How to build a greenhouse

Let’s talk greenhouses. Rather, let’s talk about how to build a greenhouse.

I’ve dreamed of them as long as I can remember – lusting after not only the practical aspect of protected and extended growing, but also the beauty. For some reason, I think of old European homes with vined in green houses tucked onto the back corner of the estates, bursting with orchids and exotic plants. 

Fine. Mine isn’t nearly that exciting. There are no orchids or vines to be had. But that’s okay. Because baby, we’ve got a greenhouse! And that alone is worth serious celebration! 

The completed Elliott Homestead greenhouse

With this greenhouse, we’ll be able to not only extend our harvest year round but also begin our starts in a safe and protected place, getting them off to an early start (much unlike the chicken-tomato massacre we had this past year – coupled with the constant dirty mess in the bathroom!).

Because we so strongly desire to grow our own food here on Beatha Fonn, adding a greenhouse – even a small one – was an important step. We live in North Central Washington where winters are coooooold. Unless you’re growing in a greenhouse, you’re not growing at all. We may even have to double insulate our plantings inside – it’s that cold. But still, greens, carrots, radish, broccoli, and a small handful of other cold-loving plants should survive the winter nicely and allow us to harvest fresh produce through the winter. 

Did anyone else just jump up and down with enthusiasm? Because I did.

There are a few things we learned while making this greenhouse. And I’m happy to share. There’s an on-running joke in our house:

Projects always cost twice as much, look half as good, and take twice as long as you anticipate.

Ain’t that the truth. And naturally, the greenhouse was no exception.

It wasn’t exactly cheap. And it wasn’t exactly easy. But wow – isn’t it AWESOME? Originally, we were wanting to build an inexpensive hoop house, made of greenhouse plastic and PVC pipes. Cheap. Easy. Wonderful.

But then we remembered about the zillion mile per hour winds that we constantly get up here on the hill – particularly in the fall and spring. We’d have to design a serious hoop house to withstand these winds. Hmm… the wheels were turning…

We’re no architects but eventually we had to conclude (we’re, like, so Sherlock Holmes-ish) that a hoop house would simply not do here. We’re too exposed to too many harsh elements. On top of the hill we sit. And on top of the hill we shall stand.

Thus began the design of a stick-built greenhouse. The real deal. Sunken into the ground… nailed and screwed… solid and secure. I think in the long run, though it cost much more than anticipated, it’ll pay off in the long run. I can’t imagine having to fix torn plastic in the middle of a wind storm or replace broken piping. I see the greenhouse as an investment into Beatha Fonn – and really, for this blog. After all, a chef needs fresh ingredients, does she not? 

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Total Cost

Plastic Sheeting/Wood Stripping: $557.57

Screws: $16.94

Snips (for cutting plastic): $9.00

Lumber: $74.19

Concrete Blocks: $17.98

Screws for blocks: $10.28

Door: $60

Total Project Cost: $745.96

Not cheap – but doable. It was an investment. That’s no secret. But I’m so thankful for it and will treasure it for years and years and years to come.

Happy growing!

How to Build a Greenhouse

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I’ve put together a fresh printable of a few of my favorite new fall recipes for you to enjoy in your own kitchen. They’re easily adaptable based on your family’s needs and your garden’s offerings.

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How to Build a Greenhouse

  1. Build a Greenhouse on a Level Surface
  2. Build your greenhouse on a level surface. If it’s on a slope or at the bottom of a hill, too much rainwater could collect, leaving the soil overly wet and damaging the greenhouse foundation. The rain could also cause erosion and take away from your greenhouse the nutrients your plants need to grow.

    You can use a laser level, also called an automatic or engineering level, to make sure that you build your greenhouse on a flat surface. Transit or theodolite levels are also available. They look like telescopes on tripods, and they’re often used for precise surveying.

    If the place where you want to build a greenhouse isn’t completely flat, you can make it level with a rototiller. These machines look like miniature versions of plows, and gas or electricity can power them.

    Rototillers break up the roots of weeds and the soil where you plan to place your greenhouse. If you want, you can grow plants from seeds directly on a soil-based floor inside a greenhouse. With the help of a level, you can use a rototiller to create a flat surface for easy construction and use this piece of equipment to work fertilizer or compost into the soil.

  3. Use Aerial Lifts for Lifting Greenhouse Parts
  4. To build a greenhouse, you’ll need to lift objects such as wood beams and fragile panes of glass. Many of these parts are too large for you to install using a ladder. A telehandler, a boom lift, or a scissor lift can lift these objects for you, and these lifts come with safety railings to keep parts from falling and breaking or hurting people on the ground.

