Hoop Houses: Grow Vegetables in any Type of Weather

Help your veggies grow with a hoop house!

Credit: Heather Nielsen

Hoop houses hooray!

Heather Nielsen is one of my best friends, gardening and otherwise. She has saved my bacon many times in various projects including the somewhat over-ambitious 42 raised-bed garden we installed at West Creek in Fort Langley last year.

She put up with my lack of organization when working with the kids at Queen Alexandra School at the garden there, showing up regularly for many years, making a huge difference. We worked together for the Richmond Fruit Tree project in high schools re: where food came from – one of our specialties was the “5000-mile Caesar salad.” She also cleans up my porch and garden when visiting – what’s not to like?

I first met Heather when she showed up at Queen Alex as a Master Gardener volunteer sometime around 2004, wearing very fine-looking psychedelic-printed green rubber boots. A champion for the environment, H knows a ton about beneficial insects and how to attract them, teaches container-gardening classes and works in school gardens with the kids and is Secretary of the Master Gardeners Association of BC.

As if that wasn’t enough, she keeps chickens, bees, three naughty Labrador retrievers, children as well. Plus, she’s a good writer.

These ideas will be great in fall to extend the season, and right now for growing tomatoes, peppers and eggplants (all heat-lovers and challenging to grow here on the Coast without some kind of cover from our torrential rains). Take it away, Heather.

Coldest spring (and maybe summer) in years? Cover up with hoop houses

By Heather Nielsen

Veggie growers are discovering clever and inexpensive ways to work with the weather instead of waiting for heavy rains to abate and temperatures to rise. Take note of some of these ideas to work with our changing weather; this may be the way of the future


1. When I first saw this wonderful hoop house back in early spring sitting on an empty lot waiting for development I got to thinking: could I do this on a smaller scale?

2. Using a recycled salad tub I covered a section of arugula seeds and created my own mini greenhouse. I repeated this in other areas of my veggie beds and on containers too. The growth difference was quite significant. Cost: free

3. Sharon and a friend built this low hoop house from 2x4s and sawhorse brackets. Any kind of bendy stick or bamboo works to support the plastic in the centre. It’s simple to pull the plastic off on sunny days as you don’t want to cook your veggies just yet. Easy to assemble and the cost is minimal. You might have what you need lying around already.

4. This tomato enclosure was built in a community garden on a west-facing wall using simple materials: scrap wood and plastic. It’s a great way to trap heat and keep the rain off tomatoes, plus it’s easy to roll up the front of the plastic on a hot day.

5. Basil seeds need a lot of heat to germinate. They say when you can pull your pants down and sit on the ground comfortably it’s warm enough to plant heat-loving seeds. Instead we opted to go the mini greenhouse route.

6. I still drive by the hoop house once in a while, musing where I could put one in my yard. Hoop houses use solar heat and are portable and practical. Grow food year round with an investment of a couple hundred dollars. If you can source UV Plastic you’ll get more life out of it too. Sorry kids, the trampoline has to go…!

For more info on extending your growing season economically, google “Hoop house” or “High Tunnel Houses.” Even better, watch a YouTube video.