Geodetic Greenhouse (low Cost)





Introduction: Geodetic Greenhouse (low Cost)

About: Retired technology teacher - 2 kids, I have an Hons deg in Design and Technology - 28 years as Computer systems engineer Trained as Electronics engineer in the Royal Air Force

Last year I started an allotment and felt the need to build a green house to enjoy the delights of tomatoes and cucumbers. Having built a 30 foot diameter dome before out of steel tubing I thought that there was a good possibility I could make a smaller  dome using some scrap wood I had left over from taking apart some old pallets.

Step 1: Selecting the Dimensions

Fortunately the Desert domes site has a handy calculator to work out the size and type  for any size of dome you need.

I elected to make a 9 foot wide 3 V dome this would stand on a 3 foot high sub frame to give the necessary height I needed.

Desert domes gave me the necessary dimensions for the 3 different length struts.

A=3.13 feet
B=3.63 feet
C=3.7 feet

Step 2: The Joints

One of the issues I had with my fairly small green house was that for larger domes it is easy to drill the ends of the struts and put a bolt through. But for my much smaller - 3/4 inch square  - struts this wasn't going to work. So I devised a quick assembly method using some plastic plumbing pipe and some elastic bands.

A small hole was drilled vertically through each strut and a nail allowed the fixing of the elastic band. The bands were cut from an old bike inner tube.

Step 3: Putting Things Together

The struts were cut from the pallet wood using a band saw roughly 3/4 inch square (19mm). This is tedious and your not going to want to do it by hand so if you don't have access to a band saw or something similar buy wood that is the right size.

Perfectly good domes are made from Garden canes and provided they are wide enough you could use this method of connecting them.

The lengths of the 3 types were cut from the Desert dome information and the ends drilled.

Sitting on the lawn all of the struts were laid out and then connected. I chose (perhaps unwisely) to build from the top down because this means you have to lift the full weight of the dome to add more struts.

Step 4: Finish and Cover.

Once all of the struts had been assembled  I had my dome. It was quickly evident that there was far too much spring in the elastic connections for the struts and my thin struts didn't allow me to drill thorough the plastic ring and put screws in so I decided to cut a number of connector plates from ply wood and screw and glue these over every joint to reinforce the elasticated and plastic connections. The elastic and plastic rings held everything together just nicely so I could fit the plywood connector plates.

If I were to make the dome from garden cane I would use some plastic tube to connect the canes joining the tubes in the middle with a nut and bolt. as in the diagram.

We transported it to site by the simple process of picking it up and carrying it down the road. the structure is surprisingly strong.

I made a decision to cover the dome using Saren wrap (cling film) and bought a couple of catering sized rolls from the local cheap store.  This wrapped the structure nicely and I covered it with at least 3 layers all over. The access door would be cut later.

No need for glue or tape as the cling film is not called cling film for nothing.

Step 5: Results

The final positioning was done and the 15 vertical wall supports hammered into the ground at every intersection of the lower section of the dome. They are about 4 feet long with 3 feet above ground. The greenhouse dome was lifted up and screwed to these vertical posts

The bottom wall was covered in a length of blue plastic film I had laying about. More Cling film could have been used.

I cut out a door for access and although I intended to put a door into this space in fact I never did as keeping the interior cool enough was a bigger problem than it cooling over night. A simple plastic sheet would do though.

I did make sure that the door way was away from the prevailing winds.

Step 6: Success!

Was the project successful - Yes - it worked well for the whole year growing many pounds of tomatoes and Cucumbers for us. The cost was minimal - about £14  and it took about a weekend to build.

The covering proved quite substantial although I guess your probably going to need to replace it every year - this isn't a big cost or issue as it only takes about 1/2 an hour to put a new layer on. The dome withstood storms, hail stones and high winds with no problems at all.

I used the wooden frame as a support for the strings that held up by large tomato and cucumber plants - this was perhaps a little ill advised as the weight of the vegetables towards the end of the season started to pull the structure inwards.  I would advise  anyone doing this to use separate support canes for your plants rather than the green house structure.


Make the struts at least 1.25 or 1.5 inches (30 - 38mm)  square and glue and screw the support plates on and then they will take the weight.

I have built much bigger domes - up to 30 feet wide using 19mm steel tube flattened at the end and joined with nuts and bolts. Such a structure is easily strong enough to climb over. At that size a more permanent covering such as heavy gauge polythene would be better.

Domes are a very efficient use of materials and even a large 30 foot diameter dome can be built in the UK for less than £200 - covering with polythene  it will cost in the region of another £200.



