An Inexpensive, Hail Proof, PVC Pipe Greenhouse

I’ve finally built my greenhouse for my new garden. It’s a twenty by twelve foot hoop-style greenhouse with wooden ends and is covered with 11 mil woven poly. This greenhouse has some pretty cool features that I really appreciate, and I think you will too.

My third hoop style greenhouse

First of all, the poly I used to cover it is fantastic. It is a super tough woven poly that I got from Northern Greenhouse out of Manitoba. How tough is it? Well, my brother (who operates the Saskaberry Ranch near Sundre) just got pounded by hail last Sunday. The hail broke windows, shredded siding, and striped everything off of his saskatoon and raspberry bushes – but his greenhouse covered with this same woven poly was completely undamaged! Amazing! (I’ll try to post a picture if I can get one.)

Secondly, to eliminate wear and tear on the plastic, I covered edges of the wooden ends with copper pipe insulation. This foam protects the poly from the sharp edges of the wood.

Insultation on greenhouse

Thirdly, it was very inexpensive and easy to build. The lumber was under $100, the poly was just over $200, and the pvc pipes were under $100. By the time I got all the misc. stuff, I was still under $500 total. Not bad, eh?

My third hoop style greenhouse

Being so late I only got a single row of tomatoes down one side, but next year I’ll be bursting at the seams once again! If you want to build a greenhouse like this one, check out my previous post that gives step by step instructions for building this same greenhouse. Since I’ve improved the design since then, I would recommend the following changes:

  • Use wooden ends instead of plastic – and cover the ends with pipe insulation.
  • Use 11 mil woven poly instead of the 6 mil.
  • Put the PVC pipes on the inside of the frame rather than on the outside

Other than that, you should be able to follow all the other steps. If you do follow this design, be sure to leave me a comment – I’d love to hear (and see) what you’ve been doing!

Upick Farm Review

BillyCo Junction Upick

A few weeks ago I had a real hankerin’ for some strawberries. I checked into my regular favorite upick farms, but no one was quite ready yet. So I searched  the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Associate Website for strawberry growers in my area. An lo, and behold, what should I find but a brand new upick farm. Billyco Junction, just east of Lacombe, had just opened for the first time ever. So off we headed to Billyco Junction.

My Experience

For a brand new upick farm, I must say I was very impressed. It seems they are well on their way to a successful upick farm. The first thing I noticed was their lovely yard. Everything was well kept and looking sharp. The same could be said about their fields, which leads me to the second thing I noticed: They have a little bit of everything! Fruits and vegetables galore! Just take a look at their website under ‘Garden Delights’ for a list of all that they have and plan to have –

But on this occasion I was on the hunt for strawberries and Billyco Junction was just the only place I could find at this time of year that had them. In fact, I happened to call on their opening day. I arrived after supper and unfortunately they had already been picked clean by the day’s customers. That was a little disappointing, but certainly understandable since they were the only ones open for the season yet. But I returned a few days later and there was no lack of berries.

Billyco Junction Upick

It didn’t take very long to fill my basket (with the help of my kids). We were picking from newly planted strawberries, so the berries were a little smaller than what you would find on the second year strawberries. They were also planted in plastic mulch and had not yet been mulched with straw, so the berries were a little dirty. However, had I been just a week or two more patient, we could have been picking from the established and straw mulched berries and had larger, cleaner berries. But what can you do when you have a hankerin’ for strawberries before they’re ready? I’ll tell you… You take what you can get.

One things that I appreciate about Billyco Junction is the owners. Bill & Edie Biel are well suited for the upick business – friendly, helpful, and there when you need them! Even on the day when I came late and the berries were gone, Edie kindly took me on a small tour of their operation.

There were just a few things that are currently lacking – and I’m sure as they get a bit of experience under their belt these things will be shortly forthcoming. Parking is one – as we drove into their yard we didn’t really know where we should be parking. A sign or two would be helpful here. The other is washroom facilities. I didn’t inquire, but I didn’t notice any public washroom facilities. But like I said, I’m sure it won’t be long before these things are taken care of.

A Final Word

If you are in the Lacombe area, this is one upick farm to watch. They have already done so many things right and they’ve only been running for less than a month! With a little bit of time and experience, I am confident that Billyco Junction will become a premier upick site. I’ve already been their twice and a couple more trips this season seem to be in order! Check ’em out for yourself!

Want to Visit Billyco Junction?

Here’s what you need to know:


East of Lacombe on Highway 12, approximately 8 km to Prentiss Road. Go south on Prentiss Road, approximately 4.4 km. Billyco Junction is on the west side of the road.


At  the time of this article, strawberries were $3.00 per lb.

Other Info:

You can visit their website at or give them a call at (403) 782-4263.

