Cooler weather has arrived in southeastern Pennsylvania. In my garden lettuce, kale and Swiss chard are still growing.
It's time to extend the growing season by installing a mini hoop tunnel over these vegetables. The hoop garden tunnel isn't just a season extender; it can be used in a variety of ways.
What is a mini garden hoop tunnel?
A mini garden hoop tunnel is exactly what it sounds like: a miniature garden tunnel. But unlike large walk-in structures, these tunnels are perfect for a small backyard or urban garden. A garden mini hoop tunnel for raised beds is quick to build, easy to use and made with inexpensive materials.
A garden hoop tunnel is one of the best investments you can make as a gardener allowing you to double or even triple your annual yield each year.
Ways to use a mini garden hoop tunnel
- Frost protection
- Extend the growing season
- Winter gardening
- Get a jump start on spring gardening
- Create shade in summer
- Pest and bug protection
- Prevent deer and rabbits from nibbling on vegetable leaves
Let me show you how I built my garden hoop tunnel by watching this video or continue reading this post.
Want to grow food indoors in the winter? Set up a hydroponic garden in your home.
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As you can see from the following pictures taken at the end of October, my garden is still producing vegetables.
I’m going to share with you what I use and how I construct my mini hoop tunnel over these vegetables. This mini hoop tunnel is as simple as they come - I can erect it in about a half hour.
Instead of buying a premade mini hoop tunnel, you can make one for yourself rather affordably. After the initial investment, the frame and cover material can be used year after year. Occasionally you'll need to purchase more cover material.
Learning how to build a mini hoop tunnel is a quick process with these five easy steps.
supplies for the mini hoop tunnel:
For the frame I used:
- 4 - 1/2" PVC Pipes, each 8 1/2 feet long
- 1 - 1/2" x 1 1/2" Wood Strip, 8 feet long (wood I already had)
- 4 - Wing Nut Screws
For the Covering:
- Heavy Duty Plastic Material 4 mil thick
Note: If you plan on using the tunnel for another purpose than during the winter, purchase a different covering material such as a lightweight shade cloth, row cover or deer/bird netting.
To secure the plastic:
INSTRUCTIONS for building the mini hoop tunnel
A mini hoop tunnel has two basic components: the frame and the covering.
STEP 1: gather the hoop material
Gather the materials needed to make the mini hoop tunnel from the supplies list above.
Of course, you could purchase garden hoops from a gardening supplies store but I choose to use PVC pipes for the ribs because of their accessibility, durability, bendability and price.
A center ridge support, the length of the tunnel, is needed to strengthen the structure again snow and wind. Mine was a piece of wood leftover from another project.
After a little experimentation, I cut PVC pipe ribs for my 4' x 8' raised bed 8 1/2 feet long.
Depending on the size of your gardening bed, the length of the PVC pipe may have to be adjusted. The PVC hoops should be long enough to bend into a half circle over the garden bed.
The wood center support does not have to be fancy. You can use an old length of wood. The wood used for this mini hoop tunnel was 1 1/2" x 1/2" x 8'.
STEP 2: Secure PVC hoops
The PVC hoops can be secured in several ways.
The first way - use PVC pipe! When constructing my raised bed, I attached PVC supports to the bed. To do this, I purchased a 1 1/2" diameter PVC pipe. Cut it down into shorter lengths and attached the short pieces about every 2 1/2 feet or so with metal straps.
When it's time to erect the tunnel all I have to do is insert the end of the PVC rib pipe into the PVC pipes attached to the bed.
The second way - use rebar! Pound 1-foot rebar stacks into the soil. Then slip the ends of the PVC rib pipes over the rebar.
Once the PVC hoops are in place, the skeleton of your mini hoop tunnel is complete.
STEP 3: attach the center wood ridge support
The center wood support links the hoops together and stabilizes the structure. It will also support the cover to prevent sagging.
The ridge pole and the hoops need to be secured with wing screws. Grab your drill and drill holes through the wood and hoops.
After drilling, attach the ridge pole and hoops together with wing screws.
Using wing nut screws makes assembly and disassembly so easy.
STEP 4: cover the tunnel
For the tunnel cover if using it as a season extender or winter gardening, purchase heavy-duty 4 mil polythene (if using for another purpose purchase whatever covering if appropriate) at the hardware store.
Since I'm extending the growing season and doing some winter gardening, heavy-duty plastic is being used.
Unroll the plastic. Hold or secure the edge of the plastic against the ground on one end. Allow it to come up the tunnel end, lie atop the hoops and continue to the ground on the other end of the bed. Be sure the material reaches the ground on both sides before cutting.
Finally, cut, unfold the material and stretch it over the hoops.
STEP 5: secure the cover in place
It is essential to secure the cover to the hoops so that they don’t blow off in windy or stormy weather. I use a combination of things.
Snap clamps (pictured below) used to hold material on tubular frames are an excellent choice to hold the cover to the PVC hoops.
To weigh down the sides and ends of the material use whatever is handy such as bricks, wood, and stones; evenly gallon bottles filled with water will work.
Voila! You have a simple hoop garden tunnel.
This garden tunnel with heavy-duty plastic is designed to trap solar radiation during the day, creating a warm and protected environment for growing plants.
But if the weather becomes unseasonably warm, it's easy to open the ends or sides of the tunnel to vent and promote good airflow and reduces the temperature beneath the cover.
Do You Need to Water the mini hoop tunnel?
In my cold climate with a winter tunnel, plants are not actively growing and evaporation is slow so I don't water the tunnel in winter.
In the spring and fall if the covering is plastic, watering regularly is necessary because the closed structure can heat up and evaporation will speed up. If the weather is mild and rainy, remove the cover and let Mother Nature give the bed a good soaking. Or hand water.
When using a row cover or bird mesh, rain can pass through so it's not necessary to water unless the season is unreasonably dry.
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