July 17, 2022

Liberating the Hoop House

My last garden project before picking and processing kicked into high gear was liberating the hoop house.

Left untended, the hoop house became an overgrown mess.

Our hoop house is one of those things that never quite lived up to my expectations. Originally, I covered it with poly sheeting in the hope of extending my fall growing season. But our winters have too many warm days which made the hoop house downright hot under the plastic. Everything bolted. Next, I tried covering it with shade cloth to extend my spring garden. That worked better, except one of our cats liked to use the fabric to climb his way to the top of the hoop house. Nice view, but he tore it with his claws.

Couldn't even tell there were raised beds in there, could you?

Eventually, I decided to use the hoop house for perennials. Some of these are reputed to become invasive, but with my raised box beds, I have a better chance of keeping them under control. To offer a little shade from our scorching summer sun, I planted vining ground nuts to cover the hoop house. That worked even better. (You can see pictures of all my experiments here.)

I used the pulled weeds as chop-and-drop mulch on bare spots in the pasture.

Neglect, however, has a way of making one wish they'd been more diligent with a project. Hence, the hoop house turned into a jungle. I've finally been able to tackle that job, and put my hoop house in order.

I only work in the garden in the morning (before it gets
too hot), so this job was spread out over several days.

Most of what I cleared out were volunteer cherry tomatoes, bindweed (unwanted morning glories) wild lettuce, lambs quarter, sheep sorrel, and wiregrass. Some of those are useful edibles, but they were out of control and shading out things that I want growing. I had to think twice before pulling the tomatoes (because I have a soft spot for volunteers) but Matt's Cherry Tomatoes are very prolific at volunteering, and I have more than I can keep up with anyway. So, with some regret, they got pulled.

After clearing out the jungle, everything got a
good watering, a dose of compost, and mulch.

I made some discoveries as I worked on this:

  • I had missed quite a few strawberries that were covered.
  • Last year's malabar spinach had reseeded itself and was growing under a layer of cherry tomatoes.
  • The no-show bloody dock I planted on March 9th, finally decided to grow. At least some of it.
  • My newly planted table grape was decimated by Japanese beetles. Hopefully, neem can save it.
  • The Chinese yams were looking poorly.

Everything seems to be responding to my attention and care, except the dock, which got eaten after it was uncovered. I suspect skunks. We have a prolific population of them this year, and being omnivorous, they like to eat things like that.

As far as what's growing in it, there's not a lot to show you. But I'll close out with a few photos of what there is to see.

Hoop house reclaimed. Hopniss vines make natural shade.

Cultivated grape recovering from Japanese
beetle damage. The neem really worked!

The beetles did quite a bit of damage to the Chinese
yams too, but happily, they're recovering as well.

Fancy bindweed, aka morning glories. I didn't plant these! But they look pretty.

Cultivated burdock and volunteer winter squash.

Malabar spinach

Liberating the Hoop House © July 2022 by Leigh


LindaG said...

We have bindweed all over around here. They are pretty when they grow away from what you are trying to grow.
Everything looks really great. Congratulations and God bless.

Leigh said...

Linda, exactly! Pretty when they aren't growing near what you want! At least they pull out easily!

Rosalea said...

It feels so good to complete a chore like that, stand back and admire the result! It looks good! Sheep sorrel we have in abundance, and huge burdock around the edges here and there. That root goes to China.

daisy g said...

Very satisfying, I'm sure. I love that you are shading your hoop house with vining plants. It's always a treat when volunteers decide to show up. Job well done.

I am working on one of our woodland areas and the chop and drop method works well. But of course, there is always more to do!

Enjoy your weekend.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, one thing I've observed about sheep sorrel, is how dark the soil becomes where it grows en masse. So, it is a soil builder, although I'm not sure exactly how. Plus, it's edible! But it also tends to take over, so out it comes, knowing that it will definitely be back.

Daisy, chop and drop is one of those things I wish I knew about when we bought this place! I almost cringe to think of all the "weeds" and tree prunings we discarded in the beginning.

Ed said...

Thus far we’ve only used our hoop structure as support for vining plants and ease of harvesting. Maybe one day we’ll try something on the floor of it.

Jenn Jilks said...

I am in awe!

Hill Top Post said...

I loved your hoop house and actually thought it was quite wonderful as a jungle! 🥴 I am sure it will turn out to be one of your favorite garden structures. Mary @Hilltop Post

Leigh said...

Ed, hoop houses are great for that! I'm finding it good for plants that like a little shade, too.

Mary, I'd like the jungle better if it was stuff I planted! LOL

Leigh said...

Jenn, thanks!

Cederq said...

Are you going to set it up again?

Leigh said...

As in put a covering back on it? Probably not. Like everything around it, it was an experiment, but I think I'm satisfied with how I'm using it now.

A greenhouse is something we've talked about for years, and I think that would probably be more useful. It would need to keep from freezing in winter, but we haven't spent a lot of time looking into a passive system to do that. Maybe someday!

Nancy In Boise said...

Nice space, nature keeps going! We have something like that with our "sunroom" for our coop in the winter

Leigh said...

Nancy, anything that can act as a trellis is useful. I like the idea of doing this over a chicken yard!

DVArtist said...

I just love your garden area. Testing the hoop house to see what works best is a chore but an accomplishment too.

Chris said...

I love reclaiming old beds. While the unruly jungle is a pain to clear out, usually all that cover, makes the best soil underneath. It looks lovely after all your hard work.

Leigh said...

Nicole, I've figured out that everything we do is an experiment! Even if something doesn't work out, we learn something valuable from the experience.

Chris, that's exactly what I discovered. It's amazing how some plants can be soil great builders,