A lot of our members want greenhouses, even though you can easily do the Backyard Nursery Business with one. I don’t have one. Had one, took it down. Everything I do is without a greenhouse. If I were to do 30,000 or 50,000 Rhododendron cuttings each year for that I’d build a greenhouse. Everything else does fine without one.
So anyway, they often make structures out of PVC pipe or cattle panels bent over in a hoop shape. All of that is fine, but those who live in snow country like I do have no idea what it really takes to keep snow from crushing your greenhouse, hoop house, or high tunnel structure.
Recently I was visiting a nursery here in Ohio when this sight caught my eye. I’ve seen situations like this before but never had photos to show people. The owner of the nursery gave me permission to share these photos online. This hoop house was covered with plastic and Heated when this collapse happened. Yes, it was heated!
The pipes that this house was made of are one inch in diameter, steel pipe. Most people think that snow can’t possibly bring them down like this.
I’ve seen this happen before and usually when it happens dozens of houses all collapse on the same night. And they always look like this. What often happens is the plastic will usually stay pretty clear of snow, the snow slides right off. But if you get an unusual combination of winter weather events like freezing rain that clings to the plastic, then more snow that won’t slide off because the rain frozen to the plastic creates a rough surface that keeps the snow from sliding, then more snow or rain and all of a sudden it all comes crashing down.
If you have house like this that you are using as a greenhouse and have it heated and full of valuable plants that are leafed out and actively growing, not only do you lose your hoop house. But you can also lose tens of thousands of dollars worth of plants because the plastic tears and everything inside freezes.
That’s just one of the reasons that I don’t have a greenhouse. One less thing for me to worry about.
So anyway, if you live in snow country, don’t underestimate the power of Mother Nature.
“The pipes that this house was made of are one inch in diameter, steel pipe. ”
What *kind* of 1″ steel pipe? What schedule? Is it just EMT? Looks like it.
And what is that spacing? 5 feet? 4 at least. And no purlins!
No wonder they collapsed!
Years ago, in the early days of container growing and hoop houses growers typically used 1/2″ gas line on 4′ centers. But that proofed to be not enough. Today most houses are made of one inch form or rolled tubing with more engineering in the designs.
Mike you are an amazing man and I want to thank you for all you do. I am way up in the boonies of zone 2-3 so much of what you discuss won’t work for me, but you’ve been a huge help and inspiration. I am just getting a greenhouse built of 1 inch ( alternating with 1/2 inch) sucker rod spaced 3 or so feet apart and am not expecting to have any issues with the thing collapsing once it’s reinforced. It took a husky guy with a winch to draw the ends of the 1 inch together into a hoop shape and when we loosened the winch, the new poly rope had to be doubled, the single rope stretched about three feet!
If I could weld I’d weld the feet and then a line along each side and one at the top. Someone did this and could swing on the top of the rib without it deforming and he was using rebar which is softer and not nearly as strong.. But I’m going to have to settle with wired connections and a 2×6 base to hold things in place.
I’m trying to find steel barrels the I can half fill with water and run a circulating water line through from a wood stove, with the idea of tomatoes, peppers and basil growing in the top half of the barrels, as long as the water is kept from getting too hot. I’ve got some citrus plants and I want to get some figs and NO room in the house for them so a greenhouse is sort of the only choice.
I also raise fresh garden stuff in the winter under lights, saves a lot of money, better food. …and I don’t need freezer space for veggies.
But..I’d love to find a way to grow lavender cuttings and so forth, going to try raising some this winter.
In any case THANK YOU for being so giving of your experience and expertise. .
You are welcome and enjoy your new greenhouse. In your zone it will be like a tropical paradise come winter!
I like the idea for the clips. I found some for 40 cents each and was looking for alternatives when I came across this e-mail. Keep up the good work and thx for putting this out there.
Oh those pictures make me cringe. My sympathies go out to the owner.
I’m already familiar with the effects of freezing rain on plastic since we try to say ourselves some work and use it to cover our cars in that weather. It really does stick to it until you shake it off.
I had romanced the thought of a hoop house, but I bought some sturdy wire fencing, cut it up and used it to make mini hoop houses just the size of of my box beds. They kept the soil dry in the spring to make the ground ready earlier for tilling, but it isn’t long after planting and they have to come off because it got too hot in there! Replacing the plastic with some cheap tulle fabric may have saved me work on cabbage worm control, but wouldn’t you know it, the price of tulle went up so high in the nick of time. I passed and bought table salt instead.(Sprinkle some in the cabbage leaves controls the worms).
