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.
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.
Do you extend your season? What is your favourite structure for the winter garden?