Hoop houses and greenhouses are not the same, but they have many things in common. For instance, you can use both structures to protect plants from too much sun and inclement weather. Both also offer an environment where you can manage light and other conditions.
To know whether a hoop house is as good as a greenhouse, it’s essential to first assess your needs. In some ways, it will be, but in others, it may not. Both have pros and cons including size, functionality, and cost. We’re going to unpack their features and discuss their pros and cons.
What is a hoop house?
A hoop house is a structure used on many small-scale farms to protect plants and extend the growing season. Smaller-scale hoop houses may be used on larger residential properties instead of more traditional greenhouses.
Hoop houses usually comprise a half hoop-shape framework that is covered with plastic. Various metals are used for the frame including PVC, aluminum, and steel.
Hoop houses are known by various names including hoop greenhouse, hoop house greenhouse, grow tunnel, polytunnel, and playhouse. A variation, popularized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, is known as the high tunnel system.
Basically, a high tunnel system is a high hoop house. Introduced in 2010, the design is aimed at farmers who want to increase their growing season and protect plants from severe weather conditions.
The system, which like all other hoop houses enables plants to be grown in the ground under them, has other benefits too. For instance, it helps to improve air and soil quality and reduces energy use.
High tunnel systems are available to commercial farmers with financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Is a hoop house the same as a greenhouse?
No, a hoop house is not the same as a greenhouse, even though people refer to a hoop house greenhouse. But greenhouses have changed in the past 400 years or so.
Original greenhouses were built from wood or brick and they had lots of glass windows. They were also heated.
They were majorly popular in the 19th century, particularly in Victorian England. While they appealed to plant collectors and growers, greenhouses were also beautifully decorative structures.
Nowadays, if you search for greenhouses online, you will find structures that look more like mini hoop houses than any type of traditional greenhouse. Some have pitched roofs like traditional structures while others have – you guessed it – hooped roofs.
Fiberglass and rigid plastic materials are often used for off-the-shelf greenhouses that appeal to DIYers.
The first hoop houses or polytunnels were developed in the 1940s. As plastic polymers have developed and become more reliable and long-lasting, they have increased in popularity.
Generally, the modern greenhouse is a lot smaller than a hoop house. Often it will incorporate shelves for potted plants rather than accommodating plants grown in situ.
Hoop houses were introduced to meet the challenges of 20th-century food production. The cost of making framed glass greenhouses the same sort of size had become prohibitive.
However, hoop houses work in the same way as a traditional greenhouse does. Both structures will protect plants from adverse weather conditions including too much sun and excessive wind and rain.
Hoop house vs greenhouse: Difference?
The most obvious difference between a greenhouse and a hoop house is in the design and structure of each.
A hoop house, greenhouse, or any polytunnel system can be used to grow plants throughout the seasons. Even if you live in very cold climate conditions, if you heat the structure correctly, it will provide conditions that will allow you to extend the growing season.
Today, greenhouses tend to be smaller structures that are better suited to smaller environments where you want to grow and house the plants you love. Hoop houses, on the other hand, can be as large as the space available allows.
Hoop houses can also be considerably taller in height than greenhouses, especially high tunnel system hoop houses.
Another major difference between hoop houses and greenhouses relates directly to air circulation and heating. Because of their size and construction, in hoop houses, this is usually done naturally by opening parts of it.
All you have to do is open and close the end walls of the hoop house when you need to. For instance, leave them open when the temperatures are high and lower them when it is cold and/or windy.
Greenhouses, on the other hand, are traditionally heated artificially. Those used by professional gardeners are usually equipped with exhaust fans, grow lights, and other accessories.
Because of the structural differences, a DIY hoop house is a lot easier to erect and, for most people, a lot more cost-effective. Hoop house plans are also a lot easier for amateur gardeners to follow than greenhouse construction plans.
Ultimately, the cost per square foot for a hoop house is also more cost-efficient.
Can you use a hoop house as a greenhouse?
Even though the design and visual appearance of hoop houses, greenhouses, and other similar structures differ from traditional greenhouses, they perform the same basic function. They enable people to grow plants successfully undercover.
The original greenhouses, engineered by an Englishman, J.C. Loudon were relatively lightweight structures made with thin iron glazing bars that supported glass. The idea was to allow as much light as possible to penetrate the interior.
Original glasshouse structures ranged in size from huge buildings to small annexes built against houses in suburban gardens. It depended entirely on individual needs.
How effective is a hoop house?
A well-constructed hoop house is a very effective structure for growing plants. Generally, when used for small-scale farms, crops are planted directly in the ground.
It’s like having a covered field without the disadvantages of extreme weather conditions.
Despite their differences, both hoop houses and greenhouses are working structures. Both have the same functionality, although greenhouses will often last a lot longer than hoop houses.
But then hoop houses are less expensive and they don’t have the same visual appeal as well-constructed, glass-paned greenhouses.