Hoop House

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Growing in a hoop house is new to me, so I’m still learning.

Everything looks great, and it’s nice to work without having to slosh in the mud produced by 4.5 inches of rain this week.

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I’ve been dealing with the effects of two mistakes this week–one minor and easily remedied, the other more challenging.

The first was not realizing that pollinators hadn’t discovered the zucchini blooms. I’ve been lowering the side curtains and raising the garage door (when it wasn’t pouring down rain), and have just been assuming the bees were doing their work. But little shriveled up zukes prove that pollination didn’t occur, something I could easily verify by looking for bees in the morning and seeing none.

So lately I’ve added a new task to my regular morning chores–hand pollinating the zukes. This is done by removing a male flower and brushing the anther (the male squash part) against the stigma (the female squash part) inside the female flower. The pollen on the anther is sticky and comes off when touched. Normally it sticks to the legs of foraging bees, who pollinate the female flowers when walking around on them. Until the bees get to work, I’ll have to do it by hand.

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A male flower

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A female flower. Β The females have little zukes beneath the flower, while the males have long stems and no fruit.

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This little zuke didn’t get pollinated. Bad farmer.

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Healthy and pollinated. Almost ready to pick.

The other problem is entirely my fault. I didn’t grade the pad when we built the hoop house, so the ground isn’t entirely level. I measured to confirm that it was within the allowed tolerances for the building, but didn’t consider that during heavy rains water would seep under the house as it slopes downhill. Consequently the northernmost row gets soaked from beneath during hard rains, producing lots of grass and weeds. I’m sure there is a solution to this, but I haven’t taken the time to work on it yet.

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The first row is soggy and grassy. We’re growing a bush Roma called Roma II–a flat and tasty green bean. Our favorite. We have some growing outside too.

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The October beans at the other end of the house look much better. Called October beans around here, this is a very old variety with several other names. Some may know them as Taylor beans, speckled bays, cranberry beans or “dwarf horticultural” beans.

In the hoop house this summer we’re growing 3 varieties of tomato, green beans, zucchini, delicata squash and October beans. I expect we’ll always grow some tomatoes in the house–the other items are experiments as we try to figure out what other veggies make the most sense in there.

Time now to pick for market. This week we’ll have onions, beets, lettuce, tatsoi, collards, kale, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, turnips and Swiss chard. It’s a great time of year.

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30 comments on “Hoop House

  1. Ed says:

    Perhaps if you don’t already, you need to raise a few hives of bees nearby. My parents were beekeepers back in the day before CCD was around. Times have changed quite a bit since.

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    • Bill says:

      We keep bees. They just haven’t discovered the hoop house yet. Hopefully because our clover is doing so well. When we started keeping bees it was the simplest thing on the farm. Now it’s hard to keep them alive. I just read that 1/3 of the hives in the US died last year. Just crazy.

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  2. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, hoop house growing has many different challenges from open ground growing. Some day I want to experiment with a makeshift hoop house. Basically my thought is to build a portage structure over the top of two raised beds in the garden. But that’s way off in the future and may never happen. I still have the inside wire fence to build around half of Terra Nova Gardens. The fourth section of Terra Nova Gardens will take a couple years to develop. That’s where the shed and small patio will be built. I have many years of plans in my head for future garden projects. People think I’m strange working so hard in retirement when I don’t need to. And yet they pay tons of money for fitness programs and weight loss programs that I get for free in the garden. Who’s strange now? πŸ™‚

    Have a great day in the hoop house and at the farmer’s market.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. valbjerke says:

    You might consider mason bees for your hoop house. They are strictly pollinators and don’t sting. In the fall you take the cocoons out of the mason bee house and store them until spring. Actually just google it – they’re a popular effective way to pollinate the garden. Most garden centers (up here anyway) carry the kits, books, and bees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Interesting. Will consider that if the problem persists. My guess is that a bee is going to discover the blooms soon and pass the word along to their colleagues. I saw some sweat bees in there yesterday so that gives me hope. Also found a rabbit in there last night. That wasn’t a welcome discovery.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michelle says:

    Now I know; I’ve had unpollinated zukes in the past!

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  5. Phuong says:

    That’s amazing that you’re already getting blooms on your squashes and bush beans. I wasn’t able to plant anything until a couple of weeks ago due to the unending rain so it’ll be awhile for us.

    That’ll be fun, all the experimenting that you’re going to get to do. I’ve noticed lots of people grow cucumbers, peppers, as well as tomatoes and early or late lettuces in their hoop houses or greenhouses. I bet that will be great way to keep away squash bugs and vine borers.

