I decided to give our pepper plants a little TLC by building them a miniature hoop house right over their raised bed. I’ve nicknamed the structure The Pepper Palace, but Jon thinks it looks more like a Conestoga wagon. Either way, it’s keeping our plants toasty warm!
We constructed our little greenhouse with rebar, copper tubing, and plastic sheeting. As the summer warms, I’ll probably take off the plastic and replace it with TufBel—an extremely durable row cover developed in Japan. Tufbel lets in tons of light and it will keep the peppers warm without baking them (peppers tend to drop their blossoms if temps rise over 80 degrees F or drop below 60 degrees F at night). I’m also planning on leaving the hoop house up over the winter and growing spinach, cold hardy lettuces, kale, and chard inside.
Here’s a little photo essay that details the construction of our peppers’ new digs. The whole process took less than a half and hour!
Use sturdy stakes
To help ensure the hoop house stays upright during windstorms, we used 3/8-inch rebar stakes to support the hoops. We purchased the rebar in 2-foot lengths and used a heavy hammer to pound the stakes about 20 inches into the ground. Our raised bed is about 6 feet long and we put a stake in each corner of the bed and one on either side of the middle.
Most people build mini hoop houses with flexible PVC tubing, but we happened to have a roll of copper tubing hanging around in the garage. Not only is the copper easy to cut with a hack saw, it looks pretty, and doesn’t contain phthalates or other toxic chemicals. I can’t wait to see how the copper weathers over the winter. To create the hoops, just slide one end of the tubing over a stake, arch the tubing across the bed, and slip the other end of the tubing over the other stake.
Make a sturdy frame
Peppers typically top out at about 24 inches, so we made our hoops about 36 inches tall. Make sure that the tubing you use is slightly larger in diameter than the rebar stakes. This way you can easily slide it over the rebar.
Enclose with plastic
Drape plastic sheeting (or a row cover) over the frame, making sure to leave extra plastic so you can easily weigh it down. Right now the plastic is secured with rocks, but I plan on stapling 1 x 1 pieces of board to the edges. I think this will make the plastic easier to roll up when I need to water and it will look neater.
Our peppers’ new home!
Here’s a peek inside the hoop house. Today after work I’m going to plant some basil seedlings down the middle of the bed and mulch with composted chicken bedding around the peppers.