Homemade Greenhouse - just do it!

A homemade greenhouse is one option for those interested in the benefits of a greenhouse. I won't say it's easy, but you can save yourself a fair amount of money if you design and build it yourself.

Do you have an unused shed or storage building? Is there an old chicken coop on your property? Might there be some framing for a tent or carport that you have laying around?

All of these could be converted into a greenhouse to enhance your vegetable gardening efforts.

There are pros and cons of a homemade effort, but it's worth mentioning because some folks (like me) have more time than money.

Besides, there is a sense of accomplishment associated with a homemade greenhouse that you just can't get by assembling a kit. Think of making a piece of furniture from scratch and assembling a kit out of a box, and that will give you a flavor of what I'm talking about.

The Pros and Cons of Doing it Yourself

Let's get the good, bad and the ugly out on the table to see if the idea of a homemade greenhouse is for you. If so, read on. If not, perhaps it's time to look at a kit.

The Pros:

  • cheaper
  • exactly the design you need
  • builder gets a sense of accomplishment
  • can be built using scrap materials
  • makes use of a structure that otherwise would be razed
  • retains a little history if you reuse an old building
  • impromptu changes can be made to the design

Excited about doing it yourself? Wait a moment, because here comes the cons.

  • you have to do all the engineering
  • design is largely untested
  • parts are not standardized
  • it can turn out to be an ugly mess
  • lots of dirty work to reuse an old building
  • location of an old building might be awkward
  • orientation of an old building might not be optimal
  • constructor needs to know how to build
  • designs need to be reviewed
  • homemade greenhouses may not be allowed by local code
  • no standard construction guidance

These are all factors to consider before you jump into making your own greenhouse. I don't think it's all that difficult, but then you just might.

Do-it-yourself Greenhouse Structures

Here is a discussion of several types of homemade greenhouse structures that you might consider. I'm not recommending any of them in particular. The first three are ones that I have built.

An outbuilding converted into a useful greenhouse. I had an old and failing structure that was used to raise chickens and rabbits at one time, and was sometimes used to store yard equipment. It was close to the house and oriented very well, so I decided to convert it into a greenhouse.

It was quite a job stripping the siding and roofing materials off, sanding and painting, and then putting the cover on, but I made good use of the structure and it was convenient to the house.

I call it my cheap greenhouse and it works very well to provide an abundance of produce year round.

A raised bed greenhouse built from scratch with scrap materials and chain link fencing material. It required heavy equipment because the scrap material for this homemade greenhouse was power poles - transmission class power poles weighing 800 to 1,000 pounds each.

Using the power poles as a base, I made the top out of chain link top rail tubing and some EMT elbows, and the ends out of 2 by 4 lumber. Everything was available at the hardware store.

I used sheet metal and woven poly coverings to keep the treated power poles away from the soil and away from the gardeners. I truly consider this to be my first homemade greenhouse because I built everything myself from scratch.

Steel tubing can be fashioned into a homemade greenhouse using basic and specialized tools. Another greenhouse of mine is constructed out of steel tubing bent into a quonset hut shape. The project was undertaken with the help of a tubing bender. The interesting thing about this type of homemade greenhouse is that there is no separate roof to the building, it's all walls.

The steel tubing is bent into ribs or bows, and those structural members create both the roof and wall in a single piece. Standard dimensional lumber was used to create ends and doors, along with additional steel tubing.

All material was new and readily available at the hardware store.

Wooden framing and polycarbonate glazing is a type of greenhouse that takes the form of a regular "stick" frame construction project. A building is constructed with framed walls and rafters, and the glazing material is polycarbonate sheeting.

This type of structure can be completed with materials at home improvement stores that are designed to be used in building overhead sun shades, storage buildings and other such projects. With a little imagination, you could make a homemade greenhouse in a similar manner using many of the same materials.

Even though there is no "kit" for a greenhouse, there are instructions available to support using this type of construction material.

Plastic pipe and rebar can also make a homemade greenhouse if you're really on a tight budget. This is a real cheap way to construct a homemade greenhouse. Rebar is bent into hoops, and the hoops are covered with PVC pipe and formed into a quonset hut shape.

UV protected plastic is used to cover the structure and it can be held in place simply by burying the ends in the soil adjacent to the structure.

PVC piping is also used to make a greenhouse structure that will serve you well. My neighbors have a homemade greenhouse made almost entirely of 2 inch PVC piping. I've seen this up close and personal, and it looks like a nice structure that's easy to build.

The ends are made from standard dimensional lumber, and wood lath and 1 by 4s are used to secure the plastic covering to the structure.

The interesting aspect of this structure is that sheet rock screws are used for assembly, and they are screwed directly into the PVC pipe. Also, some structural members, like the ridge piece is a small diameter PVC pipe that doubles as a water line for overhead sprinklers.

Geodesic dome kits can also be used to make a greenhouse. Typically, there are kits available for building geodesic domes. The kits provide hardware and you provide the lumber. It's a bit like "tinker toys" for adults.

Once you have your geodesic dome assembled, you can cover it with screening or greenhouse plastic, and turn it into a homemade greenhouse, gazebo or whatever you like.

Last but not least, rebar can be used to create a greenhouse from scratch. A friend of mine in Canada has built one, and he has great success with it. According to him, rebar is one of the cheapest building materials, and it's easy to shape into hoops to make the greenhouse.

Wrapping it Up

Regardless of your preference of shape or style, you can make a greenhouse of your own if you're on a budget, but still want to make use of the benefits of indoor vegetable gardening. I enjoy the ones that I've constructed, and they serve me well.

Designing and building your own greenhouse is an option to consider if you'd like to do-it-yourself, and you appreciate saving money.

Done with Homemade Greenhouse, take me back to Greenhouses

Take control of your food supply by growing your own vegetables. When it comes to self-reliance, there is no skill more basic and essential than being able to feed yourself.

Create your own marketplace alternatives by growing a wide variety of fresh and organic vegetables. It's one the best things you can do for your household budget and your health. Know what's in and on your food.