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    • Bill says:

      No such luck on the squash bugs. We found them infesting the squash and zukes last evening. The bees may have trouble finding the hoop house, but the squash bugs haven’t.

      We planted 3 weeks earlier than our outside plantings. Next year I may try 4 or 5 weeks. The tomatoes are blooming too. πŸ™‚

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  6. Joanna says:

    We have a ditch around our greenhouse to ensure the rain moves away from the greenhouse. Some is good but sinking in mud inside is not ideal πŸ™‚ Been there, done that!

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    • Bill says:

      I have a ditch too and it seems to be carrying the runoff fine. But we’re getting so much seepage from underground that it’s soaking the first row. Maybe because our soil is clay. Hopefully will improve once we get a good ground cover alongside the house.

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  7. BeeHappee says:

    Send us some of that rain, please. We had one short sprinkle over the last 3 months. What are your favorite things of hoophouse growing?

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    • Bill says:

      But you’re living in the desert. πŸ™‚

      It’s nice to be able to work in “the garden” even when it’s pouring rain. I also like the fact that this will be entirely no till. So far so good, but I’m sure more rookie mistakes are on the way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        It must sound beautiful, that sound of rain, while in the hoophouse. Greenhouses are really magical to me. My grandma had two tiny ones, so small, that tomatoes would reach the roof, and we felt like in the jungle in there, and would hide while we played, probably pollinated plants unknowingly like bees … We would need to stoop over to enter through the door. Nothing like yours. πŸ™‚ Her greenhouse was square frames with plastic stretched over, and my parents splurged on the glass one. Early spring plantings in the greenhouse and the warm moist tomato smell in summer are magical! Good thing, after you use those male flowers for the noble purpose, you can then eat them. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Dani says:

    If we don’t care for the bees, hand polinating may well be in EVERYONES futures…

    Maybe consider lasagna mulching in your northern most bed until the weeds / grass is a thing of the past? Just make the bottom layer a really good, THICK layer of newspaper / cardboard to prevent the grass / weeds from growing through. That should stil allow you use of the bed in the meantime.

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    • Bill says:

      Good idea. I’m hoping that if I keep plucking up every blade of grass and not letting anything go to seed we’ll eventually be grass and weed free. As soon as these beans are harvested I will put a thick layer of compost on that bed, which should help too.

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  9. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, this posting was especially interesting to me, as I sometimes read articles about hoop houses for growing veggies. Yours added the pollination information and that was all new to me. How did you know about that? Was it from reading something, or did you just figure it out? Amazing! Peace.

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  10. Norma Chang says:

    How wonderful to have a hoop house, now you will have an extended growing season. Will it be possible to have a year round growing season? Hope your bees find the hoop house real soon.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Norma. We had it installed late last fall and grew a beautiful and delicious crop of spinach in it over the winter. Still having trouble with pollination in there so my squash experiment may turn out to be a failure.

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  11. Wonderful Bill… we call them Poly-tunnels… And some have them on the allotments and they don’t half keep the heat in.. πŸ™‚
    And our courgettes have flowers on them already too.. The beans are looking Good.. In fact everything is looking Good.. πŸ™‚

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  12. Not having time to pollinate our early zukes and cukes, I sprung for parthenocarpic (self-pollinating like many other plants) seeds from Johnny’s of both this year for early and late crops in the greenhouse. Supposedly they are supposed to be resistant to cucumber beetle too? Not a worry here in Oregon, but interesting for sure. The seeds are a little spendy but not really when you compare the yield to purchasing organic shipped in squash from California in the off-season.

    More info:
    http://parkseed.com/partenon-hybrid-squash-seeds/p/52518-PK-P1/

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    • Bill says:

      Thank you! I am really glad you shared this. I didn’t know about parthenocarpic squash. That would be the solution. Researching further I see that my problem may not be the absence of pollinators, but rather the heat inside the tunnel. According to the Park Seed page zukes won’t pollinate at temps over 90 degrees and inside our tunnel is usually much hotter than that. That’s probably the reason but also can be worked around with the parthenocarpic seeds.

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  13. avwalters says:

    Over 90 degrees! Oh my! It’s a sweatshop for veggies. We’re just starting the gardening season here. Most of it’s in. Our long days, in part, make up for the short season.

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    • Bill says:

      I know that must feel good after a long dark winter. This is the time of year when we go from 5 till after 9 here. I do love the long days, but I’m already looking forward to the quieter rest of winter.

      Hoping your garden produces abundantly!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Candace says:

    Impressive structure. Greenhouses fascinate me, for some reason.

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