A Complete Guide to Building Your Own Greenhouse Garden
When building a greenhouse garden, there are several different options available to you including hiring someone else to build it for you but, to fully make the greenhouse your own, you are going to want to build it yourself.
The question becomes do you purchase a kit and put that together yourself or do you go the whole hog and build the whole thing from scratch? There are pros and cons to both methods, and we will take a look at each.
Should You Use a Kit or Do It Yourself?
The greenhouse kits are nice because they ensure that you have all the necessary materials to build your greenhouse all at once, all in one go. They negate the possibility of having to make that extra run back to your local hardware store because you ran out of screws, a board got cut shorter than it needs to be, or enough materials were not purchased the first time around.
The kits ensure that you have everything you need in order to build the greenhouse in one go. They come in snap-together kits as well as straight building kits, giving you several different choices from which to choose. There are downsides to these kits, however. The kits cost more than purchasing the resources separately, and most stores do not carry the kits themselves, requiring you to order them online or through a store and then wait for them to be shipped to you. This delay caused by shipping may make the difference between having crops planted early and planting after everyone else if it is not planned for in advance.
In addition, the kits are for freestanding or lean-to greenhouses only so if there is another type of greenhouse you would prefer to set up, the kit option will not be for you.
Building on Your Own
Building your own greenhouse from scratch gives you a wide variety of options meaning that, quite literally, the limit is only your imagination, your pocketbook, and the amount of space that you have available.
The greenhouse may be as large or as small as you desire, and you are able to modify it in any way that you like. You have the option of finding blueprints online or of designing your own.
The material cost is cheaper than a kit and even if you end up having to make multiple trips to your local hardware store, the resulting savings are still greater than the cost of purchasing a kit. Building your own greenhouse from scratch means that you may need permits or approval from a home owner’s association, depending on where you live and what laws and regulations are put into place as a result of that. If you are not handy with tools, you may end up with a structurally unstable building and may end up needing to have someone else come in to stabilize what you have created.
Both options have their pros and cons, and it is important to look at the whole picture to determine which option is best for you, what space you have available, what you want to build, and what you feel most comfortable doing. Regardless of your choice, whether it is a kit or a straight from scratch greenhouse, you are ensuring that by taking one of these two paths, this is something that you will be able to say that you made completely for yourself, by yourself, and built with your own two hands.
Kit Built Greenhouses
There are many different types of kit-built greenhouses that are available to purchase, and there are kits available for all different price ranges. You can find greenhouses that are available for less than fifty dollars, and there are greenhouse kits that cost well over two thousand dollars. If you have decided that a greenhouse kit is a way to go, it’s important to know what type you are looking for.
The most basic greenhouse kit is essentially a metal shelf with a zippered plastic cover that goes over it, much in the same way a grill cover sits on top of a grill. These are the kind that you will find in the below fifty dollar price range, with most of them hitting at forty to forty-five dollars, not including tax, shipping, and handling. These are less likely to be used as greenhouses and more likely to be used to hold plants on shelves during the temperate months and be covered up in case of frost in the colder seasons.
From here, the next step up is in the two hundred dollar range which tends to be the lean-to type of greenhouse, made out of PVC piping or aluminum piping, and covered with clear plastic sheeting. The comparative cost of purchasing the individual materials, as you may have an idea already, is far greater less than the cost of getting the kit itself. These greenhouses do not look as nice as traditional greenhouses and are purely functional, with absolutely no aesthetic value whatsoever.
From this, you jump to the next range of greenhouses, which start around six hundred dollars and go up to around a thousand. These are typically hard plastic or glass, with metal frames. They are aesthetically pleasing and quite sturdy. They typically are in the six-foot by six-foot size, making them a decent enough size for planting but not large enough to really set up a place to sit in once the plants have been added in should that be one of your intentions.
The next jump in greenhouse kits hits in the one thousand to seven thousand dollar range, and these are the really pretty ones that people imagine when they think of greenhouses. They may range in size from seven feet by four feet all the way up to fourteen feet by twenty-four feet. These are typically made out of hardwood and glass and, in many cases, have enough room to put in at least a small table and a chair in order to sit and enjoy when the gardening is all done.
