Frugal Greenhouse Designs and Idea
As Spring Approaches
I know! It may not seem like winter will ever end, but spring is, indeed, approaching, and with it our minds turn to gardening.
For those who want to get an early start, who cannot wait until the weather warms up sufficiently so that seeds can be planted directly to the soil, greenhouses offer a viable alternative.
Greenhouses allow us to laugh at the early spring frosts, and they also allow us to extend the growing season. However, for many the cost of a greenhouse is prohibitive, and that is why this article has been written.
This writer struggled for years trying to save money for one of the expensive greenhouse kits, until one day I realized that simple and frugal are just as good. All that is really needed is a transparent material that allows sunshine in; in other words, say goodbye to fancy and say hello to practical.
The following are suggestions you might consider if you want the benefits of a greenhouse but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to receive those benefits. It is not an exhaustive list of ideas, but rather just enough to get you thinking creatively.
A greenhouse for under $50
Tent Poles Anyone?
How many of you have an old two-person or three-person tent sitting in the garage? Here is an idea that you can use for the first month or so of spring, and then take it down and use it for camping during the summer.
Most small tents use fiberglass poles that bend easily. What we have done in our garden is use those poles to our advantage. Simply by wedging one end of the pole on one side of a raised garden bed, and wedging the other end on the other side of the bed, we have the perfect frame for our greenhouse.
It is then a simple matter of taping plastic over the frame. We use duct tape because, well, who doesn’t have duct tape? It is the magical cure-all for any DIY project, and it works quite well holding our greenhouse together.
The side of our greenhouse faces south for maximum sunshine in the early spring, and we leave the ends open for air circulation.
Warning: do not put this up until all concerns with late snows are gone. This type of greenhouse alternative does not handle a lot of weight. It is fine for rain, and it is secure in normal winds, but it will collapse if snow settles on top of it.
If you have the tent poles then the total cost of this greenhouse is $5-$10, which is the cost of the plastic.
Use Your House or Other Structure
If your house or garage or shed have a southern facing wall, use that wall as support for a make-shift greenhouse.
Take an eight or ten foot long strip of plastic, and tack one end on a 1x2 inch piece of wood, and do the same thing on the other end. Then nail one end up on the side of your home or garage, and anchor the other end on the ground. This makes a lean-to structure that is tall enough to stand in, and allows room for a gardener’s bench and/or a stand for seedling trays.
This can literally be made in a half hour, and total cost is in the neighborhood of $10, depending on whether you have the 1x2 pieces of wood or you need to buy them and the plastic. Let’s face it, ten bucks is a pretty good cost to get you started early with your gardening projects.
Garage Sale Treasures
I don’t know about you, but spring not only means gardening but for me it also means garage sales, and oftentimes the two go hand in hand. I love old windows, and I love old glass storm doors, and I can usually find both at garage sales.
Old windows and storm doors are transparent, and those transparent materials make perfect greenhouses.
If you have scrap lumber, built a quick frame and attach the old windows and storm doors to the frame to make a poor-man’s standing greenhouse.
Total cost? Hard to say. I have found old windows at garage sales for five bucks tops, and it is not unusual to get them for free along the side of the road when people are doing their spring cleaning. During the winter is the time to start looking for sales and giveaways; the more stuff you get for free, the less your greenhouse is going to cost.
Wooden Pallets Are a Godsend
I keep singing the praises of wooden pallets as a building medium; hopefully some of you are listening.
Wooden pallets provide the perfect framing for a greenhouse, or any other structure for that matter. Screw them together two deep and two tall; do three sides and leave one end open for access. Then drape plastic sheeting over the structure and you have a greenhouse.
You can even get fancy and cut out windows if you want to provide cross-ventillation.
Many stores are more than willing to give you the pallets for free, so the total cost of your greenhouse is the cost of the plastic sheeting, and a true frugal pioneer will be able to find cheap plastic sheeting with little effort.
I saved this idea for last because it will cost the most, unless you can find PVC piping at a garage sale. Go to Home Depot and pick up some small plastic piping sections and the elbow joints so you can curve them into the shape of an igloo. You only need three sections about eight or ten feet long.
Then use them in the manner I explained earlier regarding the tent poles. Wedge them into one side of your raised garden bed, curve them and wedge the other end into the other side. Attach plastic sheeting over it and you again have a serviceable greenhouse.
The PVC, about one inch in diameter, is not expensive. You should be able to buy it for ten dollars, unless you find it for free on Craigslist.
Don't let winter scare you off. As the winter months approach it is the perfect time to protect those delicate plants by constructing an inexpensive greenhouse. If you live where the winters are harsh make sure to build it solidly to withstand the heavy snows. In areas where mild winters occur you just might be able to grow crops during the winter months with the help of a greenhouse.
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Use Your Imagination
The only limit you have is the limitations of your imagination. All you need is a clear material, whether it be plastic or glass, and then some sort of frame. There is no reason in the world to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a greenhouse, unless of course you are concerned about the aesthetics of a lovely greenhouse vs a frugal greenhouse.
Personally, I would rather save money. Plus, I get a certain amount of satisfaction looking at my frugal greenhouse and knowing it hardly cost me anything. I’ll let other people worry about how things look; I’m much more concerned with recycling and not spending beyond my means.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."