I planned to write a post on DIY greenhouses this last weekend and it seems nature provided me with the perfect opportunity to do so in her own ironic way.
Herb Spiral The day I installed it.
Saturday and all of last week the weather was beautiful, topping out in the mid 80′s.
I spent the day outside, reveling in the warmth and kept myself busy installing an herb spiral next to the house, all while thinking spring was finally, “Here at last!”
The 80 + degree weather may have even been giving me delusions of summer, it was actually hot out!
The next day it started snowing. :/
Herb Spiral during the snowstorm.
These are the gardening challenges of the Midwest. Sometimes, it can feel like Mother Nature has gone bi-polar and you never know what to expect! Because of these drastic changes in temperature we need to be able to protect our crops when Ma gets moody.
The unfortunate change in weather forced me not just to think about designing a greenhouse (of sorts) but to actually go out and do it, like right now!
I set to work that morning to create a shelter for my plants while sarcastically thanking mother nature for her twisted sense of humor.
In an effort to save my plants from the impending snow, I had to fashion a makeshift greenhouse out of materials I had on hand. It’s not pretty and it’s not permanent but, it did keep my plants from freezing.
Saving your plants from the snow.
The plants survived the snow storm!
This simple plan will allow you to insulate your plants when it freezes and it’s pretty quick to set up. Just take a couple of storm windows and prop them up together so they form a triangle or a little “house”. Use some rocks or bricks to stabilize the sides and give your structure some support.
If you have enough rocks you could stack them to create a wall on both sides of the window panes to keep out the wind and contain the heat. I used all my bricks to make the herb spiral so I had to improvise and use some cardboard instead. To help insulate the greenhouse, I mulched around the plants with a thick layer of dry leaves.
If you don’t have window panes you can cover the plants overnight with buckets, mulch, anything that will insulate the plants and protect them from the elements.
Sprout Seeds Indoors
Use an old Salad container to sprout your seeds.
Sprouting seeds can be a challenge in colder climates, especially if you don’t have a lot of space. Luckily, there’s a simple solution to that problem! Now, I re-purpose the plastic salad containers from the store and use them to grow my lettuce.
You could sprout any seeds you wanted, but I like the idea of growing lettuce in the container my salad greens came in, seems like a way to turn a problem into a solution to me.
I just wish I would have thought of it before the cats ate all of my wheat grass…
At any rate, it seems like these containers were almost made for the task, like pre-fabricated mini-greenhouses! It didn’t take much work. I just added some organic soil and planted the seeds. All that’s left to do now is give it some water and put the lid back on. Boom. Tiny greenhouse. :D
Permanent and Semi-Permanent Greenhouse Structures
There are relatively simple ways to create more permanent greenhouses as well. In the past, I’ve helped my dad set up hoop houses that can range anywhere from a few feet tall to full size nursery greenhouses. If you buy all the materials new it can cost a couple hundred dollars.
Fortunately, this website will walk you through creating a 50 dollar hoop house, step-by-step, with re-purposed materials. Additionally, this article has a lot of great ideas for creating some really cool permanent and multi-functional greenhouses out of re-purposed materials.
Wouldn’t it would be cool to take these concepts and make them portable? What if you took some window-panes and fashioned them into a box that had wheels, so you could roll it around and control how much sun or shade your greenhouse was getting?
That would be swell, I might have to make one. :)