Hints, Tips, and How Tos

My “Inexpensive Hoop-Frame Greenhouse” Design in Nova Scotia

Recently I received a comment on my post “How to Build An Inexpensive Hoop-Frame Greenhouse” from Stacy in Nova Scotia. Using the design she found at, she built a 10 x 22 greenhouse. I asked her to send along a few pictures and she did. So I thought it would be good to share them with you to show you another example of how you too can build your own greenhouse. So here is her comments and her pictures. Thanks Stacy!

Well, we just built this greenhouse, with a few changes, we made ours 10×22. We put a piece of strapping 2 feet off the floor running the length of the greenhouse to sturdy it up. We also used strapping in the top centre (instead of pipe and zip ties)attached to the hoops with the metal electrical bands , we got a box of 50 for 8$.

Nova Scotia Hoop-Frame Greenhouse
It was complete in 2 days! Its wonderful! When we bought our farm it came with a huge pile of electrical conduit, enough for 3 or 4 of these greenhouses. We plan to build another very soon. We couldn’t have been happier to find this design! Good job!

Nova Scotia Greenhouse
It is now full of many vegetables, flowers and herbs getting ready for the upcoming season.
Happy gardening,


Why It’s So Difficult To Be An Alberta Gardener

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let me just say this:

April 12, 2008

+24° Celsius. (75° F.)

Beautiful warm day - April 12


April 21, 2008

-11° Celsius (12° F)

Miserable Cold Day - April 21


And that is why it is so hard to be an Alberta Gardener!


17 Hardy Fruits That You Can Grow On The Prairies

When I was a kid growing up in central Alberta, I was pretty sure that all good fruit came out of B.C. True, I we had raspberries and strawberries on the farm, but apples, plums, cherries, grapes and the like where all “exotic” fruit that simply didn’t grow in Alberta. How mistaken I was! Or at least, how things have changed! I never would have thought that I could be growing plums, grapes and kiwis just outside of Red Deer, Alberta. But it’s true. There is a whole world of hardy fruit plants that can survive and even thrive on the northern prairies.

Grape Vines

So if you’re looking to grow some “exotic” fruit of your own, here’s my list of 17 hardy fruits that you can grow on the prairies.

1. Cherries

The University of Saskatchewan has really done great work in making cherries a viable prairie fruit. I now know of at least 10 varieties that are available. (I personally have 7 varieties.)

2. Haskap/Honeyberries

This fantastic fruit is amazing! Consider this… Can withstand -47 degree weather, ready for picking by the end of June, can produce 7 kgs of fruit per bush, and tastes great! Take a look at this article I wrote about haskap earlier.

3. Grapes

Yup, that’s right. Grapes in Alberta. Valient is the most common variety, but there are others as well. I’ve had mine for two years now, so I’ll be looking forward to my first harvest soon.


Lettuce Fields In Alberta?

While traveling through southern California & Arizona over Christmas, I saw some super-sized gardens. Having grown up in central Alberta, I’m used to seeing large fields of hay or wavy seas of wheat. On occasion I’ve even seen some fields of corn, peas, and even strawberries. But never have I seen acres upon acres of lettuce, onions, and broccoli.

Lettuce Fields in Arizona

It was quite a sight to see – rows upon rows of lettuce. In Arizona, lettuce is a common winter crop. One local farmer I talked to said their family grew watermelons and corn in the warmer months and lettuce during the winter.

Hints, Tips, and How Tos

How To Grow Amazing Scab-Free Potatoes

For my family, and I imagine many other North Americans, potatoes are the most common food eaten in our home. Whether it’s mashed, baked or boiled, or made into french fries, hashbrowns or chips, we eat potatoes almost daily. It’s no wonder that nearly every vegetable garden has at least a few hills of those wonderful, all-purpose tubers. My complaint comes when you dig up your spuds in the fall, and they’re covered in ugly, brown scabs.

In 2006 I grew the scabbiest potatoes I had ever seen. They were covered with about a 1/4 inch of scab from top to bottom. I couldn’t even use a regular peeler to peel them – I had to cut the skin off with a knife. They were terrible. The inside still tasted fine, but who wants to deal with 1/4 inch of scab?

So that winter I searched the internet and asked the advice of more experienced gardeners – namely my parents – and got some really easy to follow suggestions. Then, following that advice in 2007, I grew the biggest, scab-free potatoes I had ever grown. Want to know how I did it? Here’s what you need to do:

Seed & Plant Reviews

Fort Laramie Strawberries Reviewed

Fort Laramie StrawberriesThis spring I expanded my strawberry patch. In the past all I had grown was the popular June-bearing Kent strawberry, but this year I wanted to try something different. I ordered my strawberry plants from T & T Seeds (which I highly recommend) and received three varieties of strawberries – Kent, Ogallala, and Fort Laramie. Since I had only planted them this spring, I didn’t expect much in the way of produce until next year. But the Fort Laramie surprised me.