For years, I’ve relied on my PVC mini hoop tunnels to shelter the crops in my winter garden. Typically, my beds are filled with hardy veggies like kale, tatsoi, spinach, mizuna, and leeks. The PVC hoops have worked well, but after last winter’s snowmageddon, when my garden had more than 8-feet of snow, I worried that the plastic hoops would flatten like pancakes. Amazingly, most came through unscathed, but it reminded me that I should continue to test and trial other types of structures to make sure that my winter garden has the best possible protection. Therefore, I spent the weekend making metal hoops using my new Johnny’s Quick Hoops™ Bender.
Mini hoops for a winter garden:
There are different types of Quick Hoops Benders, but this one makes hoops for 4 foot wide by 4 foot tall low tunnels. This fits my 4 by 10 foot beds perfectly and allows ample room to shelter mature kale, collards, leeks, and other tall crops. The bender comes with a lever bar and lag screws for securing the bender to a solid surface like a picnic table, work bench, or in my case, a heavy log. It may not have been ideal, but it worked like a charm.
To make the hoops, I needed 10 foot lengths of 1/2 inch diameter galvanized electrical conduit (EMT), which was easily sourced at my local hardware store for $4.00 each. According to the instruction manual, I could also use 3/4 inch or 1 inch diameter conduit if I wanted stronger hoops for the ends of the tunnels. However, where my tunnels are only 10 feet long, I didn’t bother, and stuck to the 1/2 inch conduit.
Related Post: Overwintered crops
The instruction manual is more of a pamphlet – but wonderfully illustrated with photos that explain each step. Perfect for non-handy gardeners like me. It promised that the hoops would be very quick to make – about one minute each, and after making the first one (and checking and re-checking with the instructions several times), I was able to make five more in mere minutes! (Side note – It’s really fun to bend metal).
I immediately took three of my new hoops up to the garden and placed them over a bed I had just seeded with cold tolerant salad greens. The late germinating plants will overwinter and give me a homegrown harvest of arugula, mizuna, and baby kale for March harvesting. For now, I will cover the hoops with a medium weight row cover, but once the temperatures drop in late autumn I will replace that with a length of greenhouse plastic.
Related Post: 5 things a fall and winter veggie gardener should do now
Do you extend your season? What is your favourite structure for the winter garden?
Glynis Thomas says
NICE! Will you be running another length of metal across the top to secure the hoops together (prevent racking)? Or will the greenhouse plastic hold it all in place? And last but not least will you secure the plastic to the metal hoops? Cheers Glynis … P.S. Tomatoes grew like weeds this year and apparently didn’t read their packaging as to being medium sized. Compost, mulch and perfect weather. They won’t overwinter but their seeds will pop-up early in the road covers.
Niki Jabbour says
Hey Glynis.. I first used these last winter and I didn’t run a piece of metal/wood across the top.. and had no issue with racking.. but this year, I think I will. Last winter wasn’t very snow heavy, so I may have just gotten lucky. It only takes a few min to install the top piece and it’s a nice bit of insurance. Thanks for the pic – awesome!! I was still picking tomatoes a few days ago.. crazy!! Love those squash too.. what type? They look like kuri in shape, but so orange in colour.. Thanks again! Niki
Thomas Brophy says
Read your post for first time, but will definitely be following, and buying book. I, too, have been using both pvc and 1/2 in conduit for tunnels, though not doing multi-seasonal planting/ harvesting as you do. I’m wondering how you attach the bottoms to the raised-bed frame? Also, whether there are preformed fittings to attach the top support? I have used wire, but it’s somewhat messy. At the bottoms I have used iron rebar spikes driven into the ground, and slipped the conduit over protruding portion, and alternatively, perforated galvanized pipe hanger screwed to the wooden frame. Keep up the great work to motivate those of us, like me, who tend to slump in the winter.
Niki Jabbour says
Hi Thomas.. great questions.. with my garden renovation this past spring, I have more raised beds than I used to and my 1-foot rebar spikes are unnecessary. So far, I’ve tested several items for my raised bed mini hoops.. 1) I just use the structure of the bed to hold the hoops steady – I bend the metal hoop so that it fits inside of the bed with the hoops pressing out against the bed frame. Very sturdy. 2) I have screwed u-brackets to the outside of the bed – 2 for each hoop side, so really 4 per hoop. With this, the hoop is on the outside of the frame. You could also use a u-bracket with #1 above on the inside of the frame to hold the hoops extra securely. 3) I’m planning to do a few of these in the next week or so – attach a 10 inch length of 2 inch PVC pipe to the outside of the bed to act as a holder for the metal hoop base. I have done this in the past with very good results.. Hope that helps!! And I hope you keep extending your season so that you can harvest well into winter! 🙂
I’m getting ready to buy or borrow a hoop bender for my raised bed garden in Kelowna, BC. I’ve built six 4x8x12 raised beds, and see in this last comment you made on your post that you had tried a few different methods for securing the hoops to your raised beds. Have you found one method that you prefer over others?
Niki Jabbour says
Wonderful! You can just insert the hoops into the soil and let the sides of the beds hold them in place. For winter I would add a centre support to help shed snow. Or you can get U-brackets to screw into the wooden beds and help keep the hoops in place. That works well. Good luck! 🙂 – Niki
Sarah Putnam says
Hi Niki, last winter i used a ready made hoop tunnel made with steel wire hoops with greenhouse plastic attached. Worked pretty well. But in Massachusetts, I wanted to create something with a bit more structure. Some YouTube gardeners use concrete reinforcing mesh that you bend to the arched shape you want. Have you ever tried it? My beds are smallish: 2’x8′, and 3’x5′.. ..