I am a hoophouse convert! These are great structures for growing vegetables and flowers. You can extend the growing season on both ends (early spring, late fall) by using a hoophouse. It is an unheated structure with one layer of greenhouse plastic. The only heat generated inside the hoophouse is during a sunny day - unless you add some animals! Which is what we are doing this year. We are overwintering 200 laying hens in our 20 x 96 ft hoophouse that grew tomatoes, peppers, and celery root this summer. The hens get to roam out on the garden beds and use the hoophouse to get out of bad weather, for water and to lay eggs in their nestboxes. The nest boxes are attached to the plywood end wall near the doors (at the far end in the photo to the right. When the snows come -and they will its Vermont after all- the hens won't journey onto the snow, so we will add mulch hay to the inside of the hoophouse for them to pick through for grass seeds and to absorb their manure. In the spring when we let them out into the pastures we will compost the mulch hay that has accumulated. It eventually will make it back onto our fields as finished compost!
We built another section of hoophouse within the fenced pasture this fall. We had enough hoops from our used hoophouse frames we bought last year to build this 40 ft long section. This hoophouse will house our breeding group of sows, and some young pigs that we are growing out for spring processing. This house has an electrical box and a water hydrant in it -for watering pigs and keeping water from icing up by using electric de-icers in the water tubs. Hauling 5 gal pails of water out to pigs in the deep, dark, icy grip of winter is no fun! The pigs always have access to the pasture. They get 9 acres of fenced pasture to roam during the winter if they choose, they can use the hoophouse during bad weather and for sleeping quarters. The sows are free to use it for farrowing. Adding alot of dry mulch hay during the winter and the heat from a sunny winter day will keep everyone warm and dry. Pigs do fine outside in the winter and in snow - they just need a place to get out of the wind. Once spring arrives we will get the pigs onto their pasture paddocks and free up the hoophouse to grow vegetables and/or flowers. All the accumulated mulch hay will be composted and later added to the gardens.
We believe in using our structures year 'round, that is the beauty of being a small diversified farm. If we only grew vegetables these structures would be dormant for about 5 months.