If you’re looking to extend your growing season into the colder months or maximize the productivity of your crops, you’ve probably considered incorporating a hoop house or greenhouse into your garden’s design.
You don’t have to be a professional farmer to use one, as both types of growing structures are well suited for any growing layout, from a large-scale farm to a small market or home garden.
Both hoop houses and greenhouses are considered seasonal extension techniques as they allow farmers and gardeners to grow crops well before the last frost date and after the first frost date in their region by creating a warm and protected microclimate where plants can thrive even when the weather outside isn’t favorable for growing.
These structures also help to promote increased crop quality and productivity by allowing for greater control of factors such as lighting, watering, ventilation, and temperature as well as providing greater protection from pests and bad weather.
Both options can greatly benefit your growing operation and help you get the most production from the space you’re working with.
Go vertical with vegetables that grow on vines to help utilize the upper space in your greenhouse structure.
So which should you choose for your farm or garden? Hoop houses and greenhouses each have their own specific benefits and challenges that you’ll need to consider before deciding which one is right for you.
What Are Hoop Houses?
Hoop houses are a simple and cost-efficient way to grow your crops all year long. They are basic greenhouse-like structures made up of steel pipe frames set into the ground and covered in greenhouse-grade plastic.
Unlike smaller season extending structures such as low tunnels or caterpillar tunnels, however, hoop houses are sturdier structures that often include better anchoring as well as wind and snow bracing. This makes them usable throughout all four seasons.
Most hoop houses rely on passive heating and ventilation and have roll-up sidewalls that allow for airflow within the structure. Some hoop houses may also have end-wall or ridge vents to help increase the total airflow.
Watering is usually done by hand, through drip irrigation or small sprinklers.
Plants inside a hoop house can be grown in containers, in raised beds or directly in the ground. Smaller hoop houses are usually Quonset shaped (half-circle) while larger ones may have a peak frame. These larger ones are often called high tunnels to differentiate them from the smaller designs.
Due to their simple design, hoop houses are easy to set up by a single person or by just a few people.
They can be installed right over an existing crop or garden bed or over a planned growing area. They’re also highly portable and can be moved around to new locations with ease.
Hoop Houses Pros & Cons
- Hoop houses are inexpensive and easy to set up
- Hoop houses can be easily disassembled and moved to new locations
- Hoop houses provide appropriate weather protection for most gardening or small-scale farming projects
- Hoop houses are large enough that they provide a comfortable working area.
- Hoop houses don’t provide the same level of protection or automation that greenhouses do.
- Hoop houses aren’t considered permanent structures
What Are Greenhouses?
Greenhouses, on the other hand, are considered permanent structures with a strong support system, durable coverings, wind loads, snow protectors, and cemented ground posts.
Greenhouses may be similarly sized or larger than hoop houses and may be covered in multiple layers of greenhouse plastics, rigid polycarbonate or glass.
Unlike hoop houses, greenhouses are often equipped with active heating and ventilation elements, getting supplemental heat from a furnace or boiler and increasing airflow with end-wall vents and a series of fans.
Irrigation is similarly automated in greenhouses and is usually done via a drip irrigation system, misters, overhead sprinklers or other automated methods. Because of all this automation, greenhouses usually require a full electrical system installed.
Greenhouses are usually also humidity controlled and may include supplemental lighting to keep plants growing during low-light conditions.
Being fully enclosed, greenhouses provide complete protection from the elements, pests, soil diseases, and other external factors.
Their environmental control design makes it possible for farmers and gardeners to grow healthy and productive crops all year long – even in the coldest parts of winter or during intense summer heatwaves.
Being more sturdy, permanent and high-tech makes greenhouses more expensive to set up in the short-run but provide ample benefits that make it a worthwhile investment in the long-run, especially for larger commercial farmers.
However, some dedicated gardeners also enjoy the benefits and permanence of smaller-scale greenhouses in their garden as well.
Greenhouses Pros & Cons
- Greenhouses provide the highest level of protection against pests, diseases, and inclement weather.
- Greenhouses are much sturdier than hoop houses and can easily withstand strong winds, heavy rain, and snowstorms.
- Greenhouses allow you to create a temperature and humidity controlled microclimate for your crops and garden.
- Greenhouses can be fully automated to reduce the need for manual control of irrigation, lighting, temperature, and ventilation.
- Greenhouses are more expensive and labor-intensive to set up.
- Greenhouses require an electrical system and possibly plumbing, increasing the overall costs.
While hoop houses and greenhouses share some similarities in the level of protection that they afford your crops or garden, there are also some significant differences between them in terms of cost, installation, and maintenance.
You’ll have to weigh the needs and scale of your farming or gardening project to decide whether a hoop house or a greenhouse is right for you.
In general, hoop houses are best suited for larger gardens, market gardens, or small-scale farms while greenhouses are most cost-efficient for medium to large scale farms.
Both hoop houses and greenhouses can be purchased or constructed in multiple sizes and price points, making them both available for any size of garden or farm.