While there are many different options in kits available, and many of them turn out quite beautiful, if the higher end greenhouses are not in your price range, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the different blueprints available for building your own greenhouse, as the cost will be astronomically less than buying a kit to setup will be.
Build Your Own Greenhouse
While there are many different plans available to build your own greenhouse from scratch, each more elaborate than the last, it is important to remember that more expensive does not always mean better, and it may not meet your specific needs.
We are going to take a look at a low-cost greenhouse that can be made within the span of a few hours or over the course of a weekend. This greenhouse is not as elaborate as it could be, nor is it as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other plans that are available, but it is 100% functional, and it will easily serve the purpose for which it is intended.
The greenhouse we will look at building is a cold frame greenhouse designed for a mild and temperate climate. In order to build this five-foot by five-foot greenhouse, you will need the following materials:
- 4 sections of ½” PVC pipe approximately ten feet long each.
- PVC (4 ½”) corner elbow connectors with three ports.
- 4 ½” PVC connectors + adapters.
- PVC cement.
- PVC pipe primer.
- Long zip ties.
- Hack saw or pipe cutter.
- 6’ x 6’ Visquene or plastic sheeting, 3.5 mil thick ideally.
The Assembly Process
Once you have the materials together, the assembly process is quick and easy. You will need a well-ventilated area to put this together, such as a patio or driveway; believe me, you don’t want to be stuck in a garage or other closed space while working with the PVC cement or the PVC primer. Cut two of the ten-foot sections of PVC pipe in half; you will end up with a total of four five-foot sections of pipe. Use the purple primer in the insides of the elbow pieces and the ends of the PVC pipe themselves; take care not to use the primer on the threaded aspects of the PVC elbows themselves.
After the primer dries, attach the elbows to the ends of the two five-foot sections of pipe with the PVC cement. Attach the ten-foot section of pipe to the unthreaded end of an elbow with PVC cement and press down firmly, but carefully. The cement will dry within a few minutes; once it has, carefully bend the ten-foot section of pipe and attach it to the other unthreaded end of the five-foot pipe with cement.
Some leverage may be needed in order to bend the pipe itself; if you are unable to do so with your hands, it is recommended to use a wall and lean on it that way in order to prevent slipping while still being able to bend the pipe itself. You will end up with what looks like an oval that has been cut in half. Repeat these steps once more so that you have two horseshoe-shaped pieces; these will be the front and back of your greenhouse.
- Lay down the cold frame end on the plastic sheeting and cut out the end piece to attach it. Be sure that there is an overlap of at least six inches and cut the corners in an L and pleat them over the curves. The pleats should only be cut about halfway and should not be cut down the full length of the pipe line itself.
- Attach the plastic sheeting to the frame with zip ties. You will have to poke small holes through the sheeting in order to secure it to the PVC frame itself.
- Screw-in the thread adapters to the threaded elbow ends and attach the remaining five-foot sections of the pipe to the adapters in order to complete the frame.
- Cover the frame with the remaining sheeting and attach it with zip ties, same as before.
- On the sides be sure to only attach the zip ties from the top to about halfway down to allow for ventilation. The greenhouse is not heavy and will be able to be picked up with one hand.
- You may need to secure this with camp stakes on windy days or simply place rocks on the overlap sheeting on the bottom in order to prevent it from tumbling across the yard.
This will end up weighing maybe five pounds when it is complete. It is incredibly durable, very sturdy, and incredibly light.
Now that the frame itself is built, you may opt to either place potted plants inside, or you may opt to use the big plastic storage tubs, fill them with dirt, and plant multiple plants in each tub in order to conserve space and increase crop output.
If you add in multiple pots per tub, it is important to keep in mind the type of roots that the plants have, whether they go straight down or are prone to spreading out; you want to make sure that you leave enough room so that your plants are not crowded in any way. The less crowded your plants are, the higher yield you will have of the crop of your choosing, whether it is food, spices, herbs, or flowers.
This particular design may also be placed on top of a box of dirt that you have created specifically for this purpose.
