Quite a while back we asked for input on Facebook from everyone to see what YOU would do if you were out here on the farm... the question was - would you buy a JD Gator or would you buy a greenhouse? The results were split 50/50 so we knew we needed to make both happen. As you know - the Gator transaction was completed a while back... As for the green house / hoop house... well, construction started this weekend. The process is actually very straightforward and we are moving through the steps at a pretty rapid pace. Basically we bend all the tubing we need for the hoops, we pound some slightly larger diameter tubes about 4 feet into the ground, screw the arches together and slip the arches into the tubes. We start with standard line posts for a chain link fence and cut them into 4' lengths with a metal cutting blade on the 12" chop saw.
The tools for pounding the tubes into the ground are pretty simple and with the ground being so wet right now the process is actually pretty easy. First we marked off the house with string in a 12' x 28' rectangle. Then using a mallet the post gets pounded about 6" into the ground. The level and the big post driver help get it father down and straight too. The last 6" takes a sledge hammer... that tends to round over the top of the pipe in the ground but as long as the 1 3/8" pipes for the hoops fit we are OK. If the opening gets too small, we use a bar to pry open the rolled metal. Very simple process actually.
To bend the tubes we mounted a 3/4" sheet of plywood on the back of our Gator and then mounted the tubing bender to that. Then it's a little elbow grease and a lot of back pulling to make the straight tubes that were bought at Home Depot for chin link fencing into the curved halves of the hoop structure. Once we got the mechanics worked out I can feed and bend and Kelli can pull and keep the tube flat. It takes about 30 seconds to bend half a hoop.
After bending the tubes Kelli removes them from the opposite end of the device and then stacks them in the barn. The ends are painted to match the corresponding other half of the arch so when they go out to the field we know which ones go together. To build this particular structure we need 28' of support which is one arch every 4'... so that's 7 arches, plus one for the end... and 2 bars per arch... calculator says... 16 total tubes bent.
The last step is the most rewarding... inserting the ends of the arches into the tube in the ground. The arch (or hoop - that's why they call these a hoophouse) measures about 14' wide when it's not flexed so we "squeeze it" down to 12' to make the hoop house structure. The insertion of these hoops under tension adds a great deal of strength to the finished structure.
As it sits now you can see we installed a single hoop mainly to feel good about our efforts... but to the left of the picture you see a whole bunch of pipes laying in the weeds waiting to be driven into the ground so we can attach more hoops. We still need to build the base around the hoops out of some pressure treated 2x8 lumber, install a support along the spine of the structure, build some ends and then finally install the plastic... that's ALL. :)