Undercover Crops

Undercover Crops

Undercover Crops

The hoop house is your secret weapon to extending the growing season, reducing pest and weed pressures, improving water management, and more.

by Melissa Pasanen

Early-spring snow can be a foot deep in northern Vermont, but in the hoop houses at Bread & Butter Farm, kale and spinach plants are tucked under an extra “blanket” of row cover. About 1,400 miles away, spring is quite a bit warmer in the Arkansas Ozarks where anemones and ranunculus bloom alongside greens like bok choy and chard in the six hoop houses at Dripping Springs Garden. Further west and 7,000 feet up into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, hoop houses at Indian Ridge Farm protect salad greens and provide shelter for the overwintering laying flock.

The hoop house, also called a high tunnel, has become over the last decade a valuable tool for organic farmers across the United States. Constructed from a tubular steel frame covered in heavy-duty plastic, it’s a type of passive solar greenhouse in which crops grow directly in the soil but are sheltered by the structure. With no artificial lighting or temperature controls, a hoop house is relatively inexpensive to buy and operate.