Gardening in a Greenhouse
Gardening in a greenhouse is not much different from gardening in a yard. There are some differences, which we will go over in just a bit, but the essential premise is the same.
The plants themselves are placed in dirt, mulch, or a rocky soil mixture, depending on the type of plant itself and the type of soil or growth medium that the plant itself needs.
Once it has been planted, it must be appropriately watered for the type of plant that it is on an as-needed basis. The plants themselves still need adequate nutrients, water, protection from insects and pests, and diseases and the plants must still be tied, pruned, and tended to as needed.
Due to the microclimate of the greenhouse, however, gardening in a greenhouse may be different in many regards from growing in a backyard garden. It is the very nature of the controlled climate itself that makes greenhouse growing a bit more demanding.
The plants are in this environmental microclimate and because they are not exposed to the elements, the plants must rely on you to make sure that the temperature, humidity, soil aeration, soil moisture, drainage, and light levels are all correct for the type of plants that you are growing.
This level of environmental control gives you a high degree of responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure you are able to devote that kind of time to your greenhouse, preventing your plants from succumbing to an untimely death.
Heaters, vents, and fans, as we have discussed previously, will allow you to be able to adjust the temperature and circulation in the greenhouse in proportion to the temperatures outside, ensuring that you are able to get them to the appropriate levels for your specific plants.
The circulation is important in order to ensure that your plants are able to go through the process of photosynthesis; they need carbon dioxide circulating through in order to be able to produce the sugars that they need for sustenance.
Humidity may be maintained by spraying water on the floor of the greenhouse itself or on the inside roof of the greenhouse to allow for evaporation once the water has been heated. It is not unusual for a greenhouse to have between 70% to 80% humidity during peak growing periods.
Light levels are also your responsibility, and lamps may need to be turned on if there is not enough sunlight getting in, due to inclement weather or placement of the greenhouse itself. Fluorescent light bulbs are most commonly recommended to ensure the appropriate light level and resulting heat are at the right temperature.
Finally, it is important to make sure that you are using the appropriate soil mixture for a greenhouse. There are many different options and many different compositions of soil mixtures that are available; however, you will want to look for a soil mixture for a container. This will ensure that it drains fast, retains moisture well, and contains the appropriate nutrients for proper plant growth.
Wrapping Up the Greenhouse Garden
By now you have learned how a greenhouse works, why it works the way that it does, many of the different possible uses for the greenhouses themselves, the different categories of greenhouses that are available, and the different types of greenhouses that are available. We’ve looked into the different options available to the person who wants to build a greenhouse, including the kit options and building one from scratch, and weighed out the different pros and cons of each one.
We have already discussed the costs for both types of greenhouse building. And we have gone over the different things to look out for, to pay attention to, and the potential obstacles that may be faced when building a greenhouse. A sample greenhouse was provided, along with instructions and approximate cost to build, as well as a list of building materials. And we’ve looked at a few different ways that just that one design, in particular, could be used.
Hopefully, by now you should have a good idea of whether or not a greenhouse will be the right thing for you. You have an idea of what it will take to maintain it and what you have to look for when determining what will go into your greenhouse.
You’ve taken a look at whether you will need any permits in order to build your greenhouse and whether you will need to get any kind of approval from your homeowner’s association if one is present. All that’s left at this point is to actually take that next big leap and decide to either order the kit or start looking at different blueprints for building the greenhouse itself.
Important things to remember are: to make sure that the greenhouse itself is in good proximity to the house, that the location itself gets enough light at various times of the day, that there is easy access for water and easy access to electricity or other fuel sources should it be needed.
If you choose to order a greenhouse kit remember that regardless of the type you choose, it will take a while to ship the kit to you, and you will need to plan your growing season around this accordingly, keeping in mind the type of plants that you will want to grow and their typical growing seasons.
While you may not get them planted before their typical growing season, you want to make sure that you don’t get them planted too far after the start of their typical growing season.
We hope that this guide has been informative to you. And that it has provided you with all of the necessary information that you will need in order to get started in moving forward with your greenhouse itself.