Greenhouses are incredibly useful tools for gardeners to have. Obviously, they allow us to grow food when the weather gets cold, but they also provide a safe space for young seeds to get their start without exposure to heavy rains or blustery winds. They are also a great place to store garden tools, pot plants, and create microclimates for plants that might not otherwise fair well in your growing zone.

However, most people are intimidated by the thought of putting in a greenhouse. They worry about the cost (this one will be less than $100). They worry about the space (this one can be easily adjusted to fit any space). They worry about all the work (this one can be done start to finish in a day). The greenhouse we are going to build is called a hoop house greenhouse, and it can potentially revolutionize the garden in no time, for very little cost, and with the option of taking it down once winter is over.

What We Will Need

The hoop house is a very simple design that utilizes the flexibility of 3/4” PVC pipe, which comes in twenty-foot lengths and make up the structural side of the design. We’ll need six of these to construct a ten-by-ten (foot) greenhouse. Some short pieces of rebar help to hold the pipes in place, and four pieces of pipe (about eight feet long) or fence posts will stabilize the two ends of the tunnel.

Some lumber would be good, and this could easily, in fact preferably, be repurposed stuff. Size doesn’t matter so much, so this a good time to utilize pallets or any assortment of two-by-fours available. “Concrete lumber,” often tossed after the concrete work is done, is perfect for this. This will be used to make frames at the two ends of the greenhouse.

Lastly, an assortment of drywall screws and the drill bits to go along with that makes for a much stouter structure than a hammer and nails, but if a drill isn’t available, a hammer will work as well. Plastic sheeting will be the walls of the tunnel. This can possibly come from old construction sites or proper greenhouse plastic, something more durable, is available as well. Some tie wire or zip ties are very handy as well.

That’ll just about get us there, but visit this guide for a more specific material list. In an effort to be environmentally friendly and fiscally thrifty, our hoop house is meant to be built with what can be found at places like Craigslist or former construction sites and repurposed. Working this way can require a little more patience and imagination, but it makes for more exciting final results for less money and is definitely better for the planet.

The Basics of Design

The design starts with the two ends of the tunnel. After acquiring two lengths of wood about ten feet long, drill a pilot hole an inch from the end of one of the lengths of PVC and then drill it to the piece of wood, about an inch from the end of it. Pilot another hole at the other end of the PVC, the same way, and attach it to the other end of the piece of wood, creating an arch with the length of pipe.

From there, mark a three-foot space at the very center of the piece of wood. Using two new pieces of lumber, roughly six feet, screw them to the bottom piece of wood (at right angles) and then screw the pipe, nearing the top of the arch, to the new pieces of wood, creating the space which will eventually be a door. Lastly, fasten two more pieces of wood, creating a triangle at both sides about the doorway, from the upper-most piece of the doorway to the outer-most piece of the baseboard.

The end pieces should be put in place by installing the fence posts in such way that the two vertical door boards from the end frames are attached to them. The ends should be put up around ten feet apart. Between them, install a couple of equally spaced rib arches by putting rebar spikes in the ground, leaving about a foot above the surface, and slipping the pipes onto the protruding spikes. Then, attach all of the arches together with four or five horizontal pieces of PVC. This is the basic frame for the hoop house.

From here, the plastic sheeting should be fastened over the frame, preferably using the wooden end frames to staple it into place. Generally, two raised beds are put at the sides with a path running down the center. Putting a compost pile in it will also help to keep it warmer as the pile will heat the inside as it decomposes. Then, this simple greenhouse will extend the growing season by several weeks in fall/winter and allow the spring cultivation to begin weeks earlier. It’s a great addition to the garden.

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