Building Your Own Greenhouse Isn't That Difficult

Updated on January 31, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Spinach all winter long? Why not?
Spinach all winter long? Why not? | Source

Have you always longed for fresh vegetables or beautiful cut flowers from your own garden in winter?

You can garden all year long in most climates with the help of an easy to build, inexpensive greenhouse. An overview of the process follows but if you are just looking for free plans scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. Just be sure to comeback up here to make sure you an idea of the process.

Most of all - don't forget to check with your city about permits and inspections that might be needed.

Kit Greenhouse. Image: solar-components.com
Kit Greenhouse. Image: solar-components.com

Step One: Define Your Greenhouse Needs

There are endless ways to build cheap, easy, workable greenhouses, and what you choose should depend on what your needs actually are.

  • Your choice should depend on the type of gardening you do, the plants you want to grow, and your zone.
  • Think about the space you have for it, the placement of it, and the overall look of your home as well.
  • Will you want a large, freestanding structure?
  • One that is attached to your home?
  • Do you need it to be permanent or just temporary?
  • Most people do not need a very large greenhouse. More than one hundred plants can be grown easily in eighty square feet.

The simplest types are the small pvc hoop row covers that are used to grow tomato plants. By using these you can get a much earlier start on your tomatoes in most areas. On the other end of the spectrum are the large, freestanding green houses with stone floors and solar power.

Before you hammer one nail, cut one board, or staple one staple check your local building codes and get all the permits you are going to need. You won't save money by building your own greenhouse if you have to pay fines for not having a permit!

Pea gravel makes an excellent flooring material for greenhouses.
Pea gravel makes an excellent flooring material for greenhouses.

Step Two: Lay Out the Foundation

Once you have decided how big it will be and where you will put it you need to level an area for the foundation of the greenhouse. If you plan to use concrete be sure to lay down cushioning sand to provide the proper base for the foundation. If you are going to a lot of work, you'll want it to last.

Drainage

If you don't plan on having a foundation, pick your site carefully and watch for areas that could tend to be soggy or not drain well. If the best area had drainage problems, you may want to add a french drain to divert the water around the greenhouse.

Wood for the Base

Use sawn timber, commonly used for fence posts, to make the base of the greenhouse. Redwood, Cedar, Cypress, and Douglas Fir resist rot very well.

You can get pressure treated lumber but the chemicals involved in this process may ultimately leach into your soil. Be aware of the materials you use and their effect on the plants, both long and short term.

  1. Make sure that the corners of your base are squared and the sides are leveled.
  2. Run stakes around the perimeter, and hammer into place to secure the base.
  3. Nail to the base and cut any stakes that are taller than the base flush with the top of the timbers.
  4. If you are not using a concrete foundation then fill the base about 6-inches deep with pea gravel over a sand bed. This allows for drainage and weed control.

Build Your Own Greenhouse

Some people prefer wood framed greenhouses to pvc framed greenhouses.
Some people prefer wood framed greenhouses to pvc framed greenhouses.

Constructing the Greenhouse

Construct all the framing out of 75x50 sawn timber.

  1. Lay the timber out on a flat surface and connect it together to make the walls, check that the corners are squared up.
  2. Add diagonal braces and screw into place.
  3. Set the wall up on the base and prop in place with boards.
  4. Using galvanized nails or wood screws, attach the bottom of the walls to the top of the base securely.
  5. Repeat with each side, doing sides first, then front and back.

A Word About Rafters and Roof

How many rafters you will need depends on how large your greenhouse is. Plan on putting them about 24-inches apart, especially in areas that get a lot of heavy wind.

Decide what material you will be using on the roof, whether plastic paneling, heavy plastic, glass, or whatever. One of the easiest materials to use, and the sturdiest, is the clear corrugated panels, but they are more expensive.

How you affix the material to the roof will depend on the material itself. Nails, staples, and screws are generally used.

Organic Greenhouse

Different types of pvc fittings allow you many options when building your greenhouse
Different types of pvc fittings allow you many options when building your greenhouse

Easy Greenhouse:PVC Hoop

A simple greenhouse can be built using pvc pipe and sturdy plastic for about one dollar per square foot. The benefit of this is that it is light, frugal, and works as well as any other type of greenhouse. Best of all you can put it up in a matter of hours.

  1. To create a hoop style greenhouse you will make a base with foundation boards as above. Attach pvc pipe to the boards with electric metallic tubing clamps.
  2. The clamps are attached to the boards with wood screws.
  3. Purchase your pvc piping in 20 ft lengths and an 80 wt. This will give you better height and a sturdier frame. Any cutting or trimming can be accomplished with a hand saw or a special saw for cutting pvc.
  4. You will also need pvc cement to attach the pipes. Do not try to assemble the greenhouse when the temperature is below 50 degrees because the cement will not set up correctly.
  5. Keep the ribs about two feet apart. Cement all joints and allow to harden and then gently pull the ribs into place and fasten with the emt clamps.
  6. The mid-rib should be filled with galvanized electric metal tubing to make it sturdy and secure. In this way it will be able to handle rougher weather should it happen.
  7. Construct the end frames and the door.

