Would like to know your thoughts on Hoophouse for market garden project

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Darryl, Nov 26, 2016.

  1. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Hi,
    I am looking at starting a market garden in our area to sell fresh veges at our local markets.
    I have been looking at builting a tunnel for winter growing my thoughts where plastic sides with insect screen (the white one they sell at the nuresry to keep fruit fly and months out) for the roof.
    Just not sure if this would work.
    As it would stop the native bees doing what they do best. What do you all think?
     
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  2. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    I'm no expert on this topic but as I understand it, the timing of netting is important. No netting for when the bees are about so they can pollinate. Then after budding the netting should go up to prevent the pests from destroying the fruit.
     
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  3. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thank you for your reply @Ash
    I will look into it more as what you have said is making sense
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The sort of cover required depends on your crop & time of year. There are many reasons for grow houses, tunnels, netted crops, etc. Some crops need to be roofed so rain or weather does not mark the crop, some need continuous netting against a variety of pests that do damage at all stages of the crop, sometimes you have to install native bee hives inside the tunnel houses because the house is sealed from the outside environment & the crop is continuous.

    Then there is the thing about the amount of humidity trapped by the cover whether netting or plastic. Crops may or maynot like that extra humidity. What sort of irrigation will you use & what quality is that water? You can't rely on rainfall as that will not give a constant crop quality. It might prevent pollination or over wet the newly developing fruit or cause storm damage. You will need to irrigate if you want saleable produce.

    Have you been to Farmers expos such as the annual events at Caboolture & Bundy?
    Those epos have all the good gear on show at expo prices & the latest trends & scientific info.
    Darryl, did I read your post right when you said in your introductory post that you are new to growing F&V?

    Taking on a market garden is not for the faint hearted. I have been growing on a household & larger scale most of my life at one time or another & I still cant make a living out of it & rarely make a decent profit.
    Now please don't get me wrong here & I'm not trying to put you off. Just providing my firsthand experience. I think market gardening is a grand & honourable occupation albeit extremely frustrating at times. It is fraught with dangers for the uninitiated.

    You would gain valuable info if you went to work for a few farmers for a few seasons whilst doing small scale experimental crops at home.
    It's always hard to see someone spend any amount of money & effort, then become despondent due to not having experience in the industry.
    Farmers are not wealthy people. Pretty much all are very poor even after years of growing F&V for all manner of markets.
    If you are turning new soil, it could take years to build it up enough to get a profit & as many years to understand the weather & insects in your chosen area. Working for an existing farmer will give you the opportunity to ask all the questions & learn hands on from that & other farmers.
     
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  5. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thank you @ClissAT for your information
    I understand everything you have pointed out.
    My plan isn't to make a lot of money it's more with doing something with my time.
    If it helps make a bit of pocket money then well and good as long as I don't lose money.
    it is all in the planning stage atm and I can ensure you I'm not going to rush into it.
    That's why I'm asking so many questions so hopefully I won't make to many mistakes along the way.
     
  6. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    There is a property in our street not far away that has recently put up a big screen area, looks like fruit fly netting. I would love to go and knock on his door and ask about it :)

    There are lots of youtube video's on hoop houses, most of the ones I ahve seen are using plastic, so I'm sure you could get lots of info there.

    I agree with Clissat that you will need to set up some sort of regular, reliable watering for whatever you plant.

    Look forward to following your progress :)
     
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  7. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thank you #Letsgo for your thoughts and yes may have to look at getting a couple more water tanks.
     
  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Here's what I got from a google search.
    1.Open an ebay page & type "greenhouse tunnel" into the search bar.
    I'm not suggesting you buy what you see but you will get masses of photos to give you ideas how to build & what to build with.
    2. http://buy.realsmart.com.au/ Then type "green houses" into the search bar.
    Again shows heaps of different ways to construct green houses or hoop houses.
    3. http://smallfarm.about.com/od/farminfrastructure/a/How-To-Build-Or-Buy-A-High-Tunnel.htm
    This one is more for larger crop areas but again it gives a heap of info that you can put together with other info.
    4. http://www.haverford.com.au/products/nets-netting/bird-netting
    This company makes/sells all sorts of netting & shows a heap of photos of its use.
    5. open a youtube page & enter "hoop house" into the search bar. More vids than you will ever have time to watch & will come up with all manner of variations in ideas.
    These 3 will give you plenty to contemplate :-


    They are both plastic but you could use any sort of bird mesh instead.
    This one is a commercial installation:-