In the fall I thought I would try to extend my lettuces and replaced the mini-hoops. Our usual weather turns out to be too dark and dismal for too long and the lettuces gave up before the frosts covered the pumpkins. It did keep it warm in there on some days, but they also trapped the cold! It really isn’t much use to have a greenhouse, unless your working with large quantities, like you said. Ventilation is extremely important, as important as heat, so a greenhouse isn’t really labor free. It requires periodic checks through out the day and night every day. May as well fold up the tent when the snows come and spare the house damage. It will give you an earlier start in the spring. If you have our autumns, you will want to add lighting to extend the growing season. I think a large tub of water in the house might help keep temperature and humidity constant also during the autumn season change. (or) People also will compost right in their hoop and greenhouses to generate warmth. It takes a large pile to keep it actively generating heat and the corners are preferential for use against drafts, but I have no actual experience doing this.
Tim Weigel says
Thanks Mike-alot of insight to various senerios. I’m retired now/selling my home and getting alot of stimulation as well as inspiration from all the sharing.You have a great business;your real love for what you do for your “COMMUNITY ” is why you are so appreciated & “BLESSED”.
Thank you Donna, I appreciate that.
Carol Chapman says
I consider myself extremely lucky to have 2 greenhouses. They are sturdy and great showcases for my plants and experiments. However, come winter (I live in Idaho), I cannot afford to heat them and all the plants I propagated and grew are lost and I have to start all over again in the Spring. I move as manyu as I can inside my home, but this is getting old. Any suggestions as to heating inexpensively (someone even suggested having chickens live the the greenhouse as they produce heat! I do love to garden but since our growing season is less than 1/2 year, I really need help.
Thanks to any suggestions………
Paul Butcher says
The ends that are still standing represent support. With thought, it can be done in different ways.
If you worked in the industry you’d quickly realize why they are built the way they are. If you visit 500 nurseries you find thousands of these types of houses all constructed the same way. You have to be able to move around in these house quickly without support structures in your way. My point in posting this is that 99.99% of the time these houses hold up perfectly in the snow belt. But a lot of people are mislead into thinking that they can get away with PVC and other not so strong of structures.
I have built an maintain greenhouses for over 20 years in TX. Biggest problem I have is heat and shade. I have to use swamp coolers and 60% shade cloth in the summer. All large greenhouses need some center support. Mike is right about the fact that you don’t need one unless you are trying to grow annuals or your own seedlings.
I can’t even imagine how hot it gets in a hoop house in Texas. What is a swamp cooler?
Wikipedia: “An evaporative cooler (also swamp cooler, desert cooler, and wet air cooler) is a device that cools air through the evaporation of water.”
They are good for plants, but make the air feel like you are in the middle of a swamp, especially when the humidity outside is already high!
Thanks. Interesting. I can see where all of that humidity would be great for the plants, especially during the winter.
YOU CAN CONNECT TWO 10 FEET WIDE ONE INCH THICK PVC PIPE WITH I FEET ONE AND A HALF THICK PVC PIPE TO MAKE A HOOP 12 FEET WIDE. SCREWS WITH NUTS FOR CONNECTING THE PIPES,
A WOODEN SUPPORT IN THE MIDDLE AND SIDES WILL HAD HELP TO TAKE THE WEIGHT OF SNOW.
YOU CAN DOWN LOAD HOW TO MAKE A PVC PIPE HOOP HOUSE ONLINE.
OR DO A SEARCH ON YOUTUBE.
Simply put, the reason the hoop houses collapsed is because there were simply not enough of the hoops to carry the weight. The hoop interval should have been (minimum) half of what I saw in the pix, and 3/4″ would have sufficed. Additionally, installing another longitudinal about half way down either side would have done wonders for the strength.
Conduit is cheap enough that skimping on it is foolish economy, especially considering the value of what’s underneath the envelope.
Al Simpkins says
We have an older made Carport or Boat cover unit made from 1″ metal angle that is 9′ x 16′ x 7′ high with two wheels on one end so tahe it can be moved if needed.
We covered it with a free throw away white canopy which we rigged to roll up on the sides giving access to all the plants in containers on free wooden pallets in two rows inside and a 1 1/2′ walkway between them.
We call it our Biggie Hoop House! If you have access to a welder and other tools you can make your own.
I will takea photo of it if anyone is interested.
Al n Gary
I was going to put in a hoop house but seeing those pictures, I may change my design to something more sturdy. I live in Ohio also and the weather is crazy any time of the year, not just winter. Personally, I would never be happier anywhere else. But the weather can drive you nuts!
Shirley Sorenson says
I already bought a small greenhouse completed with a door abd roll up sides from Fleet Farm. But just got to thinking that it may blow away or get destroyed by snow. Why didn t I think of it ?
It cost me $189, oh dear. I cannot take it back, I bought it months ago.
Of course, ibwas really looking forward to it.
We still have bad weather (MN). It is going to be a challenge!
Anita Lueck says
I love your news letters. I can’t do much in the yard anymore but..I do a little and it keeps me going, and happy and your letters and friends keep me alert and happy.