Covering the Hoop Greenhouse

There are two kinds of cover that you can use on your pvc hoop greenhouse.

The clear greenhouse film is great for growing flowers year ‘round. Because it is clear, the temperature inside can fluctuate a lot from hour to hour. If you are planning on growing flowers and mature plants, this is not a problem. If, however, you are wanting to start seeds then consider getting the cloudy, white greenhouse film.

This film is translucent and therefore blocks more of the sun. The temperature inside stays at a more constant temperature, great for propagating plants.

You can also use a shading cloth with a clear plastic cover to make it even more versatile.

Tips

  • Keep in mind the zone you live in. Clear plastic in Texas is going to cook your plants on a hot day.
  • Attach the plastic with a good staple gun. This will make it quick and easy to attach the plastic that you have chosen. Do not cut corners or scrimp on this part. Make sure that the plastic is sealed tot he greenhouse tightly.
  • You want to keep the environment of the greenhouse protected from the environment outside. If the greenhouse gets too hot, you can open a door, or you may want to install a fan.

A greenhouse made to these specifications should support up to four inches of dry snow. If you are expecting more than that, or a very wet, heavy snow then add temporary supports to the midrib of your greenhouse.

Grow heirloom lettuce all year.
Grow heirloom lettuce all year.

Using Passive Solar Energy

Using passive solar design in your greenhouse can keep you harvesting tomatoes in January. Face the long wall to the South. It is best that a solar greenhouse be twice as long as it is wide to allow it to take in more solar energy per square foot. Using milk jugs filled with water as energy storage containers can help keep the greenhouse heated throughout the night. Protect the north facing wall with straw bales or hedges. You can also utilize a "sunpit" design and dig part of the greenhouse into a slope or hill to take advantage of the earth's insulation. If you are going to grow tropical plants, you will need to have some auxiliary type of heat. If you have built the greenhouse onto your home, you could run the dryer hose out to it, or even open a door from the house to the greenhouse to let in heat. You will need to plan how to keep your plants at the best temperature for their growing needs

Inside the Greenhouse

The best beds for greenhouses are about 18 inches high, based on the floor. If the beds are raised on tables the air circulates under and around the beds and the soil is significantly cooler than if the beds are attached to the ground. Be sure and use a good quality potting soil with lots of organic compost for the best results. A good reference for growing in the raised bed environment is, Square Foot Gardening. In it the author discusses soil temperatures, soil mixtures and types of bedding boxes to get exactly what you need. It also discusses plant spacing in a raised bed.

.A greenhouse can enable you to grow things like salad vegetables year ‘round and can be a way to make a little extra money. Some of the ways that people make money with greenhouses are:

  • selling herbs
  • selling produce
  • selling heirloom vegetable plants
  • selling heirloom seeds

If having a greenhouse is a dream that you have put off because of cost, it is time to rethink that dream. Building your own greenhouse can enable you to enjoy your gardening hobby all year long and save money on groceries. It can be part of turning a hobby into a small business. Most of all it can allow you to raise just about any plant you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. For the homesteader having greenhouse is a way of life. Building it yourself is the way to afford it.

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    • profile image

      chinna durai 5 years ago

      I saw a picture of a green house.the picture is create idea for making a own greenhouse projects.The greenhouse is an important to the world in this generation.

    • profile image

      Azad 5 years ago

      Thanks for this great and useful hub. I think here you've given very good idea about how to build a greenhouse in a cheaper way than iead.

    • profile image

      African 6 years ago

      It's good to have such great info but I have problem with pea gravel foundation esp in such a poverty in African

    • profile image

      Ej Martin 6 years ago

      Thank you for the link to the article on building a greenhouse with salvaged materials, found this very useful and may look into that in the future. If you're interested, we have a blog about building your own DIY Greenhouse at www.thediygreenhouse.com please come on over and let us know what you think!

      Thanks again for the great information!

    • profile image

      Jennifer 6 years ago

      Hi Marye! This is Jennifer - we used to go to church together in Midlothian. Now I'm up in Washington looking for plans to build a greenhouse and this was the first link I clicked on. How funny! Thanks for the great information. :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Super posting with neat comments!

      Would like to link this hub to my green deeds hub. Please let me know if you have any objection. Thanks for good work!

    • profile image

      sohel 6 years ago

      Thanks for this great and very useful hub. I think here you've given very good idea about how to build a greenhouse in a cheaper way.

    • profile image

      Indoor Greenhouse 7 years ago

      Thanks for a very useful hub. Building your own greenhouse can be done quite easily with the right information, and for much cheaper than a store purchased one too!

    • profile image

      Indoor Greenhouse 7 years ago

      Thanks for a very useful hub. Building your own greenhouse can be done quite easily with the right information, and for much cheaper than a store purchased one too!

