For years, we’ve been dreaming about building a greenhouse garden to extend our growing season and supply the farm table with fresh veggies. Growing your own food is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.
We live in the Midwest where the winters are frigid. A greenhouse adds months to our growing season, so this was the year to finally do it.
Location, Location, Location
We wanted the greenhouse garden to be close to our raised garden beds, just behind the garage. That’s the first money saving tip: build your greenhouse next to an existing structure so you only have to build three walls.
It’s also important for the greenhouse site to get abundant sunlight, and a water source is critical to keep your plants thriving. It could be as simple as building your structure within reach of an outdoor garden hose and spigot.
We were winging it without building plans or materials, so it was time to go shopping. The first stop was our barn for old lumber and windows. Then we headed to the local reclaimed building materials store. We have several in our hometown, and they are so much fun when you are looking for old building treasures.
Jackpot…we scored a set of french doors, old hinges and more windows, all for under a total of $100. We were also set on flooring with a stack of cement pavers our son needed hauled off.
When working with reclaimed materials, it’s time to get creative and let go of perfection. Shift your mindset to find simple beauty in the imperfections. It’s like putting a puzzle together.
There are two important areas not to skimp on, however: the posts and the roof. Cement your structure posts into the ground and screw all your boards and windows to that structure to ensure stability during windy storms. You may be tempted to use glass windows on the roof, but don’t if you are in an area that has frequent hail storms. The roof glass will break. We purchased plastic sheeting from the home improvement store and screwed it to the rafter boards.
When building a greenhouse garden from reclaimed materials, deciding on a cohesive color will keep it from looking janky. With miss-matched materials and sizes, painting and siding in one tone will solve that problem. We went with a simple white to match the other buildings on our homestead. We had extra white paint in the barn and purchased white siding for the exterior under the windows.
Ventilation and Temperature
To ensure adequate airflow for your plants, be sure to install windows or doors that you can open, if needed. You will want to add a simple thermometer, to monitor temperatures, especially from late fall to early spring. You can expect your greenhouse to be 10-20 degrees warmer than outside.
In our zone, we will be able to use the greenhouse 3 seasons a year, and possibly four, if we want to add a heat lamp.
Fill your greenhouse with at least one bench or shelf to hold your plants and seeds. Many gardeners go vertical by hanging their plants. If you are lucky enough to have a large greenhouse, you could even bring in a table and host a dinner.
Your greenhouse should be practical, so think through your needs for tools, seed and soil storage. We repurposed our very first BBQ grill for a soil storage garden bench. Removing the BBQ lid and controls, spray painting it white and adding a top shelf board gave us a fabulous work space for our soil storage.
Bring on the Plants
This is our first day in the greenhouse, and I was already bringing in plants before the floor was dry. We are starting more seeds, cultivating our lemon tree and planning to pack this sunshine structure to the max over the next few weeks. Every week it will look different depending on what’s going on outside in the garden.
Leave out the Goats
If you’ve spent any time around goats, you know they love to jump up high onto things and gobble up green or flowering plants. We let the babies play in the greenhouse the first night it was finished, before we brought in most of the plants. This may be a rare occurrence once the greenhouse is full and functioning, so I thought I should snap a couple of photos to capture their curious and silly playtime.
Lavender is one of my absolute favorite plants, so we decided on lavender topiaries to greet us each morning as we enter the greenhouse. I have a fabulous lavender lemon tea recipe, and this will make quick work of gathering the ingredients. The front patio is important. My husband saved a few extra cement pavers to line the entryway floor. I’m now on the search for a fun welcome mat.
Gardening is such a wonderful hobby for your family. We built the greenhouse out of reclaimed materials for a couple hundred dollars, in just a few of short weeks. I have a friend that enjoys her version of a greenhouse in the apartment bay window with a fabulous container salsa garden. Growing your own food is something you can do wherever you live. I hope you can enjoy some fresh food from your garden this season as well.
Lana lives with her husband and kids on a small farmstead in Kansas City, where they raise goats, chickens & bees. They are fixing up their 120 year old farmhouse one room at a time. Lana is a University Business Professor, and she enjoys local Kansas City BBQ any chance she gets. Learn more about Lana at LanaStenner.com.