Anthony Flacavento led a very popular Hoop House Demonstration Monday September 30th 2013 at the Bill Smith Farm. The workshop was sponsored by the NCSU Extension Service and Blue Ridge Seeds of Change. Alleghany High School Students attended as well as interested people from Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Grayson Counties.
A hoop house is a low cost structure, similar to a greenhouse, but shorter in height and without heating or cooling capacity that still offers a means of extending both ends of the growing season. The 96×14 foot hoop house cost about $800 in Sept of 2013. Construction started about 9am and was completed by 3 pm. A group of almost 20 people assisted throughout the day.
Cold tolerant crops inside the house can withstand outside temperatures in the mid twenties. Adding a layer of row cover inside the house can add another few degrees of protection. Anthony usually plants transplants of tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons in mid March and starts harvesting in early June. He cautioned that those plants should already be hardened off before planting and it’s best to wait if very cold weather is predicted. Early crops usually bring premium prices. The hoop house can also offer late blight protection, which was a real benefit this year.
There are a few challenges to growing under cover: you must provide irrigation for all your crops and pollination for others. Tomatoes only require occasional shaking while in bloom to spread pollen, but Anthony recommends placing a hive of bumblebees in the house in early spring for squash and melons. They tolerate the cool weather better than honey bees.
Shay Smith will be growing in the hoop house this fall. He plans to grow carrots and radishes, both cold tolerant crops that grow well in fall.