  5. Use a Telehandler to Move Heavy Items
  6. A telehandler, also called a telescopic handler, looks like a boom lift, but it doesn’t have the same hinges as an articulating boom lift. The end can have a work platform, tines like a forklift, a bucket, or other attachments for excellent flexibility. Telehandlers can lift from 4,400 lbs to 12,000 lbs, and they’re between 19 ft and 54 ft tall.

  7. Use a Boom Lift for Lighter Materials
  8. After you have your heavy material already in place, you can use a boom lift to work on the slightly smaller stuff. A boom lift can be from 30 ft to 180 ft tall, and you can choose an electric, diesel, or dual-fuel model. If you plan to do some construction work inside of your greenhouse space, electric boom lifts are best because they don’t create harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide.

    If you need to reach over or around obstacles, use an articulating boom lift, also called a cherry picker or a knuckle boom. These machines have two or more hinged sections for an extensive range of motion. They can also fit between buildings and other obstacles and through doorways. Most have four-wheel drive so that you can use them on any terrain.

  9. Use a Scissor Lift to Move Items and Workers in Tight Spaces
  10. A scissor lift can carry up to 2,500 lbs, and it gets its name because the parts of the lift that move the platform resemble several sets of scissors. A scissor lift can only go up and down, not from side to side like a boom lift.

    You can choose a model from 26 ft to 50 ft tall, and many scissor lifts will work on rough terrain. The platforms can be from 2 ft wide, and 5 ft long to 4 ft wide and 10 ft long, so more than one person and a variety of materials and equipment can fit. You can operate many scissor lifts from the platform without another person at the base. A scissor lift can prove helpful if you need to access the ceiling of your greenhouse to install solar panels and grow lights (see section below).

  11. Install Solar Panels and Grow Lights
  12. You can add solar panels to your greenhouse to power fans, water pumps, grow lights and other equipment. In cold climates, you may need solar panels to provide extra heating as well. However, using the sun to heat the air inside your greenhouse directly is more efficient. The glass walls and roof of a greenhouse can keep the warm air near your plants in all but the coldest conditions.

    Grow lights simulate the light from the sun, letting your plants thrive no matter how rainy or cloudy the weather is outside. Incandescent bulbs are least expensive, but they produce heat that could damage your plants. Fluorescent lights create less heat and are relatively inexpensive compared to High-Intensity Discharge or LED lights that are more costly, but they’re efficient to use. Look for lights with a blue tint to promote vegetative growth and switch to a red or orange hue to encourage your plants to flower.

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You can save money when building your greenhouse by renting the equipment you need, such as a scissor lift or a boom lift, from BigRentz. When you do, you won’t have to pay for transportation to your job site, storage, maintenance, repairs, or insurance. You can also choose the best machinery to build your greenhouse without paying a premium price. Rent for as little as a few hours or more than a month with no hassles.

Other Greenhouse Equipment

Heating & Ventilation For Your Greenhouse

Heating & Ventilation For Your Greenhouse. source

No, this isn’t a greenhouse itself — but it’s very much required, especially for people in areas that get hotter or colder weather. These detailed plans offer you much-needed solutions for airflow management and warmth management. If you’re aiming for a fully-controlled environment, this will be invaluable for you.

Size Variable
Type Heating/Ventilation Systems
Cost $$-$$$
Difficulty Intermediate to Advanced

See Plans >

Benches For Your Greenhouse

Benches For Your Greenhouse. source

Also not greenhouse plans, but these plans for a wide spectrum of greenhouse benches will be perfect for your setup. Whether multi-tiered or single-layer, you’ll find something that will work perfectly for you here. Transite, wood, even welded wire fabric is used to create the top surface, and you’ll find a variety of leg options as well as a step-bench arrangement.

Size Variable
Type Greenhouse Benches
Cost $$-$$$
Difficulty Intermediate

See Plans >

Solar Soil-Warmer For Your Greenhouse


These 8×8 greenhouse plans come with information that can be applied to virtually any other greenhouse to add a solar soil-warmer system. Very little is offered in terms of the greenhouse plans, so I consider this to be plans for the soil warming system.

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Size 8’ x 8’
Type Soft Side, Wood Frame
Cost $$
Difficulty Beginner to Intermediate

See Plans >

As you can see, there’s greenhouse plans for everyone, no matter their skill level. Whether you want to get into urban farming or just need something small to protect your succulents, there’s something for you! What’s your favorite greenhouse from this list? Have you built any of these? Let me know in the comments below.

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