Hoop house Overwhelm

Do you remember when we built our hoop house last summer, Gentle Readers? I wrote several posts about the process, beginning with this one, so you can read all about it. Right now. Or, later. It was a big, expensive, time-consuming project. We called in favors from lots of our favorite people who actually didn’t even owe us any favors–my brother Matt, my brother-in-law Dave, my Dad, son Timothy, my Mom, daughters Bethany and Amalia, son Andrew, our nephews Adam, Davey, and Luke, and of course our little Mack, to name just a few. It was a huge group project. We all breathed a dizzy sigh of relief when it was finally erected and I could plant in it. Especially me. Except that my sigh of relief actually was a giddy sigh of happy anticipation, because I couldn’t wait to plant it full!

That was early August last year, when I finally planted a fall garden in my new hoop house. And then it all felt like a huge experiment, especially once we pulled the poly over the top, later that fall. I suppose that’s because it was a huge experiment.

I didn’t know what I was doing. A friend mentioned to me that there were lots of resources online for how to plant inside hoop houses, and that it would behoove me to study them before I started. I never looked at a one. I didn’t have the time. Imagine! I was too busy hauling manure and rototilling and planting seedlings in that vast protected space! I was in gardener’s heaven, Gentle Readers, ignorant and happy, and fine with it.

Plunk me down anywhere with some good soil, some well-aged manure, and a few seeds and watch me smile. πŸ™‚ <—-like this!

That thick layer of plastic–it seems to be the key, of course, to why the hoop house is so valuable. It protects the plants inside from winds, storms, hail, and extreme temperatures that our Nebraska weather will invariably bring. It doesn’t protect from everything–I’ve been finding my younger chickens inside the hoop house, for example, and bugs still get in there–and the dogs and the kids can still crash about in there–sigh--but it does provide lots of protection against most perils. Here in Nebraska, our weather is variable and sometimes hostile, nearly always windy, sometimes very dry, and rainstorms–when they come–can do a great deal of damage. But the hoop house protects from most of that nastiness. AND I can control how much water my hoop house plants get. And how they get the water.

A nice drip system, for example, is so much gentler than, say, a driving rain (mixed with hail) that comes down in buckets. Mixed with straight line winds to make you cringe in your basement for an hour. Say. Or even scary swirly winds that could swoop down and just sweep it allll away. *shuddering*

Well. Nobody ever accused Nebraska of having boring weather.

So last fall, I planted a superb fall garden in my hoop house, although I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I was delighted to harvest the nicest turnips and the most beautiful carrots and leeks and winter radishes and so forth that I had ever harvested before. I was astonished.

Everything flourished. Every crop got so big. Everything was so healthy and beautiful.



I took a lot of pictures, if you want to see more.

But that was then. This is now. I was uncertain, at first, about when to even plant my seedlings into the hoop house this spring. We had an unusually cold and wet spring, and I kept waiting for it to warm up a bit . . . and waiting . . . and finally just said those words that all farmers eventually say with a shrug:

And now, enough yakkin’. I’ll let the pictures of the wild riotous mess in the hoop house tell the rest of the story . . .

These tomato plants are fully twice as big, in height and girth, as their brothers outside the hoop house.

Can you tell how big these plants are from this picture?

Can you tell how big these plants are from this picture? And what you can’t see is that they are just full of tomatoes.

Here’s a big yeller tomato I just picked this week.

Dr. Wyche's Yellow, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This baby will fill a bunch of BLTS.

Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This baby will fill a bunch of BLTS.

I planted several kinds of blue tomatoes in the hoophouse. Take a gander:

"Blueberries Tomato" from Baker Creek.

Blue Berries Tomato from Baker Creek.

I’m very excited about these tomatoes. This from the Baker Creek catalog description of the Blue Berries Tomato: ” . . . very dark purple color, which means it’s super-rich in anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants). Unripe, the fruits are a glowing amethyst purple. At maturity they turn deep red where the fruit was shaded; the areas that received intense sunshine are a purple so deep it’s almost black! The flavor is intensely fruity, and sugar-sweet!Β 

Here’s another blue one:

Blue Beauty, Baker Creek

Blue Beauty, Baker Creek

Basically, from what I’ve read, if you see a blue fruit or vegetable, you really need to just eat it immediately, it’s so good for you. Every time I pop one of those Blue Berries tomatoes into my mouth, I feel myself getting younger. πŸ™‚ Pretty soon I’m going to feel like a 15-year-old again, I just know it. πŸ™‚

I planted over half of the hoop house in flowers, which I cut and make into bouquets for farmer’s market every week.

sweet peas, glads, zinnias, cosmos

sweet peas, glads, zinnias, cosmos: quite a lovely mess!

They are all doing so well. No wind to throw them around!

Cosmos are so cheerful.

Cosmos are so cheerful, aren’t they?


I'm not sure what this coxcomb is thinking. Every day I study it: how much bigger can it get??

