Cheap easy greenhouse

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Thunder5Ranch, Feb 28, 2017.

  1. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Tis the time of year I start dragging these out of the barn and putting them together and thought I would grab a picture or three and share here.

    Ok this is more of a mini green house or cold frame, but it will grow cool season veggies year round in Zone 5 and 6 I use them for moving plants out of the starting rooms and big greenhouse to harden off Tomotoes, Peppers, Egg plants etc . I run 12 of these that are 10'w and either 16', 20' or 24' long. I have found that over 24' they lose their stability if you don't add additional bracing and it is more cost effective to just build another unit.

    A basic 8' x 12' that will serve a lot of folks needs is cheap to build around $60 in cattle panels, $20 in lumber, $10 in hardware and $40-$50 for the plastic or greenhouse film. So somewhere in the neighborhood of $140-$150. You can make them pretty or you can make them basic and not so pretty. Mine are for production so pretty ain't real high up on my list, Functional is. 8x12 will be around 6' at peak While my standard 10' wide are 5' at peak. For ends and the primary support I just use a 2x4 T and use fence staples to hold the panel onto the contact points with the T and use 3 bolts and nuts to connect the bottom of the T to the base board on the ends and then bolt a 45 degree 2x4 from base to the T to stabilize it.

    You can use fence staples or U bolts to attach the cattle panels to the sides of the base boards. I use u bolts because I take them apart at the end of may and store them in the barn until the following March. Once built it only takes about 20-30 minutes to put each one up again out of the barn. The first 4 I built 25 years ago are still in service today, although they do get a new skin every 8-10 years. Storing the greenhouse film triples the effective life span of it. I don't get fancy with the ends and just use cheap woven tarps. I don't care about looks just keeping frost out and warm in :)

    I start around 40,000 plants every spring for my own fields and to put into 4" pots to open the farmers market season up with. So there is a fairly constant rotation from starting chambers and the green house to the cold frame to the big potting shed to the big high tunnel and then out to the fields or to the markets.

    If just growing for myself and family 2-3 of these would be all I needed for fresh lettuce, greens and radishes all winter long and ample space to harden my cold sensitive plants like tomatoes and peppers.

    Just started putting the frames together yesterday and will post more pics here once I get the ends and skins on and again when the flats start rolling out of the green house and germination chambers.

    DSC00274.JPG DSC00275.JPG DSC00276.JPG DSC00277.JPG DSC00278.JPG DSC00279.JPG
  2. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Cool ass idea. I have an 8 x 10 that I bought from Harbor freight about 15 years ago. It shipped in so many tiny pieces that I never bothered to put it up.

    This idea looks amazingly simple and cheap, and perhaps even semi-portable.
    Tully Mars, sec_monkey and chelloveck like this.
  3. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd


    When I build my wooden raised bed frames, I tack some 1" PVC at about 2 ft intervals on two sides. Then I can simply use some 1/2" PVC lengths anchored in the 1" PVC on each side to make a quick frame when needed.
    chelloveck likes this.
  4. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I keep 4 of them assembled all year and change the greenhouse film to UV resistant tarps after plant season. Those four have 4x4 skids bolted to the bottom and two big eye bolts with a 4x4 steel backing bolted onto the front frame. I pull those around the pasture for hog and chicken shade and shelter through the late Spring through late Fall. Just chain to the eye bolts and drag it with that old garden tractor in the pic. These only weigh around 120 pounds.
    Tully Mars, sec_monkey and BlueDuck like this.
  5. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Something like that :)

    chelloveck, sec_monkey and Oltymer like this.
  6. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    yup :)
  7. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I got one of those EZ Harbor freight jobs and it lasted a little short of a year before I got fed up with it and tossed the whole think in the parts I might use someday for something else pile. EZ my backside! You will think the cattle panels are flmsy as heck and wonder how they will hold up but once the end supports are on they get real solid with enough flex to stand up to 60-70mph winds. Oh Yeah LOL I put a eye bolt on each corner and drive a T post about 3' deep and use a cable and turn buckle to anchor them. LOL had them take flight before when I got lazy and didn't anchor them and the wind got under them. Was kind of cool watching one go 50 feet straight up clear the machine shed and land unpside down 200 feet away! A few bends that needed pulled out but otherwise undamaged. I figured it would be totally wrecked when it impacted!
    chelloveck and sec_monkey like this.
  8. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    Mine isn't portable, but I may incorporate that idea into my next build.
    Finished this one last August and had fresh veggies all winter, now with the early arrival of spring it is serving also as a seed starter. Just started 125 okra yesterday.
    Best thing I ever did garden wise. 003.JPG 005.JPG
  9. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    I have heard of people using cattle panels and it sounds like an excellent idea. A few silly questions to show off my ignorance but I must build a green house this coming spring so I will suffer the embarrassment to obtain reliable knowledge... I am in Northern Idaho and we still got 3 feet of snow and it's snowing now so I will not be starting soon but need to figure out exactly what we want to do. I think I would like to build an 8' x 12' first and if that turns out well then the next year I will do something larger. Questions...
    6 foot tall would be a minimum requirement while 'pretty' is not, just functionality and reliability.

