Introduction: Build a Shelter for Growing Tomatoes

About: So many things to learn and make, so little time! I like things that are cool, useful, efficient, well crafted.

Growing tomatoes needs a lot of sun. In warm and rainy days, diseases can appear (such asEarly Blight). The plants must be protected from the rain, not from the sun.

This instructable shows how to build a robust shelter that resists to wind (and to snow).

Green twist:
- Growing healthy tomatoes in your garden (no transportation),
- protected by a durable shelter (possibly made of recycled pipes),
- avoiding pesticides...
Don't you think it is has much green twist ?

Step 1: Draw a Sketch

The shelter must have a size suited to your garden. It must be tall enough to let you walk comfortably into it.

The sketch will help you determine the size, and define how many pillars are needed.

Our garden consists of terraces in a steep slope. I wanted the roof to extend down to approx 50 cm on the back side to protect from the rear wind. This adds a bit of optional complexity.

Step 2: Needed Materials and Tools

The frame and pillars are made of 1/2" galvanized pipes, using elbows and tees. This makes the whole thing somewhat expensive, but extremely robust and quite fast to build. Pipes may be found for low price at scrap merchants.

Your sketch will tell you how many and how long the pipes are, and how man tees and elbows you will need. Here is a list corresponding to my sketch.

- 9 x tees (female-female-female)
- 4 x 90 degree elbows (male-female)
- 2 x 45 degree elbows (male-female)
- 2 x ground joint union
- 4 x nipple
- 2 x 1m and 3 x 1.2m pipes

- 4 x 2m pipes

- 3 x 1.5m
- Corrugated PVC plastic sheets, as clear as you can get
- M5 screws and bolts

Optional, for back side roof continuation:
- 1 x 1.5m PVC rain gutter
- 3 x 0.5m pipes
- 3 x 90 degree elbows (female-female)

- Pipe threading tool, with 1/2" diehead
- Wrench
- Metal saw
- Drill

- Don't forget to use oil when threading the pipes.
- All pipes, elbows, tees, nipples, ground joint union are of 1/2" galvanized iron.

Step 3: Build the Frame

Cut the pipes to desired lengths, and make threads to each sides.

The ground joint union are used to close the squares (unless you have access to a 4th spatial dimension ;-) ).

The nipples are used to assemble two consecutive tees, or one tee and one joint.

Step 4: Build the Roof

Depending on the size, cut the PVC to the desired dimension, or use multiple sheets with a slight overlap. The PVC should be approx 5 to 10 cm longer than the frame, on each side.

Drill holes in the PVC and pipes, to bind them with screws. Drill where the PVC touches the pipes.

Step 5: Tighten the Roof

Cut the top pipes to the required length. If the roof does not have to cover the back side, you do not need the elbows and shorter pipes.

Drill holes, and assemble the top pipes, the pvc, and the frame together, using a plastic piece as spacer.

Step 6: Build the Pillars

Front and back corner pillars: cut pipes to desired length. Have one side threaded.

Back diagonal pillar: makes a 45 degree angle with the back corner pillars, in order to increase the stability. Assemble the tee with the 45 degree elbows and the pipes. Assemble the tee to the frame. This part could be surely simplified.

Attach the bottom end of the diagonal pillars to the corner pillars.

Step 7: Build a Rain Gutter

In my case I wanted the roof to slightly protect the back side, so I had to orient the PVC with its corrugations perpendicular to the roof's slant. Hence a rain gutter is needed.

If you can orient the corrugations parallel to the slant, you do not need any rain gutter. Just make sure that the roof has a 5 degree pitch or more.

The gutter is attached using a piece of wood as spacer, to insure a sufficient slant. Above the gutter, each "valley" of the PVC is pierced (8 mm holes) to let the water drop into the gutter.

Step 8: Install the Shelter

Find a buddy to help you carry the shelter to the desired place.

Drill the pillars and screw them to the terrace's boards. You may need doing it differently, but make sure they are very tightly attached. Otherwise the shelter might fly away by storm.

Step 9: Results

- Shelter in place.
- Shelter with tomato plants (it was last year; the rain gutter was not yet in place).
- Shelter in the winter (we had a LOT of snow last winter).

A great success: almost all our neighbors got a diseases on their (unsheltered) plants, but we did not !

- If cold temperature is an issue, you can use plastic film to cover any of the sides exposed to winds.
- Can be easily moved (from year to year).

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