Sunday, November 9, 2008

Building Stoop Houses to help with Frost Protection

In last week's post I showed you my broccoli plants and this week the heads have continued getting larger. We have been lucky enough to have no frost this week, so the leaves have not been damaged any further.

The Cabbage and lettuce beds are also looking great.

Frost is coming back tonight however, and we are in for a very cold week or longer. If I keep only using the row covers over the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce, the season will finally be over.

I don't want harvest season to end, so today I put up more hoops and plastic sheeting to make mini greenhouses. In The 12-Month Gardener, Jeff Ashton calls this type of frost protection a "Stoop House".

That name is appropriate because to tend to the vegetables, you lift up the side of the plastic and "stoop" down.

How to Make a Simple Stoop House:

My raised beds are framed with untreated 4x6 lumber and are four feet wide. Ten foot PVC pipes bend over the four foot span to make nice hoops. The key to doing this is providing a way to attach the pipe. I used 3/4" diameter pipe and attached pipe brackets to the outside of the raised beds.

I found it to work best if I put two brackets per pipe on each side. The top bracket was the 3/4" size and the bottom one was the 1" size. This kept the arch at the correct angle.

After getting the brackets attached, I slip one side of the pipe in.

Then I bend it down and slip it in the brackets on the other side. A pipe should be place every three to four feet. One of my stoop houses is covering a 4 foot by 12 foot bed and the other covers two beds that are four by four.

After the hoops were up, I put the row covers back on to add a second layer of protection.

Then I put the 6 mil plastic sheeting on. Greenhouse plastic is best, but I just used normal plastic sheeting from the hardware store. I have greenhouse plastic I could use because I bought extra when we built our greenhouse last month. I'm saving that plastic to expand the actual greenhouse next season. Besides, these stoop houses are temporary and will work just as well with regular plastic.

I staple the plastic directly to the wood frame on one side.

I only staple to one side, not the other or the ends. That way I can easily vent one side or take the plastic completely off during sunny days. You don't want to keep the plants completely covered on sunny days because the hoop house can quickly heat up and damage or kill the plants. Remember, these stoop houses contain cold-tolerant vegetables. The main purpose of these mini greenhouse poly tunnels is to keep frost off of the plants. At least until it gets really cold, I will probably pull back the plastic each morning, and batten down the hatches every evening. This is what the stoophouses will look like every night:

I sure hope they work. I want to be able to still be eating fresh salads and broccoli in December.



Mr Chiot's and I are getting ready to do this for our raised beds as well. I just have to floating row cover for now. We did just build a cold frame to go over one raised bed (it's moveable). It's in a bed full of carrots (a la Elliot Coleman "Four Season Harvest").

I'll be using your tips for my bed full of cabbage & kale & spinach. I bought cold tolerant lettuce and they've had a hard freeze and are still going strong (no covers or anything).

jacqui jones

i hope they work too, we will be watching your winter closely so we have some knowledge for our own cold winter next year
your garden always looks so full of yummy things to eat!


Hi guys, your hoop houses look great. Mine didn't work that well this year, but hey, there's always next year right!
Renee, I wanted to let you know I posted up that info on my chickens that you were looking for. You can find it here. Sorry for the delay.


A little acknowledgement for you, over on my blog.


Wow, your garden has really "blossomed" this season, if you'll pardon the pun.

Looks fantastic, can't wait to see how the broccoli end up doing!


very interesting hopefully you are eating all those veggies up quickly


I use the same hoop covers (what I call them) on my beds. I don't staple them down, just pull the plastic taut against the bed before clipping the plastic sheeting to he PVC with cheap binder clips. My brackes hold one-size larger PVC pipe to use like a flag pole stand. Works very well. The short pipes stay on the beds year round. I only remove the 10 foot poles and plastic.

Unfortunately, I did a test this fall to judge the outside and inside hoop temperature. Grrr. there was no temperature difference whatsoever. So I'm hoping it does something other than keep it warmer. Gotta be good for something.

When I used them this last April during a snow storm, my plants loved it and grew like mad! Definitely going to start my spring early under cover again!

Good luck with your covers this season!


That broccoli looks wonderful! I love the protection too. You call them stoop houses?? We call them cloches over here. Interesting stuff.


Sinfonian - I think that these covers can store heat absorbed from the sun but my understanding is that the biggest reason to use them is to keep frost and snow off the plants.

Many things, like broccoli, can thrive at very low temperatures they just can't take the frost that typically comes with them.


Wow, that's one heck of an operation you have going there! I'm certain you can grow most anything you set your mind to...looks like fun!

GardenDesk   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital