How to Make a Row Cover Tunnel (Hoop House)

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Row cover tunnel (hoop house)

Simple hoop houses or low tunnels can dramatically extend the growing season. It’s really easy to make your own – quickly, cheaply and to a very high standard. With just a few inexpensive materials and two tools anyone can make a sturdy tunnel to protect plants during cooler weather. Let's get started!

Make a Hoop House

For this project you’ll need some PVC water piping about half an inch (12mm) wide, plus some 20in (50cm) long lengths of rebar, two pipe caps and some U-bolts or garden wire. To cover the tunnel you’ll need some greenhouse plastic or strong polythene, some pipe insulation or similar soft material, and spring clamps to hold the cover in place. The only tools you’ll need are a hacksaw and a hammer.

Hammer in the supports

Begin by hammering in the lengths of rebar at equal distances along your garden bed. These will support the hoops. Space them a maximum of three feet (90cm) apart along each side. Leave six to eight inches (15-20cm) of the rebar above ground.

Hoop house frame

Make the hoops

Now cut lengths of pipe to make the hoops. The hoops should be long enough to bend into a half circle, allowing a little extra to give enough height for plants growing near the sides. Flex the hoops into position onto their rebar supports.

Add the ridge pole

The ridge pole links the hoops together and stabilizes the structure. It will also support the cover to prevent sagging. Measure it out so that it slightly protrudes at each end of the hoop house. Cut to size then cap or tape the ends to stop them snagging the cover. Secure them onto the hoops with U-bolts or thick garden wire.

Cover the tunnel

Cover the hoop house with your polythene. You may need to cut this to size first. Secure it to the hoops using short lengths of soft rubber tubing or pipe insulation, slit and opened out lengthways. This protects the polythene from the clamps which follow to hold it all firmly in place.

Fitting the cover on a row cover tunnel

Secure the cover in place

Weigh down the edges of the polythene with bricks. For a more thorough seal you can wrap the sides of the cover around a length of conduit or bamboo cane, which can then be pegged down at regular intervals using tent pegs. The ends of the cover should be pinned or weighed down whenever cold or frosty weather is forecast. This will also stop the wind from getting in underneath and tearing the cover off.

An alternative method

You can also make a row cover using heavy gauge mesh or cattle panels. Simply cut the panel to size using bolt cutters then flex the panel into shape. Don’t leave any sharp edges, which could snag the cover – cut them off or cover with old hosepipe slit along its length to create a seal. Push or peg the tunnel into position then cover and secure as before.

Plan for an extended season

Adding row covers to your cropping schedule will help you to extend your growing season. Our Garden Planner allows you to add these and other protected structures to your plan with ease. Simply select ‘Structures’ from the drop down menu then scroll through the selection bar to choose the type of crop protection you want to use - for instance a hoop house. Click to pick it up, move the cursor to where you want it on your plan, then click or drag it out to place it. You can resize or rotate the tunnel using the handles. The accompanying plant list automatically adjusts the sowing and harvest dates to take account of the extra protection from frost that the tunnel gives. You can adjust these preset dates via the information box accompanying the structure description.

Hoop house information

Low tunnels are easy and inexpensive to make, and they mean you can enjoy more fresh produce during the coldest months of the year, so it’s well worth making your own. We’d love to hear how you protect your vegetables over winter, so drop us a comment below to tell us.

