You can build your own greenhouse for fruits, vegetables and flowers. I did, so you can too.
Whether you call it a greenhouse, hothouse, high tunnel, hoop house or whatever else, the idea is to create an environment that is conducive to growing plants.
This environment controls temperature and humidity, and reduces the effects of wind and temperature changes.
A greenhouse is part of my plan for frugal living. It produces fresh vegetables of good quality and wide variety. With good planning, a greenhouse can help you eliminate the produce bill altogether.
There are many styles of greenhouses to choose from, and many ways you can cover the building. I have looked at kits on the market and decided that building my own is the best idea.
Doing it myself gives me the strength I am looking for, designs to fit my needs, and something just the right size.
Of course, I save money when I do it myself.
I’d like to think that a cheap greenhouse, well constructed, that functions as intended is just what most of us serious gardeners are looking for.
I don’t need to spend $8,000 to have a nice large greenhouse.
I think you should consider taking the opportunity to build your own greenhouse for the same reasons I did:
- An outbuilding can be put to better use.
- Design and construction is something a homeowner can handle.
- You can build a greenhouse stronger than a kit.
- It is about half the cost of a kit.
- No specialized materials – everything is available at the hardware store.
- You choose glazing materials for strength and longevity.
- Commercially available vents, fans and other accessories are easy to incorporate.
- Grow vegetables better year round.
A ready-made greenhouse kit solves any concern you might have about designing the structure, but that’s about it.
You still have to build it yourself or hire someone else to do it.
Materials in a kit are going to be more expensive and specialized, so you spend more money on materials and you’re limited on sources for parts.
If you build your own greenhouse with materials that are readily available, then you can save money and build a greenhouse just the way you want it.
With our high winds and hail out here, I needed greater strength and durability, so I set about designing and building my own.
If I can be successful, you can too.
I won’t lead you into thinking that you can build a greenhouse in a weekend, unless you are interested in a greenhouse that is very small or one that is constructed out of PVC pipe and plastic film.
If you want a permanent building that you can work comfortably in; one that will last for many years, then you’ll need to invest a couple weeks of effort, and have a friend or two help.
The rewards are great when you build your own greenhouse.
You have something of lasting value that will help feed you and your family for many years, even in the winter.
You also have a place that is comfortable to work in year round. With just a little sand on the floor it could be a “beach retreat” during the winter.
Let’s look at some ideas that I have implemented.
As you review this, keep in mind that I am not a construction expert, and I have limited building experience.
I know which end of a hammer to use, but my knowledge and skills are limited.
Thankfully, limited construction experience is all you need to build a strong and useful greenhouse.
My experience so far suggests that if you build your own greenhouse and it isn’t up to contemporary professional construction standards, the plants don’t care in the least.
They still grow like crazy and provide you a bounty the likes of which you won’t see in an outdoor garden.
Go to these links for details on each of my homemade greenhouses. Skip below for an overview.
- Greenhouse #1 – Converted Shop; wood structure
- Greenhouse #2 – Raised Bed; straight chain link fence top rail, wood
- Greenhouse #3 – Large Greenhouse; hoops of chain link fence top rail
Click on the link below if you would like to build your own greenhouse out of PVC instead of wood frame or metal frame construction.
Here are some links to information about how you might build your own greenhouse using a commercial kit.
And, how about a seedling greenhouse for use in open garden beds or inside your larger greenhouse? It’s another idea to help protect your plants and extend the normal growing season.
After you build your own greenhouse, you might want to learn how to make a cloche to help your plants get an even earlier start, and help extend their growing and harvest season well into the colder months using winter vegetables.
Below is the small outbuilding I first saw when I bought the place in early fall of 2002. With a sagging roof, rotting foundation and dirt floor, it was a not a nice place to spend time.
Little did I know that it would be the site of homemade greenhouse #1.
I used the outbuilding as a chicken house for several years, and also stored yard equipment there after I built a separate place for my fowl out behind the barn. At best, it was a cobbled together shop from a previous owner.
Constructed of recycled wood and used for various purposes including raising rabbits, it was a well used, dimly lit single car garage with no way to get a car in there.
It was just too small for a serious shop, and too nice of a building to waste on chickens.
I thought about razing it and starting from scratch, but then I thought “if you’re going to build your own greenhouse, why not start with the framework of this little shop?” S
o, we salvaged what we could and made a nice homemade greenhouse out of it.
Below is how it looks today, June of 2008 after several weeks of demolition and reconstruction. The work is behind me now, and lots of wonderful vegetables lay ahead.
It turned out to be just the right size and location for a “kitchen greenhouse” where fresh thyme and tomatoes are close at hand. This first homemade greenhouse is also where our eggplant, pole beans, snap peas, snow peas, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and a full assortment of herbs reside.
There are still some finishing touches to do, but it certainly is a very functional homemade greenhouse as-is, and a cheap greenhouse at that.
