Check out my $50 greenhouse!
Am I proud of myself or what? I wanted an early start on my lettuce, peas and
spinach, a frost-proof place to get my tomatoes in early, and a way to extend my
harvest into the late fall and even winter. I had always managed to put together a
cold frame out of trash picked storm windows and scrap lumber, but I fantasized
about a simple hoop house. So here it is. It took me just a couple of afternoons... ten
cinder blocks I scrounged somewhere.. ten pieces of 10 foot pvc (one inch) a scrap
of 1 1/4 pvc and assorted x and t connectors. (my only real expense!) I buried the
blocks, and hammered a 2 foot length of 1/4 inch pvc into each one, right into the
dirt, to ground level. Then when I made the 20 foot "arch" sections, I could just bend
it and poke one end into each 1 1/4 "sleeve" in the ground. It stood there like some
enormous rib cage.

I happened to have come by a roll of heavy duty plastic from an art installation at the
local college, and it was 12 feet wide, so I made my greenhouse 12 feet long. I
stapled and then sandwiched one end of the plastic between too long strips of 1x2,
then rolled it up like a window shade. Then I rolled it over the top and anchored the
other end to boards as well.

When it came time to cover the ends and find some way to attach the plastic to the
pvc, I tried cutting a bit of leftover 1 inch pipe into two inch lengths, and then cut up
the side of each one with a hacksaw so it could open, like a C-shaped clamp. I
stretched these open (hard onthe fingers) and clipped them around the plastic I had
wrapped around the arches. Too long and they are too hard to open.. to short and
they pop off in a wind storm.
It's not gorgeous, but I have spinach
already, and last weekend we had hail
and snow. Yes, in April. (Welcome to
Ohio.) Anyway, I built a simple H shape
out of scrap lumber, and buried the legs
under the front end arch of my hoop
house. Then I cobbed the old wooden
screen door right off the back of my
house, cut it down by 16 inches with a
circular saw and reattached the screen.
My kids were really amused. They told on
me when their daddy got home from work.
"Mommy took the screen door right off the
house!" He just sighed and went to Home
Depot to buy another one. He's a good
So we're all pretty happy. My kids are
impressed. After I took these pix I did one
more thing: I drove wooden stakes along
the side walls, screwed eyes (like from
hook and eyes) into the top of each one,
then ran a thin white nylon cord across the
top of the hoop house in gap between
each "rib". Then I used two small bungee
cords to attach the rope to the stakes, one
on either side. When the wind really
blows, the hoop house puffs out like it's
going to sail to the neighbor's... so the
tie-downs seem to keep it a bit more
secure, and not so flappy when it's windy.
Anyway I just had to show you these
pictures because I'm really happy. This is
my kind of project. It cost almost nothing, I
could do it by myself in a weekend,and I
am going to have the earliest tomatoes in
this part of Ohio. ;0)
It was really amazing how quickly a patch
of wintered-over garden became a
dwelling of sorts. It must be the same
thrill neanderthal women got from arching
those big mammoth tusks, pulling skins
over them and having a nice warm house.
I built a few cold frames inside my hoop
house with bricks I pulled out of the
dumpster at the Unitarian Universalist
church (where they're remodeling)and
topped the bricks with old storm windows.
I made a similar "H" out of boards for the
back of the hoop house, and made kind of
a window by cutting a flap of plastic out
that I can open and close to ventilate.