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Show Comments


"awesome "
ron olynick on Friday 9 September 2016
"This is not only AWESOME, but looks very easy to do. My one question: Our area is prone to ice storms from the end of January till early March. Would this still work if the hoops were placed closer together? Or would you cover them with a quilt till the storm was over? Ice storms usually cause our electric lines to come down, as well as many tree branches, and even trees."
Steven Stillwell on Friday 9 September 2016
"Hi Steven. Thanks for the encouraging comment. It is an easy project and the end result is very satisfying! In answer to your question, if you have ice storms I would indeed be inclined to include hoops at a closer spacing. I've not much experience of ice storms but know the weight of all that ice is clearly quite a lot! There may be a danger that the polythene could become stretched or ripped, so erring on the side of caution, I'd be inclined to cover the polythene over with some sort of quilt or thick fleece, to cushion the impact. This can then be taken off and shaken down once the storm has passed. I hope this helps."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 9 September 2016
"I can see this extending the growing season much would the covers protect the plants in very cold weather, I am wondering how early in the season these would be effective. It is March and it -21 today and with windchill it is -32. "
Mardy on Friday 10 March 2017
"Hi Mardy. Generally covers such as these will make the air inside a few degrees warmer than that of those outside. So you'd really need to wait until the outdoor temperature is consistently above freezing before using them."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 March 2017
"A little tip when it comes to fix the canes or pipe along the top of the hoops to keep the curvature of the hoops attach it underneath rather than on the top "
Bill on Tuesday 25 April 2017
"That's a great tip, thanks Bill."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 26 April 2017
"where can i buy the piping from please. i have joints as 16mm outside and 12mm inside. thank you"
lynn curtis on Friday 8 February 2019
"You could look in at your local builders' merchants for this. Or simply search on Amazon for 'alkathene pipe'."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 11 February 2019
"Could this format be used to keep rabbits out of the garden from eating newly sprouted plants? If so, what material would we use instead of the garden plastic. This would not be to extend growing time in winter, but used in spring and early summer months. Thanks! "
Elizabeth on Thursday 28 March 2019
" Hi Elizabeth. Traditional rabbit netting is 3 foot/90 cm high. When erected, a further 30 cm/1 foot six below ground to stop them burrowing underneath. You can try using wire netting to keep the rabbits off individual plants and ceilings. It would need to be strong wire netting that is about 1 inch/3 cm gauge. You might get away with it reaching the ground, but there is always the danger that if there isn’t much to eat elsewhere then they may try and get in underneath. Though I think this is likely if there is plenty of other food for them elsewhere. So in answer to your question, yes, adopting this method with rabbit proof mesh should work. "
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 28 March 2019
"Be sure to check that the rebar fits into the PVC tubing. The rebar sold at my home improvement center is 1/2" and will not fit into the 1/2" tubing."
Ellen on Tuesday 28 May 2019
"Yes - that's a very good point Ellen. Check first if you can!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 30 May 2019
"This looks awesome AND rather simple!! Will this protect my new Roses this winter from the cold? I'm in Zone 6a. "
Sue on Monday 5 October 2020
"Almost all roses will be hardy at zone 6, with a few very minor exceptions. Check whether your rose is hardy at zone 6 or not. If it is there is no need to protect it with a hoop house or any other form of protection, as the roses will need a period of chilling anyhow to ensure good production of flowers next year. I would also imagine a hoop house of this size would be a bit small for roses, though not smaller, younger roses I guess. You could set this up over smaller vulnerable roses if they are on the borderline of hardinesss."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 6 October 2020
"what do you do with the hoop house once the gardening season gets warmer? Do you leave it in place all season?"
Deanna on Wednesday 3 March 2021
"Hi Deanna. I just remove the polythene cover and have it open to the outside. The great thing about these tunnels is it's easy to remove the tubing too if necessary, then slot it back into position later on in the season. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 8 March 2021
"I saw that the rebar was leaching rust metals into the garden bed. I've replaced all PVC hoops with wire "cattle panels" see various videos on Tue Tube. I got a wire cutter and cut some openings for me to reach in and garden. Working wonderfully and no worries about colapse from snow"
cc on Sunday 28 November 2021
"Sorry about the mis spell...learn about various ways to use Cattle Panels in the garden on You Tube"
cc on Sunday 28 November 2021
"Please tell me where I could purchase Cattle Panels, live in south east England."
Maureen on Monday 28 March 2022
"Hi Maureen. I've struggled to find cattle panels in the UK. Instead you could buy a roll of stock fencing, which can be bent to shape and cut to size."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 6 April 2022

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