Double Decker Greenhouse Garden




Great garden in a small space for a short season.

Recycle an old swing set into a green house.  Put a shelf across the middle of the swing set to add garden space, or simply hang upside down pots or planters from the existing swing set hooks.  Add a climbing wire for beans.  Then, set up your watering system, plant, cover with plastic and watch your garden grow.  This double decker greenhouse is sure to add a couple of weeks growing time on each end of the growing season.  That's a precious month for a zone 4 gardner. 

Step 1: Prepare the Plot

My awesome Mother help me dig down 8 to 10" with a pick and shovel and then removed half of loosened hard sand and clay.  Next, we mixed in some really excellent dirt from a worm farmer which was one-third worm castings, one-third manure and one-third top soil.  I paid $40 for 1.5 yards; this project took 1 yard.  The worm farmer said more than one-third worm castings will produce great foliage but no flowers.  This is a picture of my Mother and the Earth Angels blessing my new garden spot.  

The swing set I salvaged from a metal pile at the dump had a foot print of 5.5' x 10.5', plus we added an extra 4' of garden to one end, since I had the space.

Step 2: Greenhouse Frame in a Flash

Simply haul in the swing set dump find and set it in place over the garden plot.  Remove any swing set hardware that crests the top bar and may tear the green house plastic.  I removed the swing set glider hardware shown with vise grips rather than take time to find the right allen wrench.  You will want to leave the swing hooks on the top bar for suspending potted plants or climbing wires.

Next, decide whether to hanging potted plants or add a shelf.  Since I was lacking upsidedown pots or hanging pots, I went with the shelf.  

Step 3: Shelf Space

For the shelf, measure the distance between the two horizontal cross members (10') and add about 6".  I went with two recycled gutters and one old board to set potted plants on.  So far, I'm pleased with the gutters, they are just the right height to plant in and snip a bit of lettuce for lunch.  The gutters are too flexible by themselves to support a load of wet dirt, so I added some rope suspenders to the swing set hooks or over the top bar.  I recycled some green baling twine for this job.  I tried to tie the gutters high in the middle so the gutters would flex down towards the ends allowing water to drain from the ends.  The old board is for setting recycled food containers on which will be used as planters, you'll see that in a later image.

Step 4: Gutter Fill

I wanted the gutter to drain in the event of too much water.  So, I added gravel to the bottom, then some rabbit manure for fertilizer and filled with soil.  The ends are duct taped to prevent soil loss but have a small opening near the bottom for water seepage. 

Step 5: The Bean Trellis

While I was looking for the baling twine, I found a scrap piece of sheep fence.  I turned it sideways and inserted it vertically adjacent the gutters for a bean trellis.  Strings extending from the top bar and staked to the ground would work just as well.  Later, I planted beans near each of the swing set legs to let them climb the swing set frame.

Step 6: Watering System

My ideal garden has an automatic watering system so I can go camping for a few days.  I'm not at my ideal system yet.  One idea, is a PVC pipe with three misters suspended from the top bar, and a drip system on the ground, all set to an automatic timer.  

For now, I salvaged a piece of drip line for the ground.  The black pipe drip line has drip ports every foot and a half.  For watering the shelf layer, I added a pipe 'T' between the garden hose and the drip line.  The pipe 'T' is connected to a valve and a length of salvaged washing machine hose.  The washing machine hose is connected to an adjustable sprayer which is shown removably wedged between the two gutters.  Since the sprayer is adjustable, I didn't really need the valve.  The washing machine hose has two female ends so I needed a 3/4" male-male pipe connection.  At the spigot, I added a timer but this timer requires daily setting and is more for preventing forgetting to shut the water off.

As you'll notice there is standing water in the gutter, this is from a failed attempt to suspend an old shower head from the top bar.  The flow was not quite right for the application and the hose connections were a bit of a pain, but old shower heads may have a purpose in gardening.

Step 7: Plant & Cover

Now the fun part, plant and cover!  The plastic is a rectangular piece.  Mine is extra big since it's salvaged from a commercial greenhouse and I'm going to use it later for a painting drop cloth.  It's not pretty but serves it's purpose of preventing frost and warming the soil.  The extra length is useful to cover the four extra feet of garden space beyond the end of the swing set.

To determine the plastic size, first measure the swing set height (6'), the length of the top bar (9.5'), and one diagonal leg (6.5') from the top to the ground.  The short direction is 2 times the diagonal leg plus two feet (2x6.5+2=15').  The long direction is 2 times the height plus the length of the top bar, plus two feet (2x6+9.5+2=23.5').  The two extra feet allows one foot all the way around to anchor the plastic to the ground.  

I folded one end in like wrapping a present and the other end I extended over the extra garden space.  I used a few heavy rocks for anchors.  Stakes may be better in windy locations.  Guy wires from the top bar down to the ground underneath the plastic may be useful for preventing the plastic from drawing inward on the sides.  So far, my rocks are working fine for this too.  We had some 35 mph winds at the green house is still standing.

