How to Build an Inexpensive Cold Frame Greenhouse

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Our family homesteads on a smaller scale. When we started out, we thought it would be helpful to have a greenhouse to start our seeds and to prolong our growing seasons. However, when you look on the internet some of the ideas for greenhouses are quite expensive. Since we are homesteading on a budget building, an inexpensive greenhouse was the only option. My husband is extremely crafty and came up with our greenhouse for around $100, and it works great!

Step1: Build two framed garden beds. We keep all of our wood from other projects to repurpose it and save money on a later project. Our garden beds are 4 foot by 20 foot. That gives us a 2-foot walkway, and the overall size of our greenhouse is a 10 foot by 20 foot.


Step 2: Screw PVC pipes to the outside of one of the garden beds. We used 1 inch by 10-foot slip joint electric conduit PVC pipes. We did this because they are UV resistant and, therefore, will last longer in the sunlight. Then you will bend the PVC pipes to get your dome shape and screw them to the outside of the other garden bed.

Step 3: Run PVC pipes horizontally on both sides of the dome to serve as a brace for the greenhouse.


Step 4: Frame up your door and windows with scrap wood or the least expensive wood you can find.

The Door: Build the door frame first. We used 2x3s because that was the least expensive wood we could find at our local lumber yard. We attached the door frame to the greenhouse by screwing it to the raised garden beds. Then we built the door with the remaining 2x3s and wrapped it in plastic. You can attach the door to the door frame with inexpensive hinges. As well as attach an inexpensive or homemade latch to secure the door when you would like to close it.


The Windows: We used recycled windows that we found on the internet. You can search sites like Craigslist or local yard sale pages. People will often post where they need to get rid of old windows. You do not need anything new or fancy, just windows that will open and close. For our front windows, we used the door frame as one side of the support to hold the window up. Measure the width of the window. Then measure from the door over to see where the other stud will need to be placed to support the other side of the window. Cut the piece of wood you will be using as the stud and then set it once you know its placement. Once the stud is in place, screw the bottom of the stud into the top of the raised garden bed. Then screw the top of the stud into the PVC hoop.

Step 5: Wrap the greenhouse in plastic. The plastic is going to be your most expensive part of the greenhouse. We purchased our plastic at Lowes. There are two types of plastic to choose from:

4 MIL and reinforced. Reinforced is going to be your more sturdy option, but it is more expensive than 4 MIL. 4 MIL will indeed work for this project. Just be advised if you have a big storm with high winds there is a greater possibility of it ripping. After wrapping the greenhouse in plastic, staple the plastic to the wood framing of the doors, windows, and bottom of the outside of the garden beds. If you see any areas that you are not certain are secure continue stapling the plastic. You just want it to be tight fitting and secure.

Step 6: Dig up dirt on your property and fill the garden beds. Treat the soil like you would if you were growing anywhere else. You want it to be healthy soil for your plants to grow in.

We use our greenhouse to start seeds and grow a lot of vegetables. I have found great success with growing tomatoes, onions, and corn in the cold frame earlier on than I can in our garden. If you wish for it to stay hot, then you close up all the doors and windows. If you need the temperature to drop then only crack a window or open the door. You can grow root vegetables and other hearty vegetables in it throughout the winter (depending on your location) without the need for electricity. Our cold frame has been a great asset to our homestead and cost very little to create!

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