I googled “raised bed covers” and “hoop houses” at the first hint of cold last fall. There were lots of great ideas online, but my biggest help was my McGyver-esque neighbor (who’s also an engineer/carpenter).
“McGyver” took one look at my raised beds and replicated them perfectly – from scratch. I, on the other hand, had ordered mine online…having two kids under 3 plus cavewoman-like carpentry skills and a dear husband who’s about as talented in that department as I am…well, you get the picture. Then McG built a PVC frame and covered it with chicken wire to keep critters out of their plants. (We have two Jack Russell terriers who are very effective at keeping those kinds of pests out, so I really just wanted a frame for a cold-weather cover.)
So, materials and technique as I learned from dear neighbor: 1/2 inch PVC pipe; plumbing pipe clamps (both the plastic and the copper kinds…they didn’t have enough plastic in stock at Lowe’s so I got the copper too). The clamps screwed right into the interior wall of the beds. I used a random hand saw to cut the pipe down to 6 ft. (the beds are 4ft. wide).
I really didn’t measure the distance between each pvc-length (now “hoop”)….I just kind of eyeballed it and used the good-ol measuring-by-footstep technique (the one I use when I don’t want to go back inside the house and scrounge for the tape measure for fear of waking up sleeping tots).
It took me a few afternoons to cut, bend, and attach the PVC pipes, turning them into the skeleton of my mini-greenhouses. After I’d finished, I stood back and looked at my work, and I was reminded of a big whale skeleton, or dinosaur bones. All that white pipe, couldn’t stand it. (OK OK I’m particular).
I remembered that can of green fence paint in the basement from a birdhouse-pole project of my husband’s (don’t ask). Anyway, I spent the next afternoon or two painting all the pipes, all 15 of them. Total pain, but now my garden doesn’t look like an outdoor paleontology exhibit.
With the structure in place, I was determined to find the clearest plastic I could find. I really wanted something clear so I could see my plants (yes, I wanted it to look good too). I went to all the big home improvement stores, hardware stores, garden centers and even a paint store to find this elusive clear plastic. None to be found. More googling and I found VINYL. Sweet.
You can’t buy vinyl at any of the above venues, but I found some at our local Foam & Fabric store. I bought a whole roll of the mid-weight (8 mil maybe?) and it was just enough to cover my 4ftx4ft bed, and two of the 12ftx4ft beds. I used zip ties to attach it to the frames, and they have held up surprisingly well throughout the winter and its temps and winds.
In order to make the beds accessible, I divided the lengths of vinyl in half and nailed the bottom part (with old roofing nails) to scrap pieces of wood: that makes it easier to lift up the vinyl in one piece, especially when it’s really cold.
Vinyl is tough to deal with when it’s colder than 45f or so. It becomes less pliable the colder the temp, and therefore it’s more of a pain to open and close the “windows” on the frames. But hey, beauty has its price.
And vinyl sheeting met the criteria: functional + not ugly, and most importantly, we’ve been loving all kinds of greens all winter!