In an alternate attempt I tried to wrap the swing set frame from the bottom up with clear plastic pallet wrap, but it tore as I started and I gave up early.  Clear plastic pallet wrap probably has a gardening use, but for this project the free plastic was too easy to refuse.

That's it, easy peasy!  Free from salvaged goodies with the exception of the dirt and I'd rather buy good dirt than gold anyday.     *** Happy Gardening! ***



    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest
    • IoT Challenge

      IoT Challenge

    14 Discussions

    Rune Cutter

    4 years ago on Introduction

    The Havamal demands a gift for a gift and a good turn for a good turn.

    This is a great idea! I've experimented with green houses in my back yard and would never have thought about using a swing set for an A frame. Funny that.


    5 years ago on Step 7

    Love this idea have an old swingset in the backyard was going to repurpose for the grandkids. Perhaps we will make them a garden instead. They all like to garden with nana..


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, great idea. Heres a few ideas from your idea; How about using a trellis idea going from the ground to the one swing set, where the planter boxes are,- say for morning glories . Like a cascading planter of lobella or petunia from the top planters .
    Or if using two swing sets why don't use the trellis idea aross ways having from one swing set idea to the other swing set. Having thin sticks going up through the holes through the trellis to the top of the swing set. Making it look like a odd looking tipi for beans or other climbing vegetables. Even cucumbers. Or even having a cascading wave of morning glories, ivy or other colored flowers . So it climbs both sides of the swing set. .
    Here's another idea from your idea. From the end pieces of the swing set.-add two bars or pipes hanging from the ends extending the swing set another 1ft to 1 1/2 ft for adding hanging pots of say hanging tomatoes, strawberries or such from the ends or throughout the whole top of the swing set main bar.
    Have you tried putting holes through the sides and the bottom of the bar using a staggered pattern (about an inch apart so it doesn't make it unstable . Then threading through the top bar of the swing set a soaker hose , the hose that has a bunch of holes in the sides of the hose. This way the plants are watered when needed. They go through the hose, and through the holes you drilled through the swing set bar watering all the plants you have planted. Or if you don't want to thread it through the bar, why don't try it clamped on top of the bar using those plastic ties every 3-4 inches so stays ontop of the swing set bar, watering your plants that way.
    From your tap turn turn on nozzle add one of those pieces you can buy that has three forks coming off the main spout or hose. From there you can add three extra hoses to it , extending your watering system to other areas you would like to water . As long as your water pressure has good pressure. Or using a regular hose for the 1st part of the hose. For the 2nd part adding one of those small pieces I've seen advertised on tv that makes any hose fit anywhere. From there adding your hose piece that looks like a fork piece with 3 spouts off it. Finally from here you add your soaker hoses extending your hose in different directions to where ever you would like to water your plants. This way you don't have to keep dragging your hose system out everytime you want to water your plants or you can turn it on with a timer set on the hoses. Also if needed to take the main hose off your tap, to use another another hose hose system set up in another system somewhere else, or just 1 hose-say a regular hose system to wash your car,etc.
    Keep up your ideas.

    2 stroke

    8 years ago on Introduction

    ill weld a middle leg in on the support that is supporting the weight just use some galvenized pipe and weld it to the support that is holding everthing


    Cool idea. Kudos to you for putting it all together. What plants were most successful with this? I'd like to see a picture showing full grown plants. It seems like the gutters are too shallow for most plants.

    4 replies

    You are right, the gutters are too shallow for plants. Spring mix lettuce and spinach grew but were half the normal size in the gutters. Bonsai spinach.


    Shallow root vegetables, mainly lettuce and spinach in the gutters. Nice height for easy picking. The gutters are tending to dry out in hot weather, so AmyLuthien's comment below regarding gutter hydroponics is a good one. The recycled salad trays worked great for really health squash plant starts but will run into the same drying out problem come July. Possible solutions could include a soaker hose on a timer, or switching to hanging planters.


    I'd plant pole beans or morning glories on the poles. I see you are in zone 4. I'm in zone 14 according to Sunset magazine. I have a hard time growing things in large hanging baskets because they get too hot even if they don't dry out.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks --Im going to use your idea and expand it by screwing boards lenghtwise to the swing legs and placing 3 or 4 platforms depthwise--really dont believe i didnt think of it untill i saw your Instructable --Thanks again !!!!!!!!!! Wow!!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. The wind is tending to suck the plastic sides inward, guy wires from the top bar to a stake in the ground would help. Or, make the greenhouse bigger with two swing sets side by side.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Now that's thinking with your noodle!  Great idea!  You could even go 'fancy' with something like this and make it into a hydroponics set up, put the gutters at slight angles so the top one drained into the one below it , , , 

    Now I've got to go find an old swing set!  Thanks!

    1 reply