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Jul 18, 2009 06:43 AM

Homemade greenhouses

I am in Zone 6A and would like to put one in. Our home faces north and so it would be in the south part of our yard whcih gets sunlight most of the day. Want to put a fig tree, lemon tree and some lettuces in there eventually.

DH is skeptical and we have priced one out and they are $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
Anyone made one themselves, it obviously needs heat through the winter, right?
Woudl love to hear what yours are like and some pics.

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  1. We're in the same zone you are and we've just done a simple hoop house in a couple of sizes: ones that fit over our raised beds and we're working on a bigger walk in one. We built the small ones by driving in 4' rebar at the corners and middles of the raised beds and bending 10' sticks of 1/2" electrical conduit over the beds and on to the rebar. Then we bungeed a straight stick of conduit down the center top of the hoops to stabilize. Over this goes netting in the summer and plastic for the winter. We're doing the same thing in a walk in size for the trellis end of our garden. We did it all with materials from Home Depot except for the greenhouse plastic which was donated by a friend. The structure was very economical to build but I have no clue to the plastic since it was donated. According to "The Winter Harvest Handbook" by Eliot Coleman, this should give us a 2 zone boost in the winter (without heating) which would be about lower South Carolina, well in the fig tree zone and way more than enough for lettuces (which like to grow in cool anyway). Don't know about the lemon tree (my husband wants one too).

    I highly recommend the Eliot Coleman book. He's doing market gardening in New England winters with unheated greenhouses.

    4 Replies
    1. re: morwen

      I will look into that book; thanks for posting. I would love to see pics so I can show my husband if possible. Do you keep the "hardware"/frame up all year?

      1. re: itryalot

        We keep the hardware up all year, removing the netting at the end of the regular growing season and replacing it with the plastic sheeting. I forgot to mention that we use zip ties to keep the netting/plastic in place on the hoops. On the plastic sheeting we reinforced the holes where the zip ties go through by first placing duct tape patches on the spots inside and out and then making a small slit to push the ties through. The ties are loose so we can push the material up on the hoops when we're working and then slide it back down. We anchor the bottom with our abundance of rocks, Coleman uses sandbags. We've been able to grow lots of cool weather crops this way: all the usual greens, carrots, bush peas, beets, radishes, through the winter with succession plantings as well as extending the season well into the end of November with more tender crops like tomatoes and peppers. Of course it also gives us a jump on spring plantings. On good sunny days we actually have to vent a little by lifting a corner in the front and back. This is why we're going to try the walk-in size this winter. If we get the same consistent temps in a larger area we're going to set aside space for some tender trees next year: a fig and bay laurel for me and a lemon tree for my husband.

        Just to give you an idea of materials cost, the rebar was $2/4' piece, conduit $1/10' stick, netting $20/7' x 100' roll. For about $75 we hooped and netted 2 4' x 12' raised beds, netted 5 8' x 7' trellises (built from metal conduit, btw), and netted tipis protecting our 3 baby apple trees with less than 2 rolls of netting. A roll of 3' x 25' chicken wire runs around $35 not including the fencing stakes and we estimated we would have needed 16 rolls to do our entire garden (need 6'-7' fences to keep out the deer here).

        We do have pics of the garden which are currently on my hub's portable hard drive. When he gets home I'll download copies and upload them for you.

        1. re: morwen

          Thanks; you are a gem. Just bought a small fig tree (maybe 1 year old) a while ago and purchased another one that is 6' tall (about three years old) and am trying to figure out how to not lose them. I can bring them in the house, but I think they need some cold, don't they.
          My other option was to bring it to our local college (horticultural program) and see if they would keep in their greenhouses that, my two rosemary bushes and my baylaurel over the winter, even if I had to pay.

          1. re: itryalot

            I'm in Floyd, VA, southwest of Roanoke, up in the Blue Ridge Mtns. My rosemary overwinters just fine here with no protection. When I was in NY I use to cut it way back after a killing frost and it would come up fine in the spring. I didn't grow figs when I was in Charlotte, N.C. so I don't know if or how much cold they may require but people would give us bags and bags of them because they considered the fruit a nuisance but knew we loved it. We had one of the coldest winters with record snowfall while I was there but the figs were still producing the following summer. I haven't heard of anyone growing figs here in Floyd but that doesn't mean there aren't any and I think a cold resistant variety grown against the south wall of our house might just do fine with minimal protection.

            Still reminding the hubster to download the garden photos. He's in the process of remodeling a guest room and it's difficult to distract him unless there's food involved. ;-)

    2. Sorry it took so long and I hope the photos upload. I've never uploaded to this site before!

      4 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        For lettuce, you need to think a whole lot smaller (and cheaper).
        Can you borrow some books from the library about warm frames, often made with bales of hay, a couple of old windows and some manure. Really simple, straight out of the 1800s, when the growing of lettuce in winter was expected at every home.

        1. re: shallots

          We grow more than just lettuce and greens in the winter. Currently we have bush peas, carrots, beets, radishes, and scallions scheduled to go in. Those will grow through Feb-March. The cover will extend tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers to the beginning of November or longer depending on the weather, and broccoli through December.
          We currently do our seed starts indoors under lights but I've been considering doing the cold frames you describe next spring because it's easier to just vent and close rather than toting the starts in and out to harden them off.

        2. re: morwen

          Great photos. What did you use as your end posts for the beans?

          1. re: itryalot

            Sorry, I'm not sure what you're referring to. The beans are growing on a conduit trellis. If you mean how is it held up, there's sticks of rebar driven in the ground at each end and the conduit is slid over them and pushed into the ground a little. We gave them a little more wind resistance by tying them off with staked ropes. Turns out the ropes were overkill.