    • Nando's profile image

      Nando's 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Thank you for this helpful hub, I am for sure going to build me a greenhouse & use your techniques.

      Thank you.

    • ASFA123 profile image

      ASFA123 7 years ago

      EXCELLENT HUB

    • profile image

      lonelysoul42 7 years ago

      Boo!

    • profile image

      michael 7 years ago

      i have a 16foot round deck id like to build a greenhouse on. but not sure on how to go about it. being round makes thing a little difficult. not sure how to do the roof and all. Any recommendations?

    • baby-gifts profile image

      baby-gifts 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great information!

    • profile image

      Susana 7 years ago

      Good job!

      Where can I found the galvaniza tubes for the green house on the first video?

      Thanks :)

      Susana

    • whitneysegura profile image

      Whitney Segura 7 years ago from Lafayette

      Excellent hub! Keep up the great work, I modeled a few articles about building a DIY greenhouse after this hub. Thanks, Whitney!

    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 7 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I found a pattern last Spring using cattle panels...it worked in theory, and had a whirlwind not come along and put it in a tree before I got it anchored, I'm sure it would have served the purpose. I did rebuild, but the second time the wind wouldn't die down long enough for me to secure the plastic on, and it broke apart. This year, I will be using an existing building by replacing the plywood with plastic sheeting. As for the cattle panels, they are being used for their intended purpose...in the barn to keep the cows in their place. This design would work if the greenhouse was in a sheltered area out of strong winds. I miss the greenhouse I had years ago, so am really looking forward to having one this year.

      By the way, great Hub!

    • profile image

      Jon Mac Pherson 7 years ago

      I built a greenhouse using Landscape timbers, which are pre-treated. I covered the building with Clear Polycarbonate Sheeting. If you would like to see pictures, and read more about it, goto http://itfarmer.wordpress.com

      I've also tried constructing a hoop house out of PVC pipe, with bad results. The wind in my area (PA, US) ripped it to shreds.

    • profile image

      Lawrencelarence 7 years ago

      Im a teen and I finished making a (roughly 4 by 3 by 2m) greenhouse down the back in 2 days, this excludes the shelving ect... But you don't need glass for the sides I just used some plastic from the old poolhouse cover. We will also get away without one of the so called licenses as we live where the neighbours generally can't spot us from their bathrooms :)

      the structure is sturdy enough but as I had to cut away some of the hill I'm worried about my floor becoming a pond!

    • profile image

      kINUTHIA MUNGAI 8 years ago

      THIS INFORMATION WILL COME IN HANDY. AM PLANNING TO SET UP A SMALL KITCHEN GARDEN.

      NAIROBI,KENYA

    • Hub Love profile image

      Hub Love 8 years ago from United States

      Great post! I was thinking about starting a garden to grow vegetables, this is excellent information I can use.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      thanks marlene...except this is lancaster TEXAS. :)

    • Marlene F. profile image

      Marlene F. 9 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      Wow. I love gardening. I want to try this now. I saw on your profile that you are from Lancaster. I have family in PA that live there. Great Hub. I plan on reading more of yours.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Love this!

      We are trying to live off the land more and more and be more self-sufficient. We are hoping to build a greenhouse in the next year or two.

    • dgasteiger profile image

      dgasteiger 9 years ago

      Thanks for the ideas. A greenhouse could be instrumental in protecting late-season plantings from critters that aren't around during spring-planting.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 9 years ago from St. Louis

      Great hub! Very informative, well organized, and a great layout! I have long wanted my own greenhouse. Now I don't have any excuse. Thanks!

    • chermarie profile image

      chermarie 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hi Mary,

      Your hubs are great. I too am a horse person and gardener/herbalist. I have just started publishing some hubs, have lots written. I put up a small greenhouse this year. I may try building one from scratch next year as I'm sure I will outgrow this little one. Thanks for the great info!

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      hmm they seem to be o.k. now.. :)

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 9 years ago from Texas

      I was just looking at greenhouses, but was put off by the prices of many of them. This is a great resource for getting around some of those high prices.

      Just a note that the videos aren't available anymore.

    • Router Maniac profile image

      Ken Schulte 9 years ago

      Cool Hub!

      I am wondering if this style would hold up in florida. The soil here is terrible for growing stuff and we are not allowed to have a garden (HOA) So this might be a great alternative.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      thank you!

    • profile image

      dafla 9 years ago

      Marye, I always enjoy your articles. They are well written and well researched. You are one of my favorite hubbers. Thanks for all your hard work. A big thumbs up from me!

    • ohohdon profile image

      ohohdon 9 years ago from Yakima

      Thanks for gathering all this information. It will be helpful for me when I'm ready to build one later this summer. I've bookmarked you in del.icio.us.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Great HUB! I had a small one. One of the cheap-o-s from Walmart. I used it for three years. Now I will need to get another. I need to look into building my own from scratch or kit here in Canada.

      Great information as always

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      great hub, my own greenhouse now that is one of my goals.