Little did we realize in 1997 that when we purchased our beautiful old farmhouse (circa 1840) that five years later would establish working farm. By the end 2011 we had already been producing most of our own eggs, chicken and vegetables. We had two garden areas in our front yard – 24′ x 56′ and 24′ x 180′ and were producing approximately 1800 lbs of produce for ourselves, family and friends.
While out shopping, we ran into an old friend who when hearing about our homestead eagerly told us that there was an agency providing ‘free greenhouses’. Intrigued, we tracked down the source – the National Resources Conservation Service. As a new farm, we applied for a grant for a 30’x12’x72′ High Tunnel System (a.k.a. Hoop House) and by late spring 2012 we were accepted.
The hoop house kit arrived in mid-summer of 2012. Ben and friends had a fantastic time putting it together as you can see below.
The following spring we put in four 3’x12′ raised beds on the west end of the hoop house. The beds are made of cedar and 2′ tall. Metal conduit was used to create the framework to support tomatoes and cucumbers grown as single-stem vines. Not only does single-stemming keep the garden organized, it also makes the plant more productive. This is because the plants energy goes into producing fruit, not more vines and foliage.
The hoop house will allow for early and late planting of all sorts of vegetables as can be seen by this planting chart. We no longer have to wait for late May to get our hands dirty, nor do we have to stop gardening in the winter months. One of the utilizes of the hoop house is that it can function as cold storage for the heartier plants with the added benefit of having them still alive. The temperature in the hoop house, even on cloudy days, is warmer than the outside temperature. On most winter days in Michigan, this allows for the plants to thaw out during the day. If it is particularly frigid, internal row cover can be added to ensure that the ground does not completely freeze and the plants survive.
The hoop house will allow for early and late planting of all sorts of vegetables as can be seen by this planting chart. We no longer have to wait for late May to get our hands dirty!