Techniques for Extending the Growing Season: Greenhouses & Hoophouses

Techniques for Extending Your Growing Season: Greenhouses & Hoophouses

This series offers  some common techniques that you can use to try to extend your growing season. Most of the methods help your soil stay warmer and protect your plants from harsh, cold winds. These techniques can be adopted one at a time, or you can use more than one  simultaneously to try to achieve more success. When these practices are added on to others, they can have an even more protective effect. Keep reading for tips related to greenhouses and hoophouses.

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Having a greenhouse will allow you to start growing plants earlier in the spring, and to keep growing plants through the late fall, or later than you would, given your region’s climate. If you live in a very cold area, greenhouses may be necessary to grow summer crops. On the flip side, if you live in a relatively temperate area, greenhouses can allow you to grow cold-hardy vegetables through the winter as well. There are two types of greenhouses: free-standing or attached to another structure.  

If you decide to build or buy a kit for a free-standing greenhouse, you will need to figure out how to heat it. This guidewill take you through what options you have for heating your greenhouse cheaply, while this guide goes through other suggestions. Even if your greenhouse is attached to another structure like a shed or the side of a school building, you may still want to buy heating materials for your plants just in case, especially for more cold-sensitive or tender crops. Other materials you can use are containers for plants, shade curtains, and an automatic vent that can open your greenhouse when it gets to a certain temperature. You will also need to figure out how you are going to water the plants in your greenhouse.

If you want to invest in a greenhouse for your garden, here is a guide on the basics. This article goes through the advantages of adding a greenhouse to your school garden.

A hoophouse is just a simpler and cheaper greenhouse. These structures are very common, and can be built in many different ways depending on what works for your garden. Like a greenhouse, they can help you get started on planting earlier in the spring and allow you to continue planting later in the fall. 

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 If you do decide to build a hoophouse for your school garden, you’ll need to install irrigation unless you want to water it on a regular basis, and you will need to have a system to ventilate it on warm days. This guide takes you through some of the benefits to installing hoophouse(s) in your garden, and this publication gives some information on basics, maintenance, care, and effective utilization of the hoophouse(s). 

The University of Maine extension office has a good tutorial on building hoophouses right onto raised beds. The video is here and the plans for the raised bed and hoophouse together are here

This article goes through some basic information that will be helpful to know as you make decisions about what season extenders will be best for your school’s garden.