    1. Are cattle panels one standard size? If so then I can build a 8 x 12 this year (as a test and evaluate), with 6 foot headroom, and 8 x 20 next year (also 6' tall)? Or, how are you doing your 10 x 20 which would be a better size for us?

    2. I understand how you are using u-bolts and/or fence staples to attach the panels to the 2x4 base. But, how are you attaching the plastic covering so that it doesn't tear.

    3. "For ends and the primary support I just use a 2x4 T and use fence staples to hold the panel onto the contact points with the T and use 3 bolts and nuts to connect the bottom of the T to the base board on the ends and then bolt a 45 degree 2x4 from base to the T to stabilize it." I think I understand but a photo would help immensely?

    4. On a longer one, 8 x 20 (or 10x20), does one need some upright support in the center for reinforcement or are the panels strong enough.

    I really would like to try one of these as I think the knit of the panels really provide a good surface for the plastic covering giving it more stability and less work than say a PVC hoop house that's just as stable.
  10. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    @Oltymer What is the deal with the plastic planting beds? Looks like they're at least double layered plastic... Is that for warmth or ?Are those 2x8's then you just laid the plastic in there and attached it or what? And, why?
    chelloveck likes this.
  11. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    Where I put the greenhouse is highly contaminated soil as the site has been a coke furnace, with several house sites here since before the Civil War, and a dumping ground for local coal mining operations. There is a lot of melted aluminum and un-numerable bits of asbestos mixed throughout the soil on this particular plot of ground. So I decided to insulate the raised bed dirt, which is 7 pickup loads purchased from a local nursery, from the contaminated soil the with plastic. This is one layer of the same type plastic I used for the greenhouse, I also put a layer on the floor to mitigate asbestos dust. This creates a very hot greenhouse. If I move this greenhouse I can salvage the dirt for use elsewhere.
    The treated 2x8's are salvaged from a porch project, and the wire mesh along both sides of the raised beds is 4' metal wire fencing cut in two for a 2' height and reinforced and held in place 006.JPG 007.JPG 008.JPG with stakes driven into the ground.
  12. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    I have a short video about this greenhouse on my You Tube channel under Wildcat Creek Survival which I shot back in November that might clarify some of the construction.
    chelloveck, Bandit99 and Tully Mars like this.
  13. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    1. Cattle panels are standard 4'W x 16' long to go wider than 8' w at the base = about 6' in the center of the arch. 10' at the base = about 5' center To go taller there are two options First build side walls and u bolt or fence staple the panel Higher up the wall (I would double the hardware) each 1' of wall = 1' to height and can still go 8 or 10 feet wide. (Less than 8 feet and the panels go upside down egg shaped. To go wider and taller you can overlap 2 panels and tack weld or wire them together length wise. Doing that is going to require a pillars and center beams the length. I should have noted in the original post to wire or tack weld the panels side to side AFTER they are up in the frame.

    2. Three ways to attach the plastic #1. Role it around Furring strips or a a 2x4 or a 1x4 or whatever as tight as you can get it and leave enough of the wrap board exposed on the ends to put 3-4 screws through into the base board or wall. Not my favorite but it works. #2 Greenhouse/High Tunnel U channel and wiggle wire. The most common way I do it. The U channel is screwed onto the base then the wiggle wire secures the plastic in the U channel. I replace the main green house cover and high tunnel cover every 3 years ( Get a 54' w x 100' long sheet of used greenhouse film out of it) and I replace all of the wiggle wire, and any U chanel that it wearing or getting warped. Can buy the channel and wire and plastic from Farmtek or greenhouse supply companies or if you have someone running greenhouses or high tunnels nearby, the bigger guys just trash that stuff and will often just give it to you if you ask them save it for them. 3rd Roll it on a pipe with a U joint at one end and Tie the pipe down on the corners. I would suggest 2 ground anchors on either side with nylon rope over the top to hold it down more secure. Or bolt it down with conduit clamps on the ends. If it is going to perm. This is the best option as you can roll the sides up and down for better vetilation and back down when it is colder.

