The Choctaw Nation hosted one of the Kerr Center’s popular hoop house workshops at its Community Center in Poteau on October 7.
The workshop treated participants to a hands-on experience assembling an affordable, 1,700 square-foot hoop house in under three hours. (Many hands, prior preparation, and experienced educators made this timing possible, but a pair of people working alone for the first time can still easily get the same project completed in a weekend.)
The training covered the latest refinements that have emerged from the work the Kerr Center has done using the design over the past few years, including both a more secure anchor design, and an improved approach to endwall construction and attachment.
Workshop participants received a printed set of plans and instructions for building a hoop house of this design, streamlined to just 8 pages, and including a materials list and estimated costs. The complete set of updated plans and instructions is available free from the Kerr Center website.
Following a noon meal, the group changed locations to the Kerr Ranch outside of town to get a look at other hoop house designs in operation. One of these, a 12’x24′ structure on welded metal skids, was last seen shading cattle on the Kerr Ranch. Currently, instead, it’s helping cool-season greens get off to a good start on the hort farm.
The group also visited a coldframe at the home of Kerr Center President David Redhage, who taught the workshop together with Simon Billy. One of the key design features of Redhage’s cold frame is the roll-up sides that allow for ventilation.
In Oklahoma’s climate, sunny days can quickly raise the temperature inside a cold frame to 100º F or more. Since hoop houses are passive structures, someone must be present to ventilate them to let that heat dissipate before it harms crops.
The large hoop house constructed during the workshop is ventilated simply by tugging up on the edges of the covering plastic toward the center of the long sides.
The skid-mounted structure has newly-designed panels that pop on and off the ends to accomplish the same thing.
Hoop houses’ versatility is drawing increasing interest from both home and market gardeners. In addition to getting crops started earlier in spring, extending harvests through the first frosts of fall, and keeping cool-season greens going all winter, they can also be used for starting and hardening off transplants, as well as providing crucial summer shade for both crops and livestock. More recent work using netting to exclude insect pests is opening up yet another promising use for hoop houses.