Thank you for being there.
I have had two different ones . the one was 6 x 8 x 6 with PC pipe and when you put a tarp over the top of it with water jugs filled up with water inside of it . Even a 20 inch snow will not collaspe it. However sun rays will burn thru the plastic and kill it. My first one lasted 8 years. The second one the neighbor kid took a knife to it for fun and games after the second year. The third one I put up in the spring and take down in the fall so its still good but unharmed. I did put a 6X 4X3 perament greenhouse over the top of my raised bed that was 2.5 feet across and 22 feet long so one end of the raised bed I have my exotic herbs such as rosemary growing in there year around protected from our cold temperatures. For small plants I now have a cold frame small one that I use that so far been untouched by neighbors.
Snow is an insulator and the heat near the top of the greenhouse, away from the thermostat, may weaken those little tubes. Just a thought, but bottom line is the snow is plenty heavy and it can cave in metal roofs as well if they’re not supported well enough.
Henry Inglesby says
Will this happen with the small hoop houses that you reccomend us using to overwinter liners etc.?
I’ve never seen one of those mini hoop houses, http://www.freeplants.com/how-to-build-a-hoop-house.htm crushed by snow, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. All I know is that many growers still use them here in Ohio so their experience with them must be one of success.
Deb Rebel says
We were building PVC hoop way back already. Check the website link, to the one we built before our last move. We had 8″ or more of snow at once that would cave in the regular hoophouse style, as we wanted one that was lifted high enough to walk alongside a pond, and not have supports IN the water… we sold it when we moved, and we regret it yet. Now they sell snap on clips and such, we made this in the days before all that was available.
It didn’t cost that much more to add the rigid spine.
The greenhouse I built for myself I have not taken decent pictures of yet, but I used 16’x50″ ‘calf panels’ and literally wired it together, some 2×4 rectangles for center supports, and did almost all the work myself. It is 12’x16′ and ‘me high’ (5’5″ if I stand up, I can walk through the center supports. My 6′ hubby hits his head on the top panel and has to duck the supports. If I made it tall enough for him I lost a foot of width. I can reach every part of it to work on stuff, and still getting a few bugs out.
Theresa, I am very interested in your greenhouse. If you could send me a pictures, I would love to see it. I have always wanted a greenhouse, can’t get anyone to help me, I think I could build this one myself.
I’d like to see photos too. I am leary of not having extra supports. So ditto, send me photos too.
Lack of support in the middle Mike ! Those look like 1/2″ pipes maybe ? Just a few Tee’s of 2×4’s every few feet would of ‘Saved It’ ! Maybe Easy Fix though ! Yes, that Snow is Heavy..! Trust Me, I shovel enough myself !
The pipes are 1″ steel pipe. The whole idea of this type of structure is no upright supports so you can maneuver around inside. Many nurseries have a thousand or more houses like this that hold up year in and year out just fine. But every once in a while things happen. I posted this for those that think they can make it work with PVC or wire fence.
Mike;you are a great guy and you have a great plan, but with a bad back and age catching up on me I know I will not be able to handle it. You have never mentioned if your plan is feasible with hired help. I have 2.5 acres of land with sun shining all the time and a 2800 sq. ft house with electric, gas , water and sewer.The lot has sandy loamy soil and lots of top soil. If one of your members wants to move to atlanta and start the bussiness, I will bend over backwards with my bad back to shake hands with them.
Terry Thomas / Cinematographer says
I’m already in Atlanta. My problem is that the landlord has broken his promise. The house is on an acre of land yet I can only have a 2×8 foot garden. 🙂
Drop me an email.
hi Terry, glad to know you are in atlanta. email me at [email protected].
Pam Hester says
Guys, I am in McDonough, GA (South of the Airport). I am working on Mike’s plan on 2 acres (Including house area) I am disabled-so I am going slow. I just received several hundred azalea clippings that I am trying to get into hormone and peat now. Anybody with some extra time…Come on!
Mike, Thanks for all your help and encouragement! You rock!
You’ll get those azaleas stuck. I know you will!
I have terrible back problems but I still do what I do. If you were a member of our group you’d be amazed at the age of many of the people that are doing this successfully and the disabilities that they deal with to do this. It’s all about doing the amount that you can do. Forget about 2.5 acres. Think about 1/20th of an acre. You can do really, really well in an area that small. https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/03/how-to-make-65%C2%A2-per-square-inch-in-your-backyard/
I bought the system but have not done too much with it. I keep reading about the people with acres and I just have a house in the city with I think 1/5th of an acre. I am on disability as well with really bad knees. However, I do have green thumbs I am told. I grow tomatos, peppers, beans, onions, and lots of flowers. I don’t have a clue how or where to start.
of luck to everyone!