for a pathogen like fungi, moisture present on foliage and stems can prove to be a favorable environment. Even excessive moisture in the soil can lead to diseases and root rot.
Since a hoop house acts as an environmental barrier, it protects the plants from rain, ensuring that the environment is unsuitable for disease development. This is the reason why field-grown crops are susceptible to early blight. But this is an issue that is managed well in a hoop house.
Hoop Houses Can Reduce the Need for Pesticides
Since a hoop house offers a protected growing environment to the plants, they are less exposed to mite pests and insects. To ensure further protection, one can consider installing screening on either side of the hoop house underneath the roll-up vent curtains.
This will create a barrier for any large-bodied pests, insects, and birds. Using shade fabric as a screening material is also a great option as it can also be used as a windbreak. Thus, growers can reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals in their garden with the help of a hoop house.
Hoop Houses Can Improve Soil Health
Since a hoop house keeps the ground covered and does not allow rainwater to cause runoff, the soil can retain the existing nutrients and fertilizers better, which helps the plants thrive. And as mentioned earlier, a hoop house can trap heat inside and ensure that the soil remains warm for an extended period which facilitates the growth of the plants.
Also, in an open field, the areas between the bays are prone to soil erosion. But in a hoop house, these areas can be grassed, graveled, or covered with landscape fabric that can help prevent soil erosion.
Moreover, you can pick the site for your hoop house and ensure that the area has well-drained soil and drainage aisles. Also, consider leveling the ground to ensure even irrigation to the plants. Other than this, you will be allowed to pick the kind of soil you want or even make your soil recipe for the hoop house.
Hoop Houses Allows for Crop Diversity
Growing a fixed range of crops can be pretty monotonous and boring for a gardener. However, certain crops will grow well in your area while some will not. Thus, repeating the same kind of plants might be the only choice for some. However, with a hoop house, you can diversify and grow a broader range of crops.
Gardeners will be able to experiment with early varieties or rotate multiple crops within the growing season. This practice is usually a success with leafy greens, blueberries, veggies, cherries, and grapes.
Other than this, growing crops that might not be readily available in your region allows you to use them for commercial purposes and quoting premium prices.
Hoop Houses are Easy to Ventilate
With just a few adjustments, you can improve the ventilation in your hoop house. You can consider installing sides that you can either roll up or drop-down according to your requirement. This will offer easy manual ventilation whenever needed.
However, wall vents at a higher level might also be needed to ensure that the warm rising above can escape the hoop house. Many gardeners usually do not prefer Fans due to noise, power consumption, and additional expense.
Also, natural ventilation is one of the best ways to ensure an even flow of air throughout the hoop house. For this, all you need to do is to ensure that the structure is not obstructed by any tall buildings and is located in a way that allows the summer breeze to enter the hoop house.
Hoop Houses Can Increase Yields
A hoop house helps you control the growing conditions for your crops. Thus, you can create a better environment by monitoring moisture levels, fertilizer use, maintaining ideal temperature and atmospheric pressure in the hoop house. And since the crops are less exposed to harsh weather conditions, they are less prone to pest infestations, diseases, and decay.
This means that a hoop house ensures an abundant harvest and improves the overall quality of the harvest. Studies have shown that yields can increase up to four times in hoop houses compared to open fields.
Hoop Houses Can Accelerate Plant Growth
While cool-season veggies thrive during winters, warm-season veggies require an entirely different environment for growth. Excessively high or low temperatures can result in the slow growth of plants. But with a hoop house, since you can control the growing conditions, the plants can grow faster.
However, one may observe differential growth of crops near doors or vents in the hoop house. This is normal and generally happens due to the slight difference between the microclimates within the hoop house.
Not just for gardeners, but a hoop house offers a myriad of benefits to farmers as well. I wrote a blog highlighting all the different benefits of a hoop house and the various purposes it can be used for. You can read it here.
So, are you ready to raise a hoop house? If yes, I have a video that offers you a step-by-step guide on building a polytunnel or hoop house kit. Watch it below.
FAQs About Growing in Hoop Houses
Conclusion on what is a hoop house and how does it benefit gardeners
I hope that this information will help you know more about the various benefits that a hoop house can offer. So, get started with your polytunnel journey now and experiment with veggies, herbs, and berries without any worries! My personal favorites are spinach, strawberries, kale, and blackberries!
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