Hoop frames or Cold Frames in Front Range- have you done this?

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)February 3, 2013

I would like to get an early start on gardening. This will also be my 3rd year so I don't know if I"m getting ahead of myself. But, I have read about cold frames and hoops to extend the season. Since we have raised beds- 3 4'x25' beds, I would like to try hoop frames.

I have seen designs using PVC and plastic, but all versions seem quite difficult getting in and out of the beds. So I have a few questions:
1. what design works well for you on the Front Range?
2. Can you please explain or send a link of the design and what plastic or row cover you are using? I have seen both used in examples online but the row cover doesn't seem like it will hold up. But, i know there are different types of covers, some thin, some stronger.
3. How does it hold up to the wind here? We can get 75mph winds where I am.
4. How early do you start planting your spring veggies?
5. Have you also used it to get a jump start on tomatoes and peppers?

Any information will be very much appreciated.

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If you are talking about a walk-in hoop house/high tunnel, I recommend Grower's Supply. Depending on the size you want, you are looking at starting price $500-700 then up from there. My interior film is this from them.

If you are talking about a waist-high cold frame or low tunnel, I'd start with Johnny's, but make your own pipe bender.

Compare between the two suppliers for best pricing on material; you might be able to save a little if you go with Territorial for seed, and buy some of their film for a low tunnel while you are at it. You must shop around. Don't go to Home Depot/bigbox for material except conduit/PVC. Take your time.

Your plastic & row cover will have to be very tight to stand up to foothill winds but it can be done - one flying branch or blowing soil will make you sad; blowing soil will take away a season from your exterior material. You can start your cool season crops PDQ if your soil is warm enough and the sun duration sufficient. One thing about the Front Range is that inside a tunnel with plastic, it can get very warm without ventilation - one day at 65F and your plants will melt if not ventilated; this is both a feature and a bug and ventilation is key if no one is home during the day.

I use wall o' water for my toms and peppers, as the temperature doesn't swing as much inside them as it does inside a low tunnel-cold frame, my WOWs go out around tax day-ish.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks WxDano.

I was thinking of building the waist high hoops with PVC just over my beds. Height is something I'm pondering because of our winds here. Maybe I should see if there's a way to vary heights with PVC between 3' and 4' to see what I can get away with.

So, you prefer WOW to a hoop frame? I really have to try it this season. That's a whole month head start! I don't know how we are going to manage the temperature swings yet. I was hoping someone in this forum had figured that part out...


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:06AM
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I couldn't go into production and sales this year, Lesuko, but I'll be selling waist-high mini greenhouses when I can get up and running and not fly out to take care of my mom, the main feature is an auto vent opener. You'll need an automatic vent opener from March forward. You may want to look at 1/2 inch conduit which is much tougher than PVC and not too expensive at HD. You can make a pipe bender out of scrap.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:49PM
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I have grown in hoop houses for years. My hoops that are bent irrigation pipe are set down over rebar that is several feet into the ground and never had a problem. The sides roll up and I have a door and manual vents in both ends. The automatic ones are spendy. You need greenhouse plastic and most times it lasts about 6 years unless you have hail damage. There are clips that will hold the plastic or row cover to the frame. Do you have raised beds with wooden sides? I have seen ones that have hoops that fasten down into u shaped brackets that the ends go down in and then you lift the whole thing off to get in the raised bed. These are maybe 6 foot beds x 2-3 feet wide. He most likely made them.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:59PM
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I found these today while searching for fotos:

3 ft spacing for rafters, a center span and an extra purlin and that's not too bad. I'd have two layers of film, personally, with the anti-condensate/IR-reflective on the inside. You could insulate on the north side and gain a couple degrees, work out all your bugs then upgrade...


[P.S. check out how many feet of deer fence they have!]

