Amanda has over a decade's worth of homesteading experience: gardening, canning, butchering chickens, milking cows, and making maple syrup.
We built this multi-purpose garden shed to help us grow and preserve our produce. The 12’ x 16’ building is part greenhouse, part dehydrator shed, and part outdoor kitchen. Read on for plans, materials, and a breakdown of how it works.
This project came together through a combination of dreams. The first dream was to have a greenhouse that would withstand the weather. Second, was a desire to build a dehydrating shed for veggies and herbs. This shed could double as an outdoor kitchen in the summer and maple syrup shack in the winter. Third, would be to have an outdoor sink to wash veggies as they come out of the garden. It was proving problematic to make separate sheds for each of our desires. But the problem was solved by combining them all into one building, a multi-purpose garden shed.
After measuring the space where we would place the building and taking an inventory of our existing materials, we decided on a total size of 12’ x 16’. The roof would be highest toward the south and slope downward to the north. This would allow more sun in on the south side, where the 10’ x 12’ greenhouse would be. The dehydrator shed need only be 6’ x 6’ and would be in the back (north) center of the building. On the west side, the 3’ x 6’ roof would overhang an outdoor sink and counter top. And on the east side, the 3’ x 6’ space would house a tool shed.
We wanted to save money by using materials that we already had on the farm. We could use the polycarb panels and some of the framing from an old store-bought greenhouse that succumbed to the wind. We had a window panel from an old garage door and roofing metal left over from a recent roofing project. Our main support posts would be old telephone poles that the power company left when they replaced them with new. We had a wood stove in the garage, an old kitchen sink, and an old wooden door. All that we needed to buy was a bit of lumber and some trex decking for our outdoor sink counter.
We started by staking out the area where our shed would go, then removed the sod. We dug holes for the posts and set them in place, and then it rained and rained and rained. Our greenhouse was a small lake. Frogs moved in, and work was delayed for a long time. Once the rain stopped, the frogs found a new home, and our mini-lake dried up, we got back to work. After framing the building and adding the roof, we placed flagstones for the floor. The stone would help keep the greenhouse warm by retaining heat from the sun or wood stove, and still allow water to drain from the raised beds.
Once the floor was in, the walls were completed—metal for the back and polycarb panels for the front. We used the garage panel for the top front, where it could be opened to vent heat in the summer. Two homemade windows and a homemade door were installed and our shell was complete. We added an old window to the dehydrator shed for light and ventilation, and placed an old wooden door between the greenhouse and dehydrator room.
Inside, we used the shelving from our old broken greenhouse and added raised beds underneath. The beds were framed with trex decking and weed fabric was used to hold the soil. In the winter, a thin wire frame was added over the raised beds so that row cover could be placed on top to retain heat. Pink rigid foam was placed between the bed frame and the wall of the greenhouse for insulation as well. We attached pieces of cattle panel fencing to the ceiling so that we could hang plants or drying herbs. We added a wood stove to the dehydrator shed and built shelves out of old oven racks. If it gets too cold in the winter, the stove in the dehydrator shed can be fired up to heat the greenhouse.
Outside, we used trex decking to build the counter top for our sink. An old pool hose made a good drain pipe. The hose can be unrolled and placed in the garden so that when we rinse veggies, we water the garden at the same time. We hung a steel hose and sprayer head with an on/off valve for our faucet. A rain gutter will allow us to capture water to use in the greenhouse or garden, once we add a rain barrel.
How It Works
Let’s break it down.
Our goal for the greenhouse was to extend the growing season, we did not intend to grow through the winter. However, I did plant some things in the fall to see how long they would survive. It is now late January and I still have beets, carrots, collard greens, kale, and a bit of lettuce doing well under row cover. These greens are not growing very fast, but they are alive and healthy. It has been a mild winter here in Southern Indiana though, so perhaps not a very accurate test.
There has been some question as to how it would work to combine a greenhouse, which is usually humid, and a drying shed. The greenhouse needs to be humid in the spring when things are beginning to grow. By late summer or early fall, when harvesting begins, the weather is dry and the greenhouse windows are all open. So, it is not really contradictory. We also tap our trees and can use the wood stove in the dehydrator shed to boil sap to make maple syrup. That is done in the spring when the heat and humidity would help any plants that are in the greenhouse. We use the building for different purposes at different times of the year, so the different uses are actually complementary.
The jury is still out on whether or not the plants get enough light, since we used metal for the roof. If you plan to build this shed, consider adding some skylights or using roofing that allows the light through for the greenhouse section. We may need to add skylights to our building if our seedlings get leggy reaching for the sun this spring.
The Dehydrator Shed
The dehydrator shed was based off of plans I found online for a wood powered dehydrator. We live in a humid climate where the sun alone is not enough to dry our herbs and veggies. A simple solar dehydrator just wouldn’t do the trick. I knew that my herbs dried very quickly next to the wood stove in late fall, so I figured wood heat was my best option. The plans I found online were smaller, single purpose designs with a cabinet of racks built over a wood stove. I wanted a larger shed that would allow us to use the wood stove to boil sap in the spring or cook on in the summer.
Our shed is designed to pull air in under the door and allow the heat to rise and exit at the roof. We tried adding a heat powered fan atop the stove, but it is not quite enough. We may have to add an electric or solar powered fan next year to help keep the air moving. We built our drying racks out of old oven racks. I use silicon mesh on top to keep whatever is drying from falling through. The racks are designed to fold up out of the way when not in use. I also hang bundles of herbs from the ceiling to dry. This all works rather well.
In the end, we are quite happy with how this shed turned out. We will continue to make modifications as needs arise. I am excited to get a jump on the season and hopefully increase my yields, as I now have a place to give my seedlings a good start before setting them out in the garden. I hope this article has inspired you to build your own multi-purpose garden shed and grow some delicious food.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Amanda Buck