50% Shade Hoop House

Initial Setup

This year I hope to take a much harder swing at propagating cuttings, and to scale up my efforts, I’m bringing back the bones of the old hoop house I originally constructed 6 years ago. I’ll modify the design to provide shading from the sun rather than protection from cold. Instead of a clear plastic cover, I’ll use 50% shade cloth.

I had stored all of these water pipes in a bundle tucked into the corner of a shed, and when I pulled them out I had only minimal damage. A quick trip to the big box store with a mask over my face and I soon had all the parts I needed in my gloved hand.

I asked my wife, Kassy for help, and I was surprised how quick we got the basic structure in place. The frame consists of Schedule 40 1/2″ piping, so the first step was gluing them all together. After that, we secured them to a treated 2×4 with exterior screws. I should note the original iteration of the design lacked glue, and I believe that was one of the shortcomings of the design.

The raising of the hoop worked out better than I initially hooped. I asked Kassy to hold her foot down on one of the 2x4s while I picked up the center. I was able to slip between the pipes as I lifted, and when I started to lower it, I noticed it stayed in place really well. I must admit this was a really clever design mistake inherited from the original design. If you look closely at the place where the pipes connect to the 2×4 you will notice that they extend past it. When the structure was raised, they dug into the soil just enough to hold it into place. I really lucked out that time! The original hoop house had a 2×8 at the base, and I just re-used most of the pre-drilled holes.

Basic Hoop Structure + Tin sides

Next up, I added two pieces of tin commonly used on metal roofs. You may be asking why? Well, the shade cloth I bought was 18′ X 12′ and the area I needed to cover was about 20′ x 12′. I also had a hunch that the metal would help stiffen the structure, again thinking about the last version that failed. Before attaching the metal I drove four boards about 3 feet into the ground on each corner.

Shade Cloth installed

The shade cloth was a breeze to add. We used zip ties to hold it in place while deciding what to do for the ends of the building.

The only straight part of the picture is the pole in the center.

I chose the location of this hoop house because it was far out of sight of the house. I thought about leveling the soil with the tractor but I’ve learned all too well what sort of mess that would make. Freshly worked soil turns into a muddy mess that adds pounds of mud to your boots, not something I cared to venture into. I compromised by leaving the building on a fairly decent slope, which is only terribly noticeable when I leveled the support shown above.

I settled on using a tarp to block sunlight on the edges, and initially, I just folded over the excess so I could re-use the tarps later. After considering the number of snakes that we see in the yard and imagining how much they would love to hang out in a folded over tarp, I opted to trim off the excess!

Front side with a tarp door.

So there it is, a 50% shaded hoop house. In June I’ll stock this with hundreds, perhaps thousands of cuttings ranging from elderberries and blueberries to rhododendrons and azalea. I’ve already begun running water lines, and I have an automated sprinkling system that will be added next.

Two rhododendrons from last year’s cutting trials

After finishing the hoop house, I decided to check on last year’s trails. I was having good luck till nearly the end of last summer when I thought all of my cuttings had died. I was quite surprised to see growth this spring on 14 of the cuttings even after I had given up on them!

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