You don’t need a lot of material, time or experience in order to build a working greenhouse in your backyard. If you live in an area where severe weather is not much of an issue, you can create the frame and coverings on a single, weekend morning and start extending your growing time. Let’s take a look at a really simple method that can help you to get up and running in no time.
Building the Frame
The first step is to build the base frame which is pretty straight forward. You can use cinder block, concrete, wood or any other material. You can make a foundation or place the greenhouse above ground depending on your needs and preferences. The most important thing to consider is that you need to provide yourself with ample space to move around inside once the project is complete. Another consideration is how long the greenhouse should be, and this will depend on the width of the steel wire that you will use to support the walls and roof.
The ideal material to use for the walls and roof are a few cattle panels, which are essentially large, steel wire frames that can be bent to form a semi-circle. You can find them in various lengths and widths, but it’s important that you build your frame to a length that will match the combined width of your cattle panels. For example, if you have a nine foot long frame, you can install three, three feet-wide panels and have everything fit together nicely without any cutting.
Another consideration is the height of your greenhouse. A general rule of thumb is that you want cattle panels to be triple or quadruple the width of your frame. For example, if you have an eight foot wide frame, you want a 24 to 32 foot long piece of metal. This will enable you to bend it over and create a semi-circle enclosure that is tall enough to stand inside of once the project is completed.
Installing the Cattle Panels
Once you have the frame built, along with the appropriate sized cattle panels, you can start to nail them to the base. The best way to do this is to place one side of the panels along the insides of the frame and let the ends rest on the ground. This will temporarily hold the panels in place while you begin to anchor them to the wood. Take some fencing staples, which are essentially thick “U” shaped nails and nail them over the cattle panels so that both ends are secured to the wood. Start by nailing them a foot apart and then fill in the spaces until there is a three to four inch gap between the staples. This should provide enough stability to keep everything anchored together. However, you can add more nails if you prefer.
The next decision that you need to make is whether or not to secure the cattle panels together by welding or clipping with ties or clamps. However, they will need to be secured together in order to strengthen the overall structure. You can now start building the door frames once the steel has been secured to the frame and to the corresponding pieces.
Building the Door Frames
You will want to build door frames on one or both ends of the greenhouse, and this is a relatively straightforward process. You need three pieces of wood for each frame, one for the top and two for each side. It’s important to measure the width and height of the frame and cut down the wood accordingly so that it will blend into the curved roof. You want to make the top piece rest between the two side pieces and screw them together. Screw the legs of the door frame to wood at the base of the foundation.
The next step is to build the frame of the door itself, which can be constructed of smaller pieces of wood that are screwed together. You can add additional support by placing triangular pieces of wood in between the corners, and you should also install a block of wood along the foundation board to act as a support. Attach two or three brackets to secure the door into place and place a support beam across the center of the door for some extra rigidity.
Finishing the Structure
The next step is to install some 2x4s that are bracketed and screwed into the door frame and pressed against the cattle panels. You can secure them to the panels with fencing staples. These smaller pieces will add strength to the front and back of the greenhouse while also giving you an anchor point to install shelving later. The next step is to install some foam pipe covers around the edges of the cattle panels so that the plastic covering will not tear once it is installed.
Finally, choose some heavy-duty, clear plastic and drape it over the frame from one end to the other. Pull to secure it tightly over the frame and staple it along the base, front and rear walls. You also want to add plastic to the doors and secure the sheets by stapling them as well.
This is just a basic and rudimentary guide for building a simple greenhouse. You can easily make some modifications and improvise to create a structure that best suits your needs and purposes. The bottom line is that it doesn’t take much to create a functional space that can dramatically increase your growing season. Try it out for yourself and see how this simple structure can lead to more crop production and less reliance on the “grid” for survival.