If you are considering a hoophouse, you may be wondering what happens all winter in one of these structures. Eliot Coleman calls these structures ‘cold houses’. So often we think of a heated greenhouse or a ‘hothouse’. A cold house uses nothing for heat. It only relies on the addition of the floating row cover suspended over the cold hardy plants.
Depending on how severe the winter, things can be pretty frozen. The small plants that I have growing just freeze and thaw with the temperatures. If we have a few nice warm days, I cut some greens. In the beginning I used to fret over the temps night and day. I had a thermometer with a min/max feature and I would be checking it constantly. Then I gradually began to learn that with this system of growing, things usually survive.
I have one garden that I covered in some plastic tubing and covered with plastic. It gets crushed under a snow load but it has worked fine. This setup has done better than my hoophouse this year. This winter has been pretty mild so between snowstorms the snow has melted away a few times. When I can, I take the cover off and check on my babies. In the photo below you can see my disheveled mini hoop. In the background sits last years slapped together structure that my husband put up.
So what is involved in winter maintenance? The hoophouse can take quite a lot of weight but I like to get as much snow off as possible. For this task I use a foam scraper meant to clean off a car. Your can pick one up at your local auto parts store. I really recommend this especially if you have a gamble style. Using this tool prevents unnecessary damage to the costly greenhouse plastic. I think I’m on my seventh winter with this plastic. I get a lot of the snow off, then when the sun comes out the rest will usually fall off. I then shovel a path along each side, scooping away from the plastic with a shovel so as not to rip the plastic. It only takes a few minutes and keeps the weight off of the house. We also took notched 2×4’s and put them inside under the center pole. We have found this helps with the snow load too.
It’s a good idea to check on things every few days. The other day my mousetrap went missing and I only found it a few days later under the row cover. I wonder who did that? Yes, in winter, mice, moles and voles can eat up all of your precious plants if you aren’t on top of it.
I also noticed how dry the soil was. Since it was quite warm out I decided to water the salad greens. Now if it had been freezing out I would have waited but it seemed to need it. I sometimes shovel some snow onto the rocks just to add a little moisture. This winter I have two empty beds so I added some snow to the top of those beds. The snow just melts into the dirt. It may sound like a crazy idea but it doesn’t harm anything.
Winter maintenance tasks are minimal but these are the things that I try to do. Are you thinking about getting a hoophouse? Do you already have one? I’d love to hear about how it’s going and any of your winter tips! Also, visit my other blog posts on season extension below. Thanks for checking out my blog! You can follow me by subscribing in sidebar and please leave a comment. For more on season extension please visit the posts Project Greenhouse and Self-proclaimed Salad Green Queen.
Winter reading and reference: The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman.