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Hoop house vs. Greenhouse

When you decide to add a season-extending structure to your garden, whether it’s for growing transplants or to extend your season, you face an inescapable question. Do you go with a controlled environment greenhouse or a more passive system like hoop houses? 

Differences between hoop houses and greenhouses

There used to be a clear-cut line between hoop houses and greenhouses, but these days that line is getting rather fuzzy.

  1. Cost: Traditionally, greenhouses were permanent structures with concrete footings and sometimes concrete floors. They are hooked up to utilities to provide, light, heat/cooling, and water. They are designed for year-round climate-controlled growing. And depending on your willingness to pay the heating bill can be set up to mimic any growing zone even if you live in the far north.
  2. Raised beds: Another distinguishing feature of the greenhouse was that the growing was done in raised garden beds, while hoop houses – also called high tunnels – were basically just walking in row covers over plants grown in ground.
  3. Framing: Greenhouses are typically built to be very sturdy structures built with typical framing that makes them more capable of withstanding storms.
  4. Cover: High-end greenhouses are built using glass or polycarbonate panels, while hoop houses are simply covered in plastic.

Where the lines blur

Where the lines blur between greenhouses and hoop houses is that as agriculture plastic has gotten better, some greenhouses now use it just like hoop houses do.

And as cattle panels have come to be used for constructing hoop houses they have gotten sturdier and better able to withstand storms. Some even have concrete footers.

Another area where the lines are blurred is the use of raised beds and containers. No longer are hoop houses just a tall version of a tunnel for inground growing, they may not have heating and cooling like a greenhouse, but most now sport raised beds or one type or another.

Which is right for you?

So which is the best choice for your situation? Well it really boils down to two things:

  1. Budget: This is the biggest factor – how much of a budget do you have? The construction of a greenhouse is quite a bit more expensive than a hoop house. And climate control systems are not cheap to run.
  2. Do you need climate control? Hoop houses can be vented – usually by rolling up the plastic sides or opening a window or door on either end. And there are some designs of a hoop within a hoop that brings up your growing zone by a few levels. But if you simply wanting a bit of a season extender, then there is no need for the more expensive greenhouse, even if you have the budget for one.

For most homesteaders, a hoop house will provide everything they need. In fact, hoop houses built out of cattle panels have a lot of other applications as well including being used to create hay barns, tractor/equipment sheds and even barns for livestock, poultry and horses.

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