I have had several incarnations of unsuccessful greenhouses over the years.  Actually, the greenhouses were not as much unsuccessful as they were temporary, so going with that idea, I decided to set up temporary mini-hoops to grow some winter greens and to shelter my baby tomatoes and peppers until they can go in the ground.

The mini-hoops are cheap and easy to build.  I made mine with things I already had laying around, although I am a bit of scrounge and I tend to have a lot of things laying around.  I have two mini-hoops at the moment:  one tucked into the front corner of the house and one in front of the studio.  The one in front of the house has been there all winter and it sheltered three containers filled with kale, green onions, lettuce, and an Asian braising mix.  It was really nice to have fresh greens all winter!

Winter greens in the mini-hoop

I chose the corner, because it has a southern exposure, so the plants got as much of the winter sun as possible, and they were protected from the wind–wind stresses plants out just as much as not enough moisture or light.  I placed a piece of old conveyor belt on the ground and sat three plastic, recycling tubs on it.  If you don’t happen to have old conveyor belt (what’s wrong with you?), you can use black plastic.  Pay a little more and get the heavier stuff. It will last for years! It is available at construction supply stores.  You might even get some for free at a construction site.  They just throw it away, but ask first! The reasoning behind the black plastic is to collect heat during the day and then give it off at night to keep your plants warm.

Next you need hoops.  Anything that can be bent into a U without breaking will work.  I have a roll of left over water pipe and that works great.  I use foot-long pieces of pvc pipe driven into the ground to attach the hoops.  Arrange the hoops in a crossed pattern so that you can pull the plastic covering tight over the hoops.  Sags will collect water and can damage your plants or even bring down the whole construction.  Trust me.  I know this from experience.

In the mini-hoop for the winter greens, I used two layers of plastic with hoops in the tubs and another layer over them.  This works like a double-paned window and really keeps everybody nice and toasty.  I just put together another mini-hoop for my garden plants.  That one is only one layer, because I need to open it during the day so the plants don’t get too hot.  The only thing I had to buy for these was the clear plastic to cover them and you can use that for a couple of years if you take care of it.  You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a little greenhouse (although they are cute) in order to start your own plants or to have fresh, healthy food throughout the winter.



  1. Karen said,

    April 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Your mini hops look like they have been very successful.

    • April 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      They have been. We had a freeze warning the other night, not frost FREEZE, so I put a small electric heater in the hoop with the tomatoes and peppers and set it on low. Everybody survived!

      • Karen said,

        April 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        Good for you…that is wonderful. Hopefully we won’t get any more frost warnings as our orchard has started blooming early this year.

  2. katiepede said,

    April 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Such a great idea 🙂 x

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