Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beware: Messy Hoop House Tour

hoop house
It's been a while since I've given an update on the hoop house. Some of you may have been wondering whether or not it was still standing. I'm glad to say that it has in fact endured the terrible winter and the 90+ inches of snow that fell. One of the arches has stuck deeper into the ground and now dips lower than the rest but I'm sure I'll be able to correct that later this summer. As far as my short term plans for the hoop house are concerned, I hope to transplant all of my spring greens into it this weekend. By May, I will probably remove the cheap plastic covering and replace it this fall with the more durable and transparent professional greenhouse plastic that I purchased last November. Hopefully the professional stuff will work out even better next winter.

Anyway, here's a mini-tour of my messy hoop house:

spring hoop house 1
It's not very pretty is it? I need to lay down a fresh layer of straw and clear out several of the beds. If you look closely, you can see that my spinach bed (front right) has been ravaged by voles.

spring hoop house 2
The voles haven't done too much damage to this particular bed. The mizuna has come back to life and the lettuces are beginning to grow again.

The claytonia has changed dramatically since I last saw it. The leaves have become much more succulent and there seems to be enough for several salads. I wonder when it will produce it's characteristic heart-shaped leaves with a flower protruding from the center.

Overwintered Kale
The Red Russian kale has made it through the winter without any problem as expected. The voles haves stripped many of the leaves, leaving the purple stems behind to rot on the ground.

Mr. Pippin
I was also glad to see my friend Mr. Pippin again. Here he is among the kale trees.

spring hoop house 3
Here's another bed of lettuce and mache. If you look closely, you can see some half eaten leaves on the right. (Those darn voles!) Eventually, the greens will be cleared out and I will grow all of my perennial herbs here.

sage and thyme
Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, I'm sure the sage will rebound quickly. Thyme (left) has to be one of the hardiest herbs there is. By the looks of it, a dramatic haircut is in order.

Overwintered Tuscan Kale
Tuscan (Lacinato, Dinasaur) kale is less cold hardy than other varieties but this one appears to have made it through the winter. Interestingly, it's starting to branch out. It's unfortunate that I have to rip it out now.

dead kale
Out with the old and in with the new. Spring cleaning, gardener-style.


  1. Messy? I think it looks great. With all the snow you had I can't believe how much green I see in the hoop house. Nice job!

  2. Thomas I would not call that messy!! I think that Mr. Pippin has been cleaning up over the winter. He does need to do a better job chasing the voles away though! Everything looks good to me!

  3. I agree that there's no mess! And I'm also really impressed at how everything looks after such a long and harsh winter. How did you keep everything watered though? Do you water when it snows? I'm in a subtropical climate, I have no idea when it comes to snow.

  4. Ali - I don't water in the winter at all. Our ground is so saturated during the winter months that the water just seeps into the hoop house. The rest of the garden is basically mud at this point. It's just moist enough inside.

  5. Thomas, when we lived in our townhouse we had SUCH a vole problem. Our plants would literally be SUCKED down into the soil. I actually saw it happen in front of me--I thought I was in some sort of cartoon. And it happened to EVERYTHING I planted, I was ready to bomb our postage stamp. When we moved to our new house and were able to have raised beds, we stapled 1/4" hardware cloth to the bottom of the beds to prevent burrowing animals. Since the first few beds were installed, we haven't had to do this to any subsequent beds we've made. Voles really don't come above ground so if you installed a worthy barrier to the bottom of the bed, that would stop them (landscape fabric won't work). Good luck. Anna in MD.

  6. Well you're just crazy, Thomas - it looks fantastic! Hope things melt quickly for you and you get some great weather moving in soon.

  7. Everything looks tidy and neat - just a little vole abused in some areas. Even those crops are certainly not destroyed. The hoophouse held up admirably and is doing a great job based on the health and vigor of the residents inside.

  8. I am so impressed! Definitely not messy, it looks beautiful to me. You do have a lot of greens to eat, and those yummy baby kale leaves taste great you know)). The Claytonia looks fantastic, as does everything!

  9. I think that photo looks wonderful. I see no mess at all. A few dead leaves maybe but that is it. Much better than my garden wasteland.

  10. Looks like you have quite a bit to eat there- nice that the voles left you a little ;). I'd put some hardware cloth on the bottom of the beds- and make them deeper- darn varmints! When I finally expand into the field next door- I'll have to remember to do this! I'm growing claytonia for the first time this year, can't wait to taste it. I was sad to see Johnny's does not have minutina any longer- where did you purchase yours?

    Happy spring!

  11. I think the hoop house looks fabulous! Can't wait to see the progress going forward. That is a huge hoop house!

  12. If you think that is messy you shpuld see my greenhuse here in the UK. I have broken glass all over the place and all the crops have bee killed off by the bad weather (not as bad as you have but for us very bad).

  13. I think your hoop house is you remove the plastic in summer or is it primarily for use during spring/fall?

  14. I have to agree with the group. Your hoop house is disgustingly tidy. And what a fantastic jump start to the growing season. Much jealousy here right now.

  15. Not messy you crazy man, fabulous! I just love that you have all this yummy stuff growing out there, you manage to accomplish so much in that garden Thomas.

  16. Oh the heady delights of a hoophouse!! Gorgeous photos and so informative.. what a beautiful place.. we still have kale tucked under our mini hoop houses, but I really need to upgrade to one of these.. not only could I increase our winter space, but it's also a cozy place to flip through seed catalogues!!

    On another note.. did you still want to be part of the book in regards to a garden profile. I need to have it done within the week.. can you please e-mail me either way at


  17. The hoop house looks great. I don't see messy at all :) You've got a lot growing in there, even with the dang vole problem.

    I love Mr. Pippin.

  18. I hope you ate those dinosaur kale leaves you tore out! Some of those looked delicious--a friend gave me some of those baked after being coated with olive oil, and now I'm craving dinosaur kale. I'm going to have to plant some this year. :)