How to Build a DIY Hoop House or Bean Tunnel

by | May 8, 2020 | Grow

Building a DIY hoop house or bean tunnel is simple and fairly inexpensive and it will allow you to grow more crops in a smaller area by growing vertically. It will last for years and can be used as a trellis for tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and more. It also allows you to grow cooler crops in the tunnel offering protection from the sun.

A finished hoop house or bean tunnel with crops growing up the sides and on the ground inside the tunnel.

When you’re wanting to build the best garden you can, sometimes that requires going vertical to fit everything you want to grow into the space you have. That’s where this DIY hoop house/bean tunnel (or tomato trellis) comes in handy.

Hopefully you’re aware of the 10 common gardening mistakes to avoid, and also that you’ve prepped and planned your garden earlier this Spring. You’ll see in the video below that we’re also advocates of the no-till gardening method, check out this post to see if no-till gardening is right for you.

Once you’ve grown the best garden of the season, come on back for all our tips on putting your garden to bed for the winter.

What is a Hoop House?

A hoop house is essentially a DIY greenhouse that sits in your garden. It’s built using cattle fencing or PVC hoops that are wrapped in a plastic covering (or sometimes many layers of plastic).

You can build a hoop house or bean tunnel in a raised bed or as a row cover in your garden bed (as we show in this video), and by adding plastic sheeting you can extend your growing season to allow planting before temperatures warm up.

To ask a question or to leave a comment on this video, head on over to YouTube.

Materials Needed for a Bean Tunnel or DIY Hoop House

  • Metal fencing (such as hog fencing or cattle fencing, etc.) or PVC pipe
  • Rebar stakes (cut into approximately 2-foot lengths)
  • Wooden boards (we used 16-foot cedar because it’s pretty rot-resistant, but we also happened to have some on hand, so use what you have)
  • Mason line (tied to rebar stakes to create your straight rows)
  • Zip ties (we like these because they’re UV resistant).
  • 6 mil, UV-protected greenhouse plastic (if you’re using as a DIY hoop house – anything thinner will degrade in the sunlight and tear within a year or two)

Bean Tunnel/Hoop House Dimensions

Once you have all your materials, you’ll want to decide your dimensions for your hoop house or bean tunnel. We are using 16-foot cattle panels that are about 4 1/2-foot wide.

You can get them a little smaller if needed, but this works well for our needs, allows us to walk through the tunnel for weeding, planting, and harvesting purposes, plus gives us enough space to grow for our large family.

Do I Need to Use Rebar?

The short answer is yes. The 2-foot long pieces of rebar are used as stakes to hold the boards in place. The boards hold the fencing in place and create a very strong structure. Ours holds up well to moderate wind, heavy rain, and the weight of all our crops.

If you’re doing a shorter run, you could eliminate the boards and just use the rebar stakes every 2 feet, or so.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Two men measuring out the width of a garden row.

1. Determine the width of your row.

Determine the width of your rows, then mark each edge. You want to make sure you’re working with really straight beds.

To do this we use two stakes (two 2-foot pieces of rebar) and some mason line cut to the length of our row tied to each stake. We hammer down the stakes at each end of the row, then line up the boards in a nice straight line. (See video)

TIP: Working with flat ground really helps make this process smooth. If you can even out the ground under your boards before hammering in the stakes, you’ll thank yourself later on.

A young man hammering in rebar on the side of a garden row.

2. Stake the boards.

Space out the stakes where you want to hammer the rebar into the ground. Since our boards are 16-foot long, we use 5 stakes per board, two close to each end, and three more spaced about 4 feet wide.

If you’re using a 2x board, staking every 4 feet should be plenty, however, if you’re using a 1x or thinner material, you’ll want to move in about every 2 or 3 feet.

Don’t hammer the stakes down all the way, only hammer them in about half their length. Then, align the board up next to the stakes. Give the boards a good shake to see if there is any tilt or wobble in the board. If there is, clear out any rocks or uneven ground that may be causing the wobble.

A man using a metal rake to pull soil up to a board in the garden.

Once your board is flat and secure, pull the soil right up to it to secure the board against the stakes.

A young man hammering in rebar to hold a board straight in the garden.

Next, hammer the stakes down to the top level of the board. This avoids any trip hazards or catching on clothing while working in the garden later on.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 to the other side of your bed.

A man raking back mulch over his garden soil.

3. Level out the soil and add mulch.

Take a few moments to level out your soil and shape up the beds. We do this by raking the soil smooth, then pulling the mulch over the top (you always want your soil protected).

Making sure the beds are shaped up before adding the paneling is very helpful. Once those panels are up, it’s a lot more difficult to use your long-handled tools inside the tunnel.

Two men lining up cattle paneling while building a DIY Bean Tunnel.

4. Put paneling in place.

With the help of another person, add the cattle paneling by tucking the ends of each panel into the inside of the staked and secured boards.

TIP: If you’re using these panels as a hoop house frame, be sure the sidebars (or seams) of the panels are on the underside of the hoop. This will keep the plastic from catching and ripping when securing the plastic to the structure for a hoop house.

Using your foot, push them down into the soil a few inches, trying to keep them straight and even (this will help when it’s time to tie each panel together to create the tunnel).

Your panels won’t want to line up perfectly, so we’ll be coming back later to tie them together.

Continue adding panels until your row is finished.

A man tying together cattle paneling for a bean tunnel in the garden.

5. Secure the panels together.

Using zip-ties, starting at the very top-center of the tunnel, secure each panel together, lining each one up to the panel next to it before securing.

Then add another zip tie on either side of the panel to secure the sides together.

A finished hoop house or bean tunnel with crops growing up the sides and on the ground inside the tunnel.

Great to meet you!

It is our goal to encourage you in the path to a more healthy, more secure and free lifestyle by sharing and teaching the skills that lead to greater sustainability and self-sufficiency for you, your loved ones and your community.

– Carolyn and Josh 

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