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Honestly, I have raised beds in my garden made with cinder block. In the blocks, I placed 2 foot of 1 1/4 pvc (grey is uv resistant) From there I placed a 10 foot stick of 1/2 pipe in each and bent it to the mate in the other side of the bed. This material ca be bought at Home Depot or Lowes. I ordered 50 foot by 10 foot covers from Gardens Alive (they have a $100 dollar coupon every year) I cut each of these in half so I have two 25 foot sections. Then I ordered clips from Pinetree to hold the covers onto the pipe. I put 5 on each pipe and have seven pipes to each 16 foot bed. I used the really big alligator clips (binder clips) from Office Depot to hold the ends together. It actually held up to the high winds I get out here on the eastern plains. My beds measure 16 foot by 4 foot, are three blocks high and run east/west. The only problem I had was any tomato cages (which I only use for peppers and eggplant) ripped holes in the covers.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:18PM
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I'm a newbie and just purchased a couple of acres. I was originally thinking of doing a garden area and then having a large walk-in hoop house off to the side. However, space is a little tight (my garden plot just kept growing as I added new veggies to the plan!) and it occured to me that I could possibly combine the garden/hoophouse space. I'm thinking I could do a wood frame around the garden space and then do removable pvc/wood frames and plastic sheeting - put them on in the fall and take off/store in the spring. Do any of you more experienced gardeners have thoughts on the logistics/potential problems with this idea? Saving the space would be nice, but not if it will cause potential problems down the line.

A couple of my concerns:

-logistics of taking on/off the frames and plastic

- would it interfere with getting cool weather crops out early/ late in the season? (ie, putting up the hoops making the cool weather crops too warm)

- overworking the soil (thought I might divide out the hoop space into 3 sections where I left one bare and put compost on it in the off season, one that gets a cover crop, and one that gets planted?)

- any other problems or potential issues that I'm not thinking of?

Thank you for any advice!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:25PM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

There are some more experienced people than myself. Where are you WxDano?

PVC hoop houses are not a huge amount of labor to assemble or take apart but that also depends on the construction. My old school coldframes I have designed so that they are easy to put together, take apart and store away.

I think it would make it easier on the cool weather crops and better for the warm weather crops at the end of the season though there will probably be a certain amount of the warm weather crops being in the way during setup. Early season should be a big advantage for both cool and warm weather crops.

As long as your adding compost it shouldn't be a big issue with overworking the soil. Cover crops are good but the timing always seems difficult.

Maybe you could start with a smaller hoop house. Have it cover half to start with. If you plant it right and want to do the entire thing the following year it should be relatively easy to scale up.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:35PM
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Here I am Greg!

I recommend looking over Johnny's Seed's site. They have all kinds of different ideas for hoop houses - low tunnels - etc. I'm with greg that you want to start small and see what it takes before rushing in - the ventilation is very important, as are the aphid controls you need. Once you get those down you can expand and spend the money on a walk-in.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:33AM
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As to how to handle the plastic film and or netting, this link from Oregon State might give you a few ideas:


And these had some good info on materials for the hoops themselves and different designs:



    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 10:23AM
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An additional thought, to keep deer and other critters out, you can get plastic hardware cloth that you could use as a layer underneath the plastic. You could add pieces that allow you to roll them up for bed access. There's a family I saw use this approach out in Divide and they said that the hardware cloth has the added benefit of deflecting hail. The use of 3/4 PVC and then making clips from 1" PVC seems to work well, Velcro might work as well.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 10:48AM
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The one thing about hardware cloth is if you get flapping in the wind, the cloth will abrade and weaken the plastic. Therefore much care must be taken to stretch plastic - install on a hot day in the sun for maximum stretchage.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 6:36PM
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There are many people in our area (Teller & Park counties, Colorado) using hoop covered raised beds at 8,500 ft & above for extended season growing.

Best wishes; hope this info is helpful.


Here is a link that might be useful: DIY raised bed info from The Harvest Center

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 8:41PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

I ran across this youtube video this morning of a guy giving instructions on how to make a fairly simple greenhouse that looks pretty sturdy and probably not too expensive to make. I like the idea he has of using the wire panel as the basic skeleton for the sides and top - should stand up to the RM area winds.

It's about 18 minutes long:

What do you think?


    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 9:29AM
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david52 Zone 6

The Feds have some program out now with loans or something to help farmers build walk-in, high dome hoop frames. Several county residents have gone for it, and last week, there was a meeting where they exchanged experiences.

The wind had destroyed all of the ones using plastic film covering. Ones made with hard/stiff plastic were still going strong.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:57AM
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David, I agree that if you are going to go that route, polycarbonate is the way to go. Hail, wind, insulation...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:18PM
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