    6. This is an Alibaba listing for trade but still there are heaps of photos to glean info from:-
    https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/mesh-netting-for-greenhouse.html
    7. http://www.growcover.com.au/
    8. http://www.smart-net-systems.com/agricultural-nets/crop-hail-protection
    9.Heaps of info & leads on this site:-
    http://www.netprocanopies.com/pest-protection.html
    10. This site is full of technical info:-
    http://www.azrom.com/all-you-need-to-know-about-greenhouse-and-net-house-coverings/
    11. Read the Q&A on this page to learn about mesh:- http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/product/anti-insect-netting-40-mesh/pest-control

    Then after you've plowed through all of that have a look at my own youtube vids showing a type of hoop house I build. The 2 part vid I did I covered the structure with heavy duty tarps for use as a stable for my sick horse followed by car parking. But many years ago I worked on a small crops farm where they had both inground crops & hydroponics & we built these covers many times longer than mine in my vids but you'll get the idea. They were covered with either bird mesh, shade cloth or plastic depending on the crop & time of year or reason for covering.
    part 1
    part 2
     
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  9. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Ok Thank you all for your ideas.
    But I think you are all going away from my question.
    I would like to know if you think clear plastic sides with a nettin top would work to keep frost out over winter?
     
  10. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    No that wont work.
    What does work is frost blanket which comes in a variety of weights.
    I use the second lightest weight of 40gms & build wire framed tunnels around 1-2m high to cover my beds overnight.
    They say the frost blanket can be left on but in Qld with our day temps getting quite high there is a real danger that humidity will do damage.
    So the frost blankets are pulled over each night & pegged onto the wire hoops.
    Then first thing in the morning before the sun has hit the plants it has to be pulled off.
    I set it up so I could just push it across to the southern side of the bed so as not to shade plants from the sun.

    The reason plastic doesn't work is it has no moisture transmission or air flow capacity whereas frost blanket does have that & has been designed specifically for that purpose.
    With care it will last several seasons. I have 100m of 4m wide cut into bed length sections (including an extra 1m at each end to tie the end closed)which I roll up & put away in old labelled horse feed bags at the end of each frost season so it spends most of the year in the dark cupboard.
     
  11. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thanks for your help #ClissAT that now gives me something else to look into
     
  12. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    @Darryl I see a hoop house as an easy to build low-cost greenhouse and therefore I do think it would do a fair job at protecting crops from frost - that's what greenhouses are designed to do after all - protect plants from the elements.

    Strawberry farmers in our region turn on their water sprinklers just before dawn if there's a frost forecast for that morning. This seems to work too.

    How big do you imagine your market garden operation to be? Because, if you're going small scale just a few hoop houses 10x3m and growing a specialist seasonal crop for a little profit then the risk isn't too great in my opinion. I mean, why are there so many hobby farmers selling produce at the local markets each weekend if there's no money in it? There IS that's why...

    At this time of year (summer) growing tomatoes is almost impossible here at my place without altering the growing conditions, due to the heat and humidity combined but a bit of shade cloth etc and the right tomato variety can mean tomatoes all year.

    I don't normally need to buy tomatoes but the other day I got some from Woolies as a gap filler until mine come back on line. Unfortunately, these tomatoes tasted bitter, then within days shrivelled, and became mouldy on the bases of the fruit indicating to me they were picked green, artificially ripened, and placed in cold storage. Everything is wrong about doing this to produce we eat!

    My point is, research at your local markets and find out what sells like hotcakes and then practice growing it on small scale first just for yourself. Once your growing practice is perfected for your own table and liking, then simply expand the crop size for the market stall. People aren't stupid, they know what "fresh" really means and big ag cheating as they do are slowly losing market share as more of us either GYO or buy from others that do locally.

    I live in a fruit fly area, nevertheless, I still grow a lot produce without netting (everything) and I'm confident I could easily run a small stall at the Sunday markets for a nice little money spinner with all the fruit and veg we grow. However, I've taken a different path and grow only for my family and friends (or just to give away) and choose to write/video about self-sufficiency instead as a way to earn a bit of pocket money. Each to their own...

    But, I do reckon you could master growing your own successful market garden within a reasonably short period of time. Your plastic sided and net roofed hoop house seems pretty sound to me and although I can't say if it would or wouldn't work with 100% certainty, the outlay for these materials isn't too expensive so once the frame is up it's just a matter of changing the cover until you get a mix that works best.

