Farm Glance: our own, cheaper take on making Johnny's High Tunnel System mobile

Last year Vanessa and I tried out Johnny's High-Tunnel Hoophouse design using chainlink fence toprail and a Johnny's bender that renders the rail into hoops. The system produces a solid hoophouse that is 12' wide by as long as you want. It has worked out really well for us and we would recommend it to other small scale farmers and gardeners. That system, however, was based on permanent ground posts, which means the hoophouse can't be moved. A year later, Johnny's updated their system with a new design that makes it possible to move the hoophouse along a set of tracks. It looks really cool, but our ideal mobile system would allow us to move the hoophouse wherever we want rather than just back and forth on tracks. We also wanted to keep expenses as low as possible, and the design I came up with is much cheaper.

Johnny's estimates that a 48' hoophouse on 96' worth of track (allowing for movement of the hoophouse back and forth between two pieces of soil) costs approximately $1500; I just built a similar set-up (three feet shorter in length--45') that allows for go-anywhere movement of the structure for roughly $550. I really want to emphasize, though, that the trade-off in my design is that it's much flimsier and not nearly as pretty. Hopefully not too flimsy; more on that below.

hoophouse full view 1

hoophouse full view 1

Full structure ready for plastic

Full structure ready for plastic

hoophouse corner 1

hoophouse corner 1

middle of length

middle of length

apex of hoops

apex of hoops

corner brace

corner brace

Staking the structure

Staking the structure

finished structure

finished structure

hoophouse interior

hoophouse interior

And that's about it. The result is a hoophouse that can be moved anywhere you want around the farm with just two people carrying it. It worked for us, anyway: two of us carried each 20'x12' structure about 300 feet to it's first growing space. I can't stress enough though: the structure is quite flimsy. There is a lot of sway in the bows along the length of the hoophouse. But I believe it is going to hold up in the strong winds we receive here and will transport well when we want to move it, which is all that matters to me. If you're someone who can't stand ugly design, don't build this, or improve on the obvious flaws that this inept designer/builder incorporated. And I'll be sure to update this post if the wind destroys the structure.

When we want to move it again, I figure it will take 2 hours to remove the plastic, move the structure, stake it, then apply the plastic again. Though after a spring greens crop I think I'll use the frame without plastic to trellis my tomatoes. We'll see.

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