I’m not sure what this coxcomb is thinking. Every day I study it: how much bigger can it get?? It’s a monster!


Zinnias couldn't be prettier.

Zinnias couldn’t be prettier.

Glads are pretty, too.

Glads are pretty, too.

Everything else in the hoop house–peppers, kale, and a few other odds and ends–are similarly freakishly lush. The sweet peas are beginning to fade and the snapdragons are, too, and the glads are nearly finished, so I’m actually looking forward to pulling out that entire bed, and starting my fall garden in the hoop house. More about that next week!

I think this year’s experiment was a success. What do you think?

25 thoughts on “Hoop house Overwhelm

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Aren’t they, Bethie? Wait until you taste them! And I’m thinking of how cool blue salsa will look . . .

  1. rita

    Those tomatoes are overwhelming! How can you even get in there to pick anything? Yikes. It’s almost scary. What if you can’t get back out?

  2. Holly

    While I do not envy all the work that goes into this I do envy the concentrated scents. Pungent tomato, sweet flowers, moist soil. Like standing inside a bottle of Eau d’God and if you have a steamy cup of coffee…well… please take a deep breathe for me πŸ™‚

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Will do Holly. Or you could just tippy-toe out here and smell it all for yourself! The sweet peas are the predominant scent right now, and they just smell delicious!

  3. Penny McDaniel

    WOW…I remember you doing this project last year and enjoyed all the pictures that you posted. And now…what you have grown is beautiful! I couldn’t get over the size of those tomatoes! You make homesteading look so easy. I really enjoyed your photos. Can’t wait to see what your next project will be!


    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Penny. I am sitting here in a puddle of sweat, because I’ve been out in the hoop house this afternoon, pulling weeds though it is hot as . . . hot as the dickens out there. I’m also smeared with mud because I got caught in a sudden summer squall, and got very wet carrying in an armful of basil to make into pistou. It’s not an easy life, but I don’t choose to show the sweatier, grimier aspects of it (you’re welcome)! Thank you so much for remembering this big project! I’m so impressed! And thank you for your kind words.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      On the contrary, I looked at that picture and my mouth watered. They are perfectly lovely little tomatoes, and I’m sure they were delicious! And surely there are many more to follow, right??

  4. Chef William Chaney

    Wonderful pictures, I would love to taste a blue tomato. On question, I read all the names twice and it seems that one sons name is missing. I am sure he was a big help in getting things do and working with his brothers, so where is his name?…. I remember seeing him in pictures when you were building and I am sure he is setting at the kitchen table enjoying the rewards of harvest……………

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh my, Chef, I am so glad you reminded me. How could I have forgotten Little Mack and his constant and varying levels of helpfulness in all projects ;). Seriously, I’m glad you pointed that out, and I corrected it: he’s now included in the list! Thanks for being my fact checker! πŸ™‚

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you so much for checking in, Anita-Clare. I know how busy you are! I’m glad you enjoyed my pictures.

  5. Mari

    Oh, my, my desires for a hoop house has just gone up about 200%! I described your hoop house to my husband – it is a big as a school house and it will take a tractor with a plow to till it up in the spring! Isn’t that right, Amy? Really, I saw your picture of your Blue Beauties and it reminded me of the Indigo Apple tomatoes I got from Baker Creek. They sit here in the hot, humid Texas Hill Country sun and hold up quite well. I love their little black caps….and the flowers, oh, oh, oh. How I love your flowers. They are beyond wonderful and I feel like I can sit there in the middle of them and inhale their scent. Hmmmmm. Let me just sit back and enjoy the beauty!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Those blue tomatoes just might be Indigo Apples. I planted several types and of course I didn’t label them all very well. (hanging head in shame) I’ve been particularly delighted with the flowers, too, in the hoop house. The wind and hail and so forth of our typical weather is so hard on delicate flowers. Sadly, about half of the flowers are nearly done and it’s time for me to pull many of them up and start planting my fall garden. But that’s another post . . . ! πŸ™‚ love you Mari!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Yup. There are weeds in there, Cheryl, but as you can see, I’ve got my crops planted pretty closely together, so there’s not a lot of space for weeds. I do have to get in there and pull them, though. Unfortunately the hoop house is not self weeding. πŸ™ pity

  6. Alexa McAllister

    What an awesome and descriptive blog. I’ve only taken a tiny read but am in awe of all your do. Farmers markets, creating and preparing produce for it is back breaking and takes organisation and time but you you still take the time to show us the beautiful side of it πŸ™‚
    Your flowers -mmmmmmmm sigh πŸ™‚
    I came a visiting from Ben’s blog where you commented so beautifully.
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m so honored that you stopped by. I am in awe of Ben and his blog, but I do appreciate your taking the time to read a bit of mine. πŸ™‚ I’ve been to Sydney, but didn’t get out of the airport, sadly. We were just on a layover during a trip to New Zealand. We saw the famous opera house from the air, though, and that was a thrill! We decided that next time–we’ll take the time to go see the city. It looked just beautiful!

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