A Simple, Effective way to Protect your Garden
Grow tunnels, aka Hoop Houses or Row Covers, are brilliant!
Why? Grow Tunnels are a cheap and easy way to protect your garden investment and bring it to the next level. You can extend your growing season in either direction by a month or more. It provides shade from the boiling sun (especially beneficial for more fragile crops like greens and leafy herbs). Acts as a wind break in a storm. And they protect your garden from all sorts of pests - deer, birds, flea beetles, slugs..
If you have raised beds you can mount this directly into the frame. If you have a ground plot you can build freestanding hoop frames and the anchor into the ground, or build a wood frame around the section you want cover and mount the hoops on to that.
All supply measurements and amounts vary depending on the growing space you are covering. But this is the universal supply list, and I will share an example build so that you can scale it to your size.
- ½ inch pvc pipe ($2.20 per 10’ long pipe)
- ½ inch conduit strap ($4.30 per 25 pack)
- Zip ties ($7.40 per 100 pack)
- ½” standard electrical clamps (plastic) ($2.60 per 5 pack)
- Row cover - plastic sheeting, bird netting, mosquito netting, or floating row cover (agfabric) (floating row cover = $24 for 10’x50’)
Tools Needed: Drill, saw
Our supplies for (1) raised bed sized 4’ x 16’
(5) 10’ long ½" diameter PVC pipes = $11.00
(1) ½" pvc connector = $0.50
(6) ½" Conduit strap with screws = $1.50
(6) zip ties = $0.50
(30) Clamps = $10
Cover cloth (dependent on season/need, pictured is floating row cover) = $12
Total Cost = $35
You will be creating a hoop at either end and in the center. Make sure to place a hoop with no more than 8 feet between them, otherwise it will be inadequate support for the cover.
- Take one pipe and bend it so that it is forming an upside down U with either end sunk about 6 inches into the ground inside of your raised bed frame. The hoop will stand at about 3 feet tall.
- Use the drill to mount the pipe onto the frame using U clamps (*as pictured*)
- Repeat this in the center of your raised bed and at the other end.
- With the remaining two pipes you will create a spine at the top point of the hoops. This will connect your three hoops and create a frame for your netting or plastic to drape. Do this by messing the length needed and cutting one of the pipes down to equal this length (for example: we cut 4’ off of one pipe so that we had 16’ total length). Then connect the two pipes together with connector piece.
- With the help of a second person, lay this across the top of the hoops and attach to each one using zip ties. Create an X around the hoop pipe and spine pipe (*as pictured*).
There! Your frame is now complete!
Now, you are able to cover the hoops with the netting or plastic of your choosing. This creates a “tunnel”!
Attach your cover (bird netting, shade cloth, plastic..) by using the ½” to ¾” clips.
Cut down pieces of the cover that will cover the ends of the tunnels (~ 4'x4') and clip them on as “permanent” fixtures for the season. That way you don’t have to cover, uncover, and recover the ends every time you go in the garden (which is everyday).
Then clip on the top cover. Just clip this over top of the end cloth and on the center hoop. Then clip it about every two feet along the top/spine. This leaves for about 15 clips to do/undo everyday when we want to access the garden. About a 3 minute ordeal for each raised bed.
We throw a few large rocks at the ground edges to securely hold down the netting. I know some others use ground staples to do so. And some don't feel the need to secure the bottom with anything. Whatever you think is best, though I highly suggest anchors if your trying to keep small pests away, like beetles.
During the growing season we use a Floating Row Cover cloth over all of our garden rows. We choose one that allows for about 80% light transfer and water to pass through. This takes care of many concerns; pest and animal control, shade from the blazing summer heat, wind protection in the windy evening t-storms, and it minimizes weed seeds from blowing in and populating. And at the begining of the growing season it maintains warmth and moisture for ideal seed germination. The netting that we are using is a **weight and cost us $xx for a 100’ x 10’ roll.
At the end of the growing season we will cover with plastic to extend the growing season a month or more past our last frost date.
I hope that this helps your garden grow!