You love seeing the little ones munching on snap peas or pulling carrots straight from the dirt, but all of that fun can get derailed if your plants get destroyed by a summer hail storm. If you're in an area that's prone to hail storms throughout the warm months of the year, you'll do well to build yourself a cloche or hoop house, under which your little plants can avoid getting pummeled by a downpour.
Drive pieces of 3-foot rebar 1 to 2 feet into the ground at the edge of your garden, every 3 feet on opposite sides of the garden, on its long side. For example, if your garden is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide, drive 3 pieces of rebar into the ground on each of the 6-foot-long sides.
Slide a piece of 1-inch PVC piping onto each piece of rebar on one side of the garden. Each PVC piece should be roughly twice the width of your garden, so if your garden is 4 feet wide, the PVC should be about 8 feet long, or slightly shorter.
Ask a friend to hold the PVC in place on top of the rebar as you bend the PVC piece and slide it onto the rebar on the opposite side of the garden. This will create a "hoop" onto which you can add a protective layer. Slide your PVC onto all pieces of rebar in the garden.
Place a 1-inch by 2-inch piece of wood, cut to the same length as the garden, at the top of the hoops and then wrap bits of wire around the PVC and the wood to secure the wood in place. This acts as additional support. If you want even more support, secure 2 more pieces of wood to the top of the hoops, about 1 to 2 feet down from the top support.
Lay a piece of U.V.-treated plastic over the hoop house, and then lay a 2-inch by 4-inch board at the base of each hoop house, holding the plastic in place. Cut the plastic to approximately 1 foot longer than your pieces of PVC, to allow you room to hold it in place. If your PVC pieces were 8 feet, for example, cut the plastic to 10 feet long. At its ends, allow the plastic to drape over the "doors" of the hoop house, or cut it so that only a few inches of plastic extend beyond the hoops. The hoop house has the added advantage of letting you start your growing season earlier, since it will keep your plants warmer. Do this in the early spring, and by summer, move onto the next step.
Remove the plastic when it starts getting really hot outside -- your plants won't like to be overly hot, unless you're growing heat-loving plants such as peppers. Replace the plastic with a piece of fine bird netting, cut to the same size as the plastic, and secure it down with your 2-by-4-inch boards.