Sustainability constructs hoop house for college gardens

May 12, 2011 

Luther College has constructed an 8-by-25-foot hoop house on the grounds of the college gardens on Pole Line Road, a project that will impact garden production and serve as a tool for teaching students about seasonal extension of garden operations.

Funded by a donation by Rich Tenneson, Luther director of facilities services, the hoop house was constructed by Luther carpenters Giles Teslow and Vernon Tuente.

Maren Stumme-Diers, assistant sustainability coordinator and coordinator of Luther Gardens, and Luther students Elsa McCargar, Bekky Willis and Alex Olson helped finalize the project by stretching plastic over the completed structure.

The idea for the hoop house was inspired by the increasing need for space in the college's greenhouse. 

"Perry Halse (Luther grounds maintenance) and I share the college's Valders Greenhouse, and we are growing an increasing number of plant starts in that space," said Stumme-Diers. "Some of those plants can be started in an unheated space, so Perry had the idea to put up a hoop house for the Luther gardens."

Hoop houses provide several benefits to gardeners, including extended growing seasons, protection from the elements and animal predators, and opportunities to grow a wider variety of plants.  

"The hoop house will give us room for transplants that can withstand cooler temperatures, such as spinach, lettuce, chard and kale," said Stumme-Diers. "It will allow us to plant directly in the ground to extend the seasons in the spring and fall."

"In keeping with the college's commitment to sustainability, this project was completed almost entirely using recycled or reclaimed materials," said Stumme-Diers. "The only items purchased were the plastic covering and the hardware."

Teslow searched through the carpentry shop storage spaces to locate wood needed for the ends and planks for the sides of the hoop house, while Halse and the Luther Grounds crew found the cattle panels used as the arches of the hoop house in the Luther farm storage areas. 

Both Halse and Teslow have built hoop houses at their homes, so they were familiar with the design and materials required to build the structure.

"We are fortunate to have been able to draw upon the skills and expertise of the college carpenters and ground crew to make this project happen," said Stumme-Diers. "I look forward to seeing what we can do with our new hoop house."

(Left to Right): Giles Teslow, Elsa McCargar, Alex Olson and Bekky Willis assisted in the construction of the new hoop house at Luther Gardens.