    #3. It aint Purdy but it does hold it solid. If you want it to look nice you can cut angle on the ends of the cross or even frame a door by making a H in the center rather than the T. I didn't have the 45s handy this morning so I just toe nailed some scarp pieces at angles.

    #4. Longer than 24' really does need another T in the middle.

    I tried PvC doing ribs every 4' and purlins to stabilize end to end. The first 10" snow we got the whole think collapsed. The cattle panel ones I have six inches of solid ice on them + 18" of snow and the center Compress a bit but sprung right back up then ice and snow were busted off. In a heavy snow load area I would put a T brace probably every 10 feet to be safe. Would not have to perm just something to stick under the panels when a storm was coming.
  14. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    The cattle panel version I use is basically a mini version of this. And cost around $13,000 less :)

    The cross rail is U channel and the plastic is locked into it with wiggle wire. Then the lower 6' rolls up on a 100' long pipe in the case of the high tunnel. The Channel is supposed to be screwed on to a 1x4. The guy I hired to put this tunnel up bolted it to the ribs instead and the 200' of 1x4s magically disappeared. I don't worry much about snow load in the tunnels as they have 4 big forced air heaters that can bring them up to 100+ degrees if need be and melt snow and ice as fast as it falls on it.

  15. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    @Thunder5Ranch and @Oltymer
    THANK YOU both so much for posting your pics and info. I am going to build a permanent green house but have been hung up on design and size. I don't want to spend more than is needed, but want something that will be serviceable over time. Y'all have given me some good ideas-thanks again!
    chelloveck and Oltymer like this.
  16. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Something else you might watch for are greenhouses and high tunnels on Craiglist in your area. The people that buy them on grants very often sell a 30x96 for a couple thousand bucks as soon as the contract with NCRs times out. I have bought 3 that way that would have otherwise cost $10,000-$14,000
    Bandit99 and Tully Mars like this.
  17. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Getting it skinned out today between down pours and not in a big rush to get them all put together..... Yet. ........ Just wrapped the south side around a half dozen chunks of oak fire wood to hold it down. May just leave this one like that since it is a area largely buffered from the strongest winds. The funny thing about any green house of any style is the side that gets hit with the wind is almost never the side to get damaged by the wind. It is when a corner or end gives and the opposite side takes a beating and gets shredded, as nothing really to hold it and brace it other than some rope and what you tie it down with. Where the wind side gets pushed up against the structure. Best way to prevent that is really secure the corner and end that takes the brunt of the prevailing winds.


    This one and the next 2 are getting odd shaped green house film skins, so I am going to be bonding two basically scrap pieces into one...... What can I say I am cheap AZZ. A bit windy today so I am using furring strips to take the whipping action out of the North side. After I get it all tied down I need to give it the long handled soft brush and dawn scrub to get rid of the algae and dust that builds up in them from condensation.

    When the wind dies down I will undo the boards and put a foot wide strip of film glue or tape and overlap the two sheets a foot at the short end and probably have to trim 3' off the long end. Or I could just use 3 more furring strips and roll 3-4 layers of the other oddball scrap piece and screw it on to the strips already in place. Like I said these ain't got to be pretty since they are only up for 2 1/2 months at most
    chelloveck and Tully Mars like this.
  18. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Yeah, me too, Tully. And, those are exactly my requirements also, reasonable cost yet serviceable. I need to be a bit careful as we can get a hell'va lot of snow, like this year. I'm new here and got a big damn shock.

    @Thunder5Ranch and @Oltymer Much thanks! Please don't be surprised or offended in 6 weeks or so if I contact you with some specific questions or asking for recommendations. I'm saving this link. The wife is gone for about 2 months and the first words out of her mouth upon return will be, ", about my Greenhouse..."
    chelloveck and Tully Mars like this.
  19. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    As I no longer live in the snow belt my biggest concern will be rain-we get the heavy rains from hurricanes at times and the odd ice storm in the winter. I plan on putting the green house in a somewhat wooded area on the property so it can't be seen easily seen but will still have decent sun.
    chelloveck likes this.
  20. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Lots of deep ground anchors and rope over the top in high wind area. Eye bolts in the base boards and rope zig zagged back and forth will keep the plastic intact. Mobile home anchors and cable will keep the structure from flying. I say mobile home anchors because T post even at 3-4 deep can pull out pretty easy in saturated ground.
    Cruisin Sloth and Tully Mars like this.
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