A Growing Trend, April 2018 Cape Cod LIFE | capecodlife.com

Dewey Gardens

Hoop houses promote a culture of sustainable farming that is good for you, and good for Cape Cod

Farming, in many ways, is an art form—one that is heavily dependent on the environment around us. If winter comes too early, the crops a farmer has been hard at work on may go to waste. If spring is particularly dry, the gorgeous flowers a landowner has been cultivating may never come to fruition. To combat tricky weather conditions, growers came up with an invention, unique in its simplicity, that essentially puts control of the seasons in the hands of the farmer.

Hoop houses are domed structures that protect crops from the outside world while providing many benefits to the environment and the people around them. As a bonus, they’re so simple to create that just about any homeowner can have a hoop house in their own backyard.

“The Cape has challenging growing conditions, with soil that varies from sand, to clay and sometimes fierce climatic weather caused by our coastal location,” explains Susan Dewey, who is responsible for an organic produce hoop house operated by Dewey Gardens in Centerville, a landscape design and maintenance company owned by her son, Dan Dewey. “With a hoop house, you can control all these variables and provide your family with delicious fresh vegetables all year round, as well as enjoy the delights of your own healthy, fragrant green oasis, even when winter storms batter Cape Cod’s fragile spit of land.”

Maine’s Eliot Coleman, renowned organic farmer, author and television personality, was a source of inspiration for the Dewey Gardens hoop house. His passion for organic, sustainable practices is one that Dewey has fully embraced. “It’s about teaching reverence for the earth and teaching the next generation the value of taking care of the planet,” says Dewey, who loves gardening with her curious grandsons. “I think what we’re doing shows the larger community what is possible.”

Dan and his crew put together the 20-by-50-foot hoop house over just several days with the help of D.J. Griffith of Hyannis Country Garden. “Hoop houses can be small, low to the ground tunnels just a few feet high or larger houses like ours,” explains Dewey.

The Dewey Gardens hoop house is constructed with steel hoops covered by UV-resistant plastic, partnered with rigid plastic doors and baseboards along the side. Heated by solar power, the plastic can be rolled up on the sides for ventilation in the warmer months. The maintenance is easy enough, although Dewey explains that good soil enriched yearly with organic compost is crucial for healthy vegetables with unparalleled taste. As an added bonus, “If you’re out in your hoop house digging and lugging around bags of manure, you don’t have to go to the gym,” she says with a laugh.

Hoop houses protect crops from challenging environmental conditions during extended growing seasons, and when maintained organically, they also protect the surrounding environment from harsh, synthetic chemicals.