Here in Texas (and most southern states) you can actually garden through the winter if you cover your plants. The question is, how to cover mature plants? Answer: hoops.
In the spring when we’re starting our seedlings we can just lay row cover or plastic over our rows, but in the late fall and early winter when our fall garden plants are full-grown, laying heavy plastic over them can damage the plants. And, if you get a light snow or a frost the weight and the contact with the cold on your plants leaves will kill them. So, knowing all of this and planning to garden into the winter, we purposefully built our garden beds with a hoop system built in.
What I love most about our hoop system is that the hoops can be removed during the warm season. This gets them out of the way, but also allows us to store the hoops and plastic in a cool dry place where the sun can’t damage them meaning they last much longer! Having hoops also allows us to cover the beds with netting or a light row cloth for shade when needed.
So, how can you build raised beds with hoops too?
Choosing Your Materials
Choosing Your Materials
Our method uses PVC pipes, but some people, like to use these heavy wire panels or tubing . I really love Colleen’s use of Masonry Ladders for Plant Protection!
If you’re using PVC, we recommend using 1/2 inch because it’s sturdy enough to hold up your plastic, but flexible enough to bend over a garden bed. The length you need will depend on how wide your beds are, so start with an 8′ piece, bend it over the bed and figure out how much you need to cut off.
Installing Hoops on Existing Raised Beds
If you’re already gardening with a raised bed system, chances are they don’t have wood sides like mine, so installing brackets to hold the hoops probably isn’t an option. In this case you’d use longer pieces of PVC pushed into the ground. My dad used PVC on raised beds and simply cut and hammered in a few larger diameter pieces of PVC so he could put the ends of the hoops into those to hold them in place. But, pushing them into soft soil works too.
Adding Hoops to Raised Beds with Wood Sides
You’ll be able to find cheap metal conduit brackets at any hardware store. Attach these to the inside of the top boards of your garden beds and slide the ends of your hoops down into them. Easy, and reusable!
Making a Reusable Cover for Your Hoops
We purchased rolls of heavy duty plastic from the paint department at Home Depot. We unrolled (but not unfolded!) one and laid it out beside our bed leaving several extra feet on each end so we’d have plastic to come down over the ends of the beds. We cut, then unfolded and laid the plastic over the hoops to see how wide it needed to be to cover, come all the way down to the ground, plus 6 inches. Cut again. Then we cut a few pieces of 1×2, laid them on the edge of the plastic (sides only) leaving a few inches between each board, rolled the plastic over the board twice, and stapled. The boards added the weight needed to keep the sides of the plastic down so we didn’t have plastic laying on the ground and rotting and we didn’t need to use bricks or rocks to hold it down. Leaving a few inches between each board meant we could fold the plastic covers up in the off-season for storage. The ends we pulled down, and held in place with a piece of scrap lumbar or a brick. You want to have that end loose and free enough that you can flip it up over the top on warmer days to allow some ventilation should it get too warm under the plastic.
You can repeat this process with netting or shade cloth if needed.
Storing Your Hoops
We installed 2 metal brackets on the outside of the back wall of our shed. We turned the hoops over and let them hang on these brackets. They’re shaded by the shed’s overhang, they look tidy and they’re kept bent making them easier to use next fall! If you don’t have a place to hang your hoops, that’s ok. They’ll do find on the floor or the ground, just try to keep them out of direct sunlight.
Free Plans for Raised Beds with Hoops
If you’re one of our newsletter subscribers, (subscribe here!) you’ll receive a free set of plans for the raised beds and hoops you see in this post. If you subscribed a while ago and you didn’t receive the plans, worry not. I’ll send an email out this weekend with a download link!