Every garden at some point will require some amount of protection from either birds, insects or simply the elements. Making garden hoops for your garden beds will allow you to have a structural element that will aid in a variety of different applications. These include:
(1) holding plastic sheeting to help create a hoop house over the bed to combat cold weather and extend the growing season
(2) provide a canopy to support bird netting to combat against birds and other pests from pecking veggies and fruit
(3) provide a structure to attach shade cloth to
(4) provide structure in which to hold lattice or other support for vining plants.
Step 1: Here's What You'll Need
Making these hoops is simple and requires only a pallet and some scrap wood to make the mold... and 1/2" electrical conduit to form the actual hoop.
-scrap pallet slats to serve as fillers
-scrap wood pieces to create the arch form
-nails or screws to attach the scrap wood to the pallet
-1/2" galvanized electrical conduit to make the actual hoops
-string and a marker to make the curved template
Step 2: Creating Your Bending Mold
Making the pallet usable by filling the voids:
The first step in creating a form/mold is to fill the openings in the pallet with extra slats to create a somewhat continuous surface in which to mount to. After the spaces are filled then you can go about determining your arch/curve for the mold.
Making the Arch or Curve for the mold:
I found that the best way to do this is to find the center point of the pallet and set a nail or screw at that point. Next you'll measure 1/2 the width of your garden bed and tie your string at that length, with a loop at each end. One end will hook onto the centered screw/nail and the other will guide a marker in creating a curved line for you to begin your curved form.
Attach the scrap wood along the curve:
Once this is accomplished you can begin laying out and attaching your scrap wood pieces (nails or screws will do). You should have a nice looking arch beginning to form at this point.
Step 3: Adding the "hold" to the Mold
Something to hold the conduit in place during the bending process:
Once your arch is formed with the scrap wood, then you will want to add a block or raised piece of wood on one side to serve as a HOLD or a STOP during the bending process. This will be the portion of the mold that will hold one end of the conduit while you're bending the other end around the form (see pic).
Step 4: Finding Center to Get Equal Sided Hoops
Making sure both sides of the hoop are equal:
To get the most out of your conduit and utilize the entire length. You'll want to find your 'hold over' spot, so that the center of your conduit ends up at the center of the mold... and the hoops form with equal length sides.
The easiest way I found, is to set your tape measure at the length of your conduit and wrap it around the mold. Once it is wrapped with equal lengths hanging past the edge of the pallet, then you can determine how much to hold over to ensure even hoops. As you can see in the last pic, my hold over length is approximately 7"... which ensured that I would have approximately 7" hanging off on the opposite side as well, once the bend was finished.
Obviously this will be different based on the size of the pallet and the size of hoop you are bending, but at least it gives you an idea of how to do this.
Step 5: Bending the Hoops
Bending the hoop...
When bending the hoops you will need to first align the 'hold over' mark and set one end of the conduit in the 'stop' side of the form. Next you'll want make sure that you are kneeling on the form or have a friend stand on it to keep it from moving while you are bending.
During the actual bend, you'll notice that the conduit actually bends relatively easily but it is important to keep pressure during the entire bend so that the conduit is in contact with the form blocks during the entire bend.
After the initial bend you'll want to take the hoop out of the mold and flip it over and bend again so that both legs get the same angle of bend.
Step 6: Setting the Hoops in the Bed
Placing the hoops in the beds:
To place the hoops in the bed, you can hammer in 3/8" to 1/4" rebar into the bed allowing approx 6-10" protruding above the ground. Then you can slip the ends of the hoops over the rebar. BUT, if you have really soft ground you also have the option to simply sink the conduit directly into the soil, however this method will eventually loosen up over time.
And if you aren't getting the stability that you like with this method, you can also add a length of conduit to the top of the hoops to tie them together. This could be attached with either pipe compression clamps, zip ties or tie wire.
Hoop Height: Low vs High
You might notice that the hoops in the picture are at different heights. The hoops can use the full length of the conduit for plants like tomatoes that need the extra room. OR they can be shortened for other vegetables that don't require the same vertical growing space. Shorter hoops will also provide the advantage of needing less material (shad cloth, netting, plastic) when covering them. But you'll have to make that determination based on your own needs and the plants that you will be growing.
Step 7: Now You're Ready to Grow!
Once the hoops are in place you're now ready to add whatever you're wishing the hoops to provide structure for. As I mentioned before, this can be bird netting, shade cloth and or plastic for those cold snaps... or when it's time to extend your growing season!
Thanks for checking it out and let me know if you have any questions :)
Feel free to check out the video as well for further explanation!