Thanks to a $1,000 grant from Invest an Acre, the Abilene Community Garden is able to give gardeners the opportunity to expand their growing season by supplying the equipment to create hoop houses.
Rhonda Bathurst, who submitted the successful grant application, said hoop houses are temporary structures made of PVC pipes that are secured in the ground with rebar and covered with greenhouse plastic.
There are two hoop houses at the Eisenhower Park garden, one is a low tunnel, which has yet to be covered, and the other is Sharon Vinson’s high tunnel.
The high tunnel is tall enough for Vinson to walk into and work. “This is something new for me, and it may not do anything at all,” she said. “The garden was an experiment for me.”
She started experimenting with the garden two years ago and had so much success that she has regularly donated items to the senior citizens’ center and now looks forward to being able to continue gardening, long after most gardens have stopped producing.
“Last year I took so much squash down there I thought I was going to be banned,” she said. “I have been able to can a lot of tomatoes and put up peppers.”
The high tunnel hoop house will be another experiment. Should it be successful, Bathurst said it will allow Vinson to garden right through the winter. Vinson is also planning on starting seeds for plants to grow in the spring.
The low tunnel hoop houses are made with a series of 10-foot PVC pipes that are bent over and secured in the ground. Rather than providing a place for growth throughout the winter they are used to extend the growing season by delaying frost kill on heat loving veggies such as peppers, tomatoes, basil, eggplants and roots, Bathurst said.
“The challenge (to the low tunnel) is working inside it, but the benefit is that it is easier to install,” Bathurst said who doesn’t have a garden plot of her own, but supports the community garden because of the benefit it provides for the community.
“Nutrition is so vital to families and community prosperity,” she said.