It measures roughly 15 feet by 30 feet, and has a 10 foot high roof peak.
Below is a picture of the inside of the building with our plants growing as of early June, 2008.
This homemade greenhouse provided sufficient protection to allow our snap peas to reach 4 feet high, and we have already had more than a dozen generous bowls of salad from our plantings.
Below is the same view of greenhouse #1 six weeks later.
You’ll notice a big difference as tomato plants are about 8 feet tall. By this time, we have ripped out the peas and taken out the lettuce plants and fed them to the chickens.
It is amazing how much better plants grow when they are protected by a greenhouse. Build your own greenhouse and get growing!
If you build your own greenhouse out of wood, be aware that you need to seal and paint the wood, and this can be an expense.
Also, wood can rot in the damp environment, so be aware before you build.
The north wall and a small strip of the north roof have sheathing left in place, but the remainder of the building is covered by woven ripstop poly that does a nice job of letting in light and resisting the harsh weather we have out here on the prairie.
If you decide to build your own greenhouse, you might be able to make use of an old building like this where there is electricity and water inside.
I am happy that I was able to keep a piece of the past on my way toward a more self-reliant future.
Here are the details on greenhouse #1 if you would like to build your own greenhouse from a shop, shed or other underutilized outbuilding.
We started from scratch with homemade greenhouse #2. It’s a raised bed design that was built on a vacant piece of ground that was home to more weeds than you can imagine.
The idea was to build a greenhouse with a raised bed that was conducive to harvesting while in a standing position.
The design also took into consideration a perfectly clear southern exposure and an area that is protected from harsh northwest winds.
This homemade greenhouse features power poles as the foundation for the building and the sides of the raised beds.
Chain link fencing top rail is used as the main structural material above ground.
The ends are made from 2 by 4 lumber.
There are two raised beds inside, each roughly 3 feet wide by 36 feet long.
The sunken walkway between the beds is roughly 3 feet wide and nearly three feet deep, so harvesting vegetables is as simple as reaching out to get them.
If you build your own greenhouse away from the home like this one, you’ll have to run water and electric lines.
Since I knew I was building a third homemade greenhouse nearby, I sized the electric lines to serve both structures, and installed an outdoor panel with a breaker assigned to each structure.
Here is a picture of the finished building inside, just after the squash were planted. The summer squash are on the right and the winter squash are on the left.
There are still minor finishing touches to add, but it is fully functional as a greenhouse. In addition to squash, it is home to a wide variety of cucumbers.
Shown below are two pictures of the interior of the greenhouse, facing the same direction as the photo above.
The picture immediately below is of the winter squash bed.
It is completely overrun with bushes and vines of 6 varieties of winter squash.
The photo shown below is that of our summer squash plants. There are 6 varieties of squash, some zucchini types, and other patty pan types.
All are wonderful, and you can see that they too are performing very well in the protected environment of the greenhouse.
Below is a picture of just one day’s worth of harvest from greenhouse #2.
We harvest about this much every few days. It looks like if you build your own greenhouse, you harvest a lot of squash – Butterstick, Starship, Sunburst, Woods Prolific and Magda.
Ellen is making squash casseroles every few days. We’ll be enjoying the wonderful taste of squash throughout the winter, while we harvest other winter crops from this greenhouse.
If you are going to build your own greenhouse in an area with heavy wet snows, this is the design I would recommend.
It has a steep roof that sheds snow well, and the basic design can be built on power poles or attached to the ground using higher walls.
Here are details about greenhouse #2 that will be helpful if you decide to start from scratch and use metal tubing to build your own greenhouse.
Another build your own greenhouse from scratch project, here is the third greenhouse in our “fleet” of homemade greenhouses.
Although still under construction, we are planting some of the beds now as the only items left to install are the ends and the ripstop poly cover.
Since the central walkway and between bed walkways are generous, there should be no problem finishing the construction while getting the garden going.
This homemade greenhouse is a quonset hut style made from chain link fencing top rail.
The building is secured to the ground with stakes and will have many large turnbuckle hold-down mechanisms on each side connected to “dead men” buried deep on each side of the structure.
The building will be tightened down onto the foundation stakes so that the wind doesn’t have a chance to push or lift it.
This will also minimize vibration on the building and its foundation.
The idea here is to build it to withstand 100 mph winds because we get 70 to 80 mph winds several times a year, and 40 to 60 mph winds are not uncommon.
If you are serious about building a large greenhouse, the quonset hut style is my suggestion.
It is naturally strong by its shape, and you can build your own greenhouse one “rib” at a time instead of constructing separate walls and rafters.
Here are details about building greenhouse #3 for those of you who are interested in bending your own tubing to create a longer structure.
I salute all my friends who have a plan for frugal living that includes growing their own produce. It’s a great way to relax, and it’s a healthy alternative to non-organic produce in the marketplace.
I trust the ideas here have given you courage to build your own greenhouse to save money on the structure, and provide fresh produce for you and your family for years to come.