We built our house in 1997. In 2002 (I know this because it is etched on the corner, along with the kids’ names) we poured a large concrete slab outside the patio doors for a future pergola … which means for over 10 years now I’ve been looking at plans and photos and hoping we’d get something built.
I kind of assumed I wanted a typical wood pergola, But it wasn’t a cheap or (for me anyway) DIY project. See, that’s my garden style, cheap and DIY. I buy random plants on clearance, divide what grows well, and move things around. I guess that’s why I just kept thinking about it and never doing anything.
Just over a week ago I was inspired by this picture from a This Old House magazine. Maybe I didn’t want a typical square wood pergola after all?
After a bit of research on the type of hoop construction that is typically used for greenhouses, some math with help from my college student daughter, and a couple of test hoops, I came up with a plan to build my pergola frame with hoops. It only took a few hours, $100, and a teeny bit of help (maybe 5 minutes).
Here’s what I bought at our local big box home improvement store:
- 12 pieces of schedule 40 1/2″ x 10′ PVC conduit with bell end @ 1.31 ($15.72) Make sure to not get schedule 80, because it won’t fit over the 1/2″ rebar … guess how I know)
- 6 pieces of schedule 40 1″ x 10′ PVC conduit with bell end @ 2.45 ($14.70)
- 1 Can spray paint for plastic $5.19
- 1 Pkg 5′ bamboo stakes $2.68
- 1 Pkg 3′ bamboo stakes $2.28
- 12 pieces 1/2″ x 4′ rebar @ $2.98 ($35.76)
- 1 reel of electric fence wire $15.49 (I could have got by with the $6 roll, but we live on a farm so always need fencing wire)
With tax it all came to $97.79
The tools I needed were simple:
- pair of piers
First, I lightly sanded and spray painted the pipes. Not in the way that you’d want to inspect them too closely … just enough to make them blend into the house a little, and cover the markings on them a bit … until I exhaused the spray can. If you wanted to be more particular about painting you’d want to use 2-3 cans of spray paint. I used a couple of pieces of garden edging that were laying around as a make-do rack for painting them. This way I could turn them around and do the other side right away.
I marked out where the hoop ends would go, 6 on each side of the patio. Because I have steps coming down to the side of the patio (so I needed a ‘doorway’), and because I just don’t tend to do things in straight lines, I zig-zagged the middle hoops slightly. My patio is 14′ wide, and with a little experimentation I had found that with 30 foot hoops, a width of about 17′ gave a nice height (cleared the patio door but didn’t get too close to the window above), and I wouldn’t have to cut any pipes, so the ends would be about 1.5 feet out from the edges of the concrete.
I used the hammer to pound the rebar about 15 inches into the ground, leaving just under 3 feet above ground. The great thing about this is there is no digging and no need to disturb the existing plants in the area.
By this time the paint was dry enough to handle. I assembled the pipes in groups of 3 to make six 30′ lengths – 2 of 1″ conduit which would be the ends, and 4 of 1/2″ conduit. With the bell on one end of each pipe they just slipped together.
To install the hoops I simply slipped the ends over the rebar. Putting up the end hoops (made of the larger pipe) is the only place I needed a second pair of hands. Because of the weight I needed a helper to hold the other end so I could get enough of it up in the air to bring it down straight onto the rebar. This photo from one of my research sites shows how.
I connected the hoops with bamboo stakes and wire. I didn’t have any particular plan for this part, other than leaving a couple of ‘doorways’. I curled up the ends of the wire and added a few beads from my craft stash just for the fun of it.
I’m not sure what I’ll grow on it yet. I do have a wild grapevine in the vicinity, growing up the deck to the left of the photos. After my husband’s ruthless trimming last year it just barely reaches to the first hoop this year, but I’m going to try to train some of that on the hoops. I also have had some morning glory for the last few years which self-seeds, so I moved some seedlings to the bottom of many of the poles. I’m hoping the morning glory will give me some coverage already this year while I see how the hoops work out.