Growing tomatoes in a hoop house

hemnancy(z8 PNW)March 10, 2009

After the cold summer last year when my tomatoes were almost a month later in ripening, and all the rain which eventually resulted in late blight, I am tempted to grow some tomatoes under some plastic like a homemade hoop house. I am afraid of the temperatures getting too high in the hot part of the summer. Will this work or would I need to take the plastic off in mid summer?

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jwr6404(8B Wa)

I have always,except for last year,grown my tomatoes under 28"-30" plastic covered cages. Last year was the first time I didn't get ripe tomatoes. Will cover the cages again this year. I always remove the plastic in mid summer or when the plants get to large(rarely). Based on your suggestion I will start them this year under Tunn'l Covers

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 12:04PM
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You can start them under covers and take it off when it gets hot.Another option is to plant them in pots and don't let the foliage to get wet.That way you can avoid dealing with blight.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 11:21PM
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sundevil(z7 WA)

I like to adjust the plastic in the summer to give the plants some ventilation but I keep the plants covered to keep them dry.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 7:47PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Jim- I start the plants early and set them out under TunLCovers (as well as squash, cucumbers and this year some beans) but the tunnels are only 18" tall so after the plants hit the top of the tunnels I have to take them off since touching the plastic results in burns. But I'm thinking of more of a 6' tall hoop house that can take the plants on to maturity and through the season all the way to frost. I've read that temperatures can get quite high under plastic, but maybe raising the sides or having the ends open would make up for it, I just don't know. There have been some brief spells of 100*F the last couple of years that caused some burning in some plants just out in the open.

sundevil, do you have plastic going to the ground or just above the plants?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 2:58AM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

I to have built an 8 ft in diameter, circular shaped, hot house with 5ft high fencing> Using 1/2" PVC tubing I fabricated a dome with the highest point being 8 ft. This will provide runoff for the rain once I cover it and the entire cage with plastic. When I remove the plastic it will be the side only and incrementally. I'm sorry I can't send any photo's but I don't know how to post them. My next decision is whether to plant 3 or 4 tomato plants inside. There is another,even larger problem lurking around. I notice the Mrs spending a lot of time eyeballing the cage from up close. The last time I designed and built a greenhouse my Korean wife said where did you get such an idea. I told her I had a fertile mind. She sort of agreed saying "sh*t for brains is more like it. When I finished it she took occupancy and it became her Kimchee Pot House which she proudly shows all. Besides Kimchee she makes her own Soy Sauce,Hot Pepper Paste and Tinjan aka Miso in Japan.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 12:10PM
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sundevil(z7 WA)


The tomatoes grow on the south side of my garage and I hang a sheet of plastic from the overhang. Both ends are open as are a few inches at the top. Let me know if you want more details on how the plastic is secured, it's got to be flexible to handle the wind.

The tomatoes are indeterminate, they grow up a string, no crowding and all suckers pulled off. A sheet of black plastic is on the ground and a soaker hose under the plastic is used to water. I like to keep the roots as dry as possible to avoid diseases and improve the flavor. Most fruit will taste bland if it's babied.

This system raises the temps a few degrees and it keeps the plants dry and disease free. Last year we were still picking a couple varieties in December and were eating tomatoes in January.

The seeds come from Territorial and are started in February. They get a lot of natural sun plus fluorescent light. A fan is used to keep the plants sturdy. On nice days they go outside. The plants go outside for good in late April or early May.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 5:19PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Jim- I hope your hot house escapes to grow tomatoes.:-) The Kimchee sounds great. Does she share a recipe? I make sauerkraut. What does Insuk use in them to ferment them, salt? Anything else? I sprinkle some Acidophilus in as well as salt.

I'm still debating the hoop house idea. Until last year my present growing methods were great but last year being so cold really took a huge dent in my harvest, I hardly had any tomatoes to sauce. I don't know if that weather pattern will continue. The problem is spending more money to grow the tomatoes, which then makes them more expensive. But I put in so much work it is a shame if all the work is for nothing. The 6 mil greenhouse plastic I've been looking at has a 4 year warranty. Maybe taking it down all winter would lengthen that. Then there's the problem of how long to make it, and how wide and tall. I'm thinking I could just try a 10-20 ft length first, and see how it does. If I left the ends open and could raise the sides maybe that would work to keep it cool enough on a shorter hoop house. I'm also thinking of using pvc pipe for the structure as it is so easy to design to size and put together with elbows. I probably wouldn't glue it so I could just take it apart or redesign. I guess you can drill holes in the elbows and add screws to make it stay together if that is a problem.

sundevil- thanks for the input. How would you attach the plastic to pvc pipe? Or what do you use? I have soaker hoses running down my rows, but mulch with a heavy layer of dried grass clippings. It keeps the soil moister and adds some nutrients; the black plastic would make the soil warmer, so maybe that would help with the cold soil problems? I'll have to ponder that. It would be another way to make it more expensive and black plastic probably would only make it one season or maybe two?


    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 7:53PM
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amy_pnw(8 Oregon)

I have grown tomatoes under hoops for years. I just roll up the sides of the plastic on hot days so there is just a roof with no sides. The temps are just the same as the rest of the garden and if I want to add a shade cloth for the scorchingly hot days it is easy to do so. I keep the late blight away for much longer by keeping the foliage dry. Eventually in the fall or late fall my plants still get it.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 1:25PM
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amy_pnw(8 Oregon)


I use a makeshift hoop which is much lower in expense. I place two rows (about 4 feet apart) of cattle panels. (Cattle panels come in 16 foot lengths. I have mine cut in half.) I anchor them with green metal fence stakes so they are extremely sturdy. I then weave 10 foot PVC pipe into the cattle panels and hoop it over the top between the two rows so I have a standing hoop house. I use cheap plastic and replace it every year. WalMart has a good size.

I end up with two houses every year about 8 feet long and 4-5 feet wide. I keep the plastic closed at night in the early spring and keep one end open in the daytime in early spring. As the weather warms I open both ends or roll the plastic way up the sides. I anchor the plastic with cheap huge document clips from the office supply store which work better than the round plastic slip-on clips from hoop house supply. The bottom on the ground just gets a board or some bricks to anchor it. I don't want anything permanent so the hoop is readily adaptable to whatever weather I encounter.

In addition to keeping the late blight very, very late I generally have tomatoes about a month earlier here in Oregon.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 1:42PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Amy- Thanks for the info. It should be do-able and helpful with the cold temps and early rain.:-)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 5:09PM
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jwr6404: would it be possible for you to post some pics please. It sounds like a great idea so if you don't mind please post a pic.Thanks
ps: it would be easier to visualize your project.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 10:50PM
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jwr6404(8B Wa)

I'm sorry i dont know how to post photo's. I could send you the photo's if you PM me your address.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 1:22PM
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