Backyard Greenhouse

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Greenhouse How-to?

We want to build a greenhouse so we can grow our own vegetables all year long. I have searched the Internet and our local nurseries for greenhouses, but they are so expensive! Has anyone out there ever built their own and could maybe help us with some ideas on how to build one ourselves as cheaply as possible? Also, what do you use for your heat sources in the wintertime?

Make a Greenhouse: Horticulturist Help

My husband is a horticulturist. He has developed a "solar" greenhouse design that is easy to build & cheaper than buying a greenhouse. Here in S.E. Idaho we can grow in it 10 months out of the year without added heat. Our weather gets to 20 below zero here and can freeze in July.

The solar greenhouse has superior insulate values and gets more light to your plants than a regular greenhouse. It can be attached to your home or free standing. If attached to your home, you can get free heat from the solar greenhouse for your home.

The north wall is 2x4 construction with insulation, CDX plywood, and has Therma-Shield glued to the inside of the north wall. If the greenhouse is under 20 feet long, the other walls and roof are double wall polycarbonate. If the greenhouse is 20 feet or longer, the side walls are regular 2x4 construction, just as the north wall is.

We have black barrels filled with water on the north wall. The water heats up during the day and keeps the greenhouse above freezing (with no heater) about 10 months out of the year here. That's pretty good considering how cold it gets here. If you have a concrete walk, add black colorant to your concrete mix or paint it flat black. The black concrete also acts as thermal mass heat storage.

We are picking lettuce, spinach, strawberries, cilantro, radishes, and green onions. Tomatoes should be ready to pick soon. Later we'll have carrots, grapes, eucalyptus, flowers, beans, peas, parsley, etc.

We own Sunrise Solar, which is located at Co. 336 N 1810 E St. Anthony, ID 83445 (208)624-3135

Make a Greenhouse: A Good Resource

Check out The Mother Earth News. Haven't kept current with them, but in the 60's and 70's they were the best, by far, of budget-stretching-frugality-with-practicality! You'll find the link at

Make a Greenhouse: Check Your Local Extension Office

You can find plans from a high school vocational agriculture teacher or possibly the Local County Extension Office. I am a vocational agriculture teacher and have many plans for all kinds of projects.

Make a Greenhouse: Cheap Construction Tips

Here are a couple of tips for cheaply constructing a greenhouse:

  1. You can buy truss kits for garden sheds that attach to 2x4's and make an almost instant frame to cover with plastic. Voila - you have an instant greenhouse for about $100 depending upon the grade of wood and plastic that you use. If you recycle wood, it would be even cheaper.
  2. Speaking of recycling, check out demolition sales and the local newspaper for people selling single glazed windows. You may spend a bit doing it this way (covering the greenhouse with glass vs. plastic), but it will make your greenhouse a lot cheaper in the long run as you won't be replacing plastic every two years or so.
  3. I got this hint from my sister who got it from a friend and so on. To help keep heating costs down to virtually nil (in a mild climate), fill one gallon milk jugs that have been painted black then stack them in an area that will receive light. They will absorb the heat from the sun during the day and help keep the greenhouse from freezing during the night.
  4. If you double layered the plastic on each side of the 'studs' during the winter, it would help too. The main thing to help keep heating costs down would be location. Just as there are many microclimates in our garden, where you decide to put your greenhouse could determine how hard it is to keep warm during the winter months. You may just find that it may be more advantageous to do coldframes against the house vs. a freestanding greenhouse.


Make a Greenhouse: Recommended Internet Resources

I believe there are free plans on the net to build a greenhouse out of PVC pipe. You'll find a couple at and

Make a Greenhouse: It Worked For Me!

Do a search "ANR-1105 HOBBY GREENHOUSE CONSTRUCTION," which will bring up several different style plans. We chose the PVC pipe gable style and built it in the course of a full weekend. We did slightly modify the plan. We went to our window and door store and asked if they had any salvageable aluminum storm doors (we're from up North) and they showed us a pile of about 50 doors, each at a very low price. A regular door is too high for this low ceiling greenhouse, so they offered to shorten it for an additional $10. They did a very professional job and this probably saved another day construction plus it looks very nice. These storm doors are glass but the glass can be raised to open up to screen to ventilate the green house. At the other end, a basement window with glass and screen was installed. It was purchased at a yard sale for 50 cents when we were in the planning stages. We made ours 10' by 14' and it cost us about $200. This is the third year with the 4-mil plastic and I think we should be able to get at least another year out of it. Greenhouse gardening is very satisfying as well as money saving.

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