    I see/feel a strong move away from mass produced rubbish fruit and veg (looking all big and shiny without any taste or nutrients) back towards small-scale produce grown backyard style full of flavour and healthy goodness.

    I'm sure you can find a niche and grow it well on a smallish budget to produce enough for your market garden dream.
    Although I do agree with Clissa, you will need a reliable water source. This above all else is the biggest challenge for anyone growing their own produce - I reckon anyway...
     
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  13. Darryl

    Darryl Member Premium Member GOLD

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    @Mark
    Thank you so much for your thoughts and yes I'm not trying to mark a lot of money just maybe a small amount of pocket money.
    I just enjoy growing fruit and veges so I have thought why not share it around abit. I'm the type that will be happy if I make $20 after expences as we don't need much just would be nice to get that little bit extra every now and again.
    We have picked a spot to put up a green house rised bed.
    It has been started have been very lucky the father-in-law has help set it up will get photos when I recover. As I spent the night in hospital with a bad chest infection. All on tghe up again now.
    As for a water supply we have run water down from 2 large tanks of the shed. So hopfully now it can be sorted. In the mean time we are growing only enough for ourselfs to see how it goes and what imporvements we can make so it works the way we would like it to.
     
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  14. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Get well soon!
     
  15. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Check out theurbanfarmer.co

    He specialises in using other people's land to grow crops. He does an online course which is not cheap but if you google and search on youtube for the name of the site and the operator, Curtis Stone, and you will find a bunch of interviews and other information that will give you a good idea of what he is about. Essentially, he suggests you concentrate on fast grow high value products and you target not just farmers markets but also restaurants etc who are all about the providence of their ingredients... They want to be able to tell their customers it was grown only 1km away in an organic market garden.... etc etc

    Things like prepackaged salad mixes where you don't just sell the components but you put it all together and charge much more for the mix.

    He also grows baby vegetables for restaurants.. Quick to grow and no competition from other typical market gardeners...

    I have seen some videos he does where he has hop houses but that is mainly for winter. You would have to localise it for your local market but it's his strategies that are most impressive.

    This interview is an example.....

     
  16. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Also.. this is interesting

     
  17. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    That's a great use of urban land! Many years ago I worked out a family of 4 could be self sufficient off just a quarter acre house block with the house on it. Enough room for fruit trees, vegie beds a few flowers, little shed, chooks & meat birds, a goat for milk, compost bays, etc. Even less land is required if using hydroponics.

    However, some things to bear in mind if growing for market.
    All prepackaged foodstuffs need to comply with a whole hoard of health & volume regulations & labelling requirements that are not easy or cheap to instigate.
    But unpackaged bulk sales like at farmers markets are generally ok.
    Although even under that umbrella, the regs are getting rapidly tighter & harder for home growers to comply with.

    You can plead ignorance when the health or weights & measures inspectors come around to your stall or the council fines you for using your home for commercial purposes but that usually wont cut the mustard. Applying for a zone change is a very expensive, convoluted & tiresome process often thwarted by nosy neighbours or do-gooders. Not to mention the wallet sapping annual fees charged by council.

    The under 5ac rural res plot can generally be utilized for growing like in the above videos until some neighbour gets off-side & decides to complain about spray drift, etc. Also if you will be on municipal water supply, the water rates will be horendous.

    Over 5ac is the way to go for commercial growing if you can afford to purchase land in areas of good fertility. If you are planning to buy a smaller area & use hydroponics, be sure the ground water quality is correct before you sign on the dotted line, because the cost to upgrade the water quality to suit hydro will leave you broke.

    Also be aware that the general Aussie food buyer is overly finicky when it comes to produce quality so you will have a lot of expensive waste particularly in the micro greens. If you get a mould in the crop you can loose the lot overnight if for example, a warm front comes through during the night. If you have already picked, that same warm front can cause the picked greens to go rotten by the end of market day. This means the buyer gets home to find their bag of greens turning to slush in the bag before their eyes because it was taken out of cold storage in the early hours, then spent the day at ambient air temp at the market & being transported home. You wont get return business from those patrons!
     
  18. billfromlachine

    billfromlachine Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Darryl, Lots of good advice so far and good luck on your endeavour. Another intensive market gardener you may wish to check out is neversink farm based in Northern New York state U.S.A. Lots of interesting videos and ideas you should be able to use for your venture.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp6Ia4JPJTrEJbhQ31EBRmg/videos
     
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