Introduction: First Greenhouse

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

For my first greenhouse I constructed a simple lean to against the side of the house.

There are a few hacks that make this greenhouse worth testing:

  • Insulation. Building against the side of the house insulates the basement and heats the greenhouse.
  • HWH Vent. Yes, the vent dumps heat, CO2 and water vapor into the greenhouse all winter.
  • Old Windows. This is a common one. I use PVC framed windows I picked up for a dollar each.

Yes, here in MN snow is now a regular thing. Most the country can still get ahead of the weather!

Step 1: Materials

A few standard garden tools go a long way to prep the bed.

For seeds I typically use saved seed. Amazing how far leftover seeds will go for fruiting plants. Most my greens seeds come from the base seeds sold at dollartree. This time of year they drop to $.10/pack.

Fall planting in my greenhouse:

Seed Pricing. It really never makes sense to me. Stick with the dollartree seed if you can. Does anyone know why it's worth paying a premium for seeds?? ---other than if you're looking for a rare specialty seed

Step 2: Bed Prep

Prepare the bed by clearing away annual plants (tomatoes, squash, sunflowers). Perennials can be relocated. Some, like the purple lilies can be chopped and spread to other beds. ---be sure to give perennials similar conditions

Step 3: Amend the Soil

This section of the garden hadn't received any compost at the beginning of the summer. It resulted in a poor yield for the tomatoes and squash. I'm pulling manure from the deep bedding inside the chicken coop. See how I built my chicken coop (with plans) to produce compost.

---the neighbor's garden claw (or is it garden weasel) came in very handy!

Step 4: Edging

The edging helps protect the windows by keeping them off the ground. It also provides a bit of structure that is useful to hold the whole system in place.

I simply used a couple of decorative metal garden stakes (similar) to hold the 2x6 in place. ---the 2x6 is untreated and I'm a bit concerned it will show mold in the spring. It is painted on one side and I'll consider spraying with bleach if it shows any spots.

Not 100% necessary given that my windows are PVC. The windows were actually buried in the soil last winter to divide some compost... washed off nicely

Step 5: Planting

Before covering the greenhouse I planted. I sprinkled a whole package of mustard spinach on one side. On the other I mixed in rows of kale, carrots, raab, radishes. In the end I had much more success with the dense mustard (see second to last step).

Step 6: Windows + Plastic

Mixing Windows and Plastic. This worked well for me. I like the structure of the windows but wanted a little extra space. I also like that I can roll back the plastic to allow for airflow on warmer days.

  • Windows. These were picked up at a local Habitat Restore. A great resource. In my experience most areas with over 50k people have some sort of center for reused building materials.
  • Plastic Sheathing. I used some scraps of rolled plastic. It's typically used for protection or water barrier. Also makes a great groundsheet for camping.
  • Ends. I used two heavy garbage bags. Simple way to avoid using additional rolled plastic.

Step 7: Water Heater Vent

Here in MN we have a forced air vent for our water heater. All year long whenever the water heater clicks on to burn natural gas it blows out warm air, CO2 and water vapor. Perfect for plants!

This green house captures that air and will primarily the warmth to extend the growing season.
How long?Check back for an update or follow for next year's version of the greenhouse!!

Step 8: Greens in Action

These photos show the greens coming up over their first month. All through October and into November the greenhouse has provided ideal growing conditions for these little plant babies.

Compared to Unprotected... sadly the rest of the garden is no longer with us. We had our first freeze Oct 4th. The regular hard freeze has knocked out everything and last night was the end of the Kale. See some nice photos of the garden, chickens and kale (

Step 9: Give It a Shot!

Hope this helps! The goal here is to help remove hurdles from projects. For years I've wanted to build a greenhouse. By starting with this small project I'm on track to build a larger one next year. Hope it will help you do the same.

Good luck! Jeff

Here are a few other projects from the garden: