If you love gardening, figuring out how to create your own greenhouse at home can take your hobby or hobby farm to the next level. Greenhouses make for healthier plants because they provide a controlled environment protected from many animals and insects. The plants in your greenhouse will also be safe from many types of weather, and you can control soil types for individual plants, letting you plant all sorts of species throughout the year.
Even if you’re not a professional, a greenhouse can offer a relaxing haven for hobbyists who want a place to enjoy planting and tending to flowers or homegrown veggies. Greenhouses can even be beneficial for personal and environmental health, reducing pesticide use and adding more fresh air to your property.
If you’re interested in creating your own greenhouse, here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can make a greenhouse at home.
Step 1: Decide whether you want to purchase a kit or custom build
Before you even pick up a screwdriver, you need to decide whether you want to build your greenhouse from scratch (using materials like wood, metal or PVC pipe as your framing materials) or if you want to purchase a kit that includes all of your materials.
The benefit of building from scratch is that you can completely customize your design and make it unique to your space. The main benefits to using a kit are that the kit usually includes just about everything you need, and the project will likely be much faster and easier.
The cost will depend largely on the size and type of greenhouse you build. Don’t assume a kit will be more expensive than buying the materials and building from scratch because that’s not necessarily the case. The materials for large greenhouses with supplies such as wood and tempered glass can quickly add up. If you opt for a kit, they can cost anywhere between $80 (for an inexpensive plastic, tentlike greenhouse) to upwards of $2,500 (for a sturdy structure that can withstand severe weather).
Step 2: Choose a location for your greenhouse
If you’re opting for a lean-to greenhouse, it’s going to sit adjacent to your house. You want to find an open, south-facing area not underneath any trees, porches or other structures that will block sunlight.
There are other design options like A-frames, Gothic arches and uneven span greenhouses that don’t necessarily sit right next to your home. You can even opt to build a mini-greenhouse. Different greenhouse designs have their own unique optimal placements because they have sunlight coming in from different angles. Each yard is different, so consider how and when the sun enters your yard to find the best possible placement. It’s also smart to try to be near a hose spigot if you plan on using a hose for a water source.
Step 3: Plan your design or choose your greenhouse kit
We recommend a kit because it makes the project much easier to DIY—you won’t have to worry about inaccurate measurements or cutting notches incorrectly. Many kits also come with perks like venting, gutters and warranties. If you’re going the kit route, choose a kit that best fits what you’re looking for in terms of style and functionality. But be sure to read the product description carefully because some greenhouse kits only include the framing and not the covering, while others may only include certain building materials like brackets (and not even include any framing or covering at all). The best greenhouse kits include everything you need to build a complete greenhouse from start to finish.
If you have carpentry or a lot of DIY building experience and you want to build from scratch, create an extensive design plan including measurements, materials, time allotments for each task and any lifting or assistance you may need from other people while building your greenhouse.
Step 4: Prepare the ground
Once you decide where and how you plan on building your greenhouse, level out the ground and remove any debris to ensure the greenhouse is stable. You also must be mindful of water flow, ensuring water doesn’t pool inside.
A greenhouse kit may have leveling instructions, so follow those instructions if they are available. If you plan on adding water lines or other advanced features, the process can become much more involved. But if you’re not adding those extras, the leveling process is relatively seamless as long as you’re not building on a steep slope (in which case you might need to hire a professional or rent a backhoe to move large amounts of earth).
For land already pretty flat, you can use the 3-4-5 method or use a rafter square to create right angles in the rectangular space for your greenhouse’s base. After that, remove roughly 10 centimeters of turf around the perimeter of the rectangle, then remove the interior portion (until you have a shallow, level rectangular hole).
You can use a few different methods to level the ground and allow for drainage. Some people use rocks for leveling and drainage, and others build trenches for drainage after leveling, for instance.
Step 5: Organize your materials
Once you have your build site and build plan ready to go, organize your materials for easy access. One of the worst things you can have happen is mixing up or misplacing materials in the middle of building your greenhouse.
Organize your materials by placing the same types of pieces in their own individually labeled piles for quick and easy access. Make sure you have all of your tools ready and available nearby before you start building, so you’re not looking for a saw or socket wrench while simultaneously holding up a wall.
Step 6: Build a foundation or create a structural base
Pricier greenhouses may include foundation materials, while the cheaper ones might just include a rectangular base on which to connect the walls. In either case, building the base or foundation is often the first step to building your greenhouse. Mini-greenhouses don’t require as much structural support as walk-in houses designed to withstand all weather conditions.
Always read the instructions in your greenhouse kit and use those as your guide. But if you don’t have instructions or if you’re building using your own materials, create a base using either a concrete slab, a wood base, a perimeter base (made of brick pavers, cinder blocks, wood or concrete) or secure your four corner post into the ground using concrete footings.
Step 7: Build the frame
After you have a secure base, you can build your greenhouse frame. The way you build your frame will depend entirely upon the framing materials (PVC pipe, wood or metal), whether you’re using a kit or your own materials and the design you’re going with (lean-to, gothic architecture, etc.).
This guide from Home Depot can help you build your greenhouse if you’re building your own frame using wood.
Step 8: Add covering materials
You can use tempered glass, fiberglass, acrylic plastic, plastic sheeting, old windows or other clear materials that allow light through to cover your greenhouse. After you build a frame, securely install your covering material onto your house and make sure you have a space to enter your greenhouse (for larger houses) or space to access your plants (for mini-greenhouses).
Step 9: Finish and customize your greenhouse
Many people like to paint their greenhouses and add shelving for plants. You can also make your garden standout by adding gutters, venting, planter boxes or anything else your heart desires. This is your greenhouse—your relaxing space to show off your green thumb—so make it your own space with creative functional enhancements and unique decor. You can even add pavers or rocks to the floor, pictures on the wall or plants around the outside of your house.
Step 10: Begin planting
Now that you completed your greenhouse structure, start choosing which plants you want to house within it. Do you want to grow avocados from seed? Or have a desire for tomatoes and cucumbers?
"Farm-to-table should not be a buzzword at restaurants that are exclusive to the elite. Instead, it should be a priority and a way of life that puts food on every table," said Deborah Tayloe, Community Garden Organizer and Founder of DIY Home & Garden.
Perhaps you’re less interested in food and more interested in planting sunflowers? Modern Farmer says the best foods to grow in a greenhouse are chiles, citrus fruits, grapes, melons, cucumbers, eggplants, peas, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, kale and strawberries. If you want to plant flowers, Triangle Gardner recommends orchids, roses, poinsettias, petunias, Chinese Hibiscus, Amazon Lillies and African Violets.