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    57 Discussions

    Heat shrink pallet wrap would be even better and still very cheap.
    It is UV resistant you see.

    My only worry about using clingfilm is the large amount of waste plastic generated every year.

    Hi Rick. I love this instructable and have come back to it after thinking that building one of these was just a pipe dream. I now have somewhere that I can build a greenhouse and this looks like the best way for me. I have free struts from a builders merchant (used as stickers between stone slabs). They are pretty thin (18mm) but I want to give it a try. Do you think that drilling them and connecting with a cable (zip) tie might work? If it was threaded through each strut to form a connecting circle. I hope that makes sense. I aim to try the cling film too just to see how long it will last and keep costs down. Thanks for sharing your work on this, it's invaluable to me.

    2 replies

    I can't see why zip ties shouldn't work OK. Make sure the hole isn't too close to the end or it will break out when the wind blows.

    My cling film lasted the full season and was so cheap I didn't mind. Make sure you put on 3 or 4 layers. Once the first one is on the rest is just a matter of walking round the dome with the roll, it sticks to itself.

    Good luck.

    Love this project. Just one curiosity question. Is making it out of pvc and clear plastic more expensive or cheaper? I need to consider that I'd have to buy the wood for this project anyway and was curious.

    1 reply

    PLEASE TRY THIS make your rubbers longer where you hook on the bolt go in the hole then around each side of the stick then attach your rubber on the bolt. This should hold the wood in place firmly making your structure very very strong. Also you want to paint your PVC the sun will degrade it. I LOVE DOMES they are what our homes should be made of in this case they can make great homes for the homeless with near throw away PVC pallet wood bolts and innertubes. The cover can be made of TYVEK around the base and windows can be put in with tape. With foild and bubble wrap these can be very warm places to live in.

    2 replies

    I'm having trouble visualising this bit with the longer rubbers wrapping around the sticks. Do you have a photo or drawing that can show more clearly what you mean please?

    Impressive. I wish my back would improve enough to do something like this. I thing ill start with cold frames on a low wall as I have not yet discovered if I'm a fan of gardening.

    How well does the cling film stand up to the elements and the UV sunlight? Ah well at least it will be easy to replace if it does tear.

    Its a nice idea to use cling film as you can remove it at the end of the season before the rough weather hits and carries the dome of to Oz, and in spring time you can re wrap and not need to clean a load of glass or perspex panes which is a total pain to do.

    Does the cling film have any UV protection, the reason i ask is a friend used that hollow perspex stuff for a green house and it was not as good a success as would be expected, I noticed that my reactions lens did not darken as much as normal and a few areas of expanding foam did not turn brown as they normally do in direct sunlight, I think that the perspex was blocking out to much UV light.

    10 replies

    Off topic bit i read that Yoga has been shown to help patents with back issues that normal medical processes can't help - tha's assuming

    a) your able - ask your Doc

    B) a yoga teacher will take you on with a bad back. - should with doc permission.

    It's not all about putting your feet behind your head!!! Mostly they help by getting your posture and "core" muscles in the right place and condition.

    It a long term problem, I think its coming from injuries I got over 20 years ago, the bill arrived for these about 7 years ago and it took a number of years of tests and various meds that did noting or made it worse to get the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  by this time i had been working in a hardware store that was in fact making it condition worse as it was cold , drafty was chock full of chemicals that seemed to aggravate things and involved way to much heavy lifting.  By this time I destroyed myself a was just to far gone to recover and handed in my notice when the store changed owners, I was at the stage of the doctor giving me 4 weeks off to recover going back for 4 weeks and again needing 4 weeks off.

    I have been watching my posture since seeing a physio a few months ago who pointed out narrowing of the disk at the point where the nerve goes out to the arms and I have been very careful not to aggravate things, I have cut out all heavy lifting in favor of trolleys, I also had to cut out a few people who had the ability to aggravate the condition too.

    I recently had to help a friend move house in a hurry and did it knowing I would suffer, but I managed to lock up so bad that the doctor finally gave me a muscle relaxant and with a bit of help from a Homemedics deep muscle massager I have got the thing to a manageable level, I even am starting to see some of the muscle mass I lost in my left arm starting to build again and the cold just don't seem to hit me as hard as before.

    So at the moment with ice on the ground I'm actually in a reasonable good order with a little gleam of hope some recovery come the better weather, the secret is not to over do things but its hard to do when you have a s**t load of work that needs doing and has stacked up because I'm not fit to do them.

    I even have hope that once we have the winter over us that I may actually start to become much more active and maybe even reach the goal of trying to find some kind of part time work.

    You have my sympathy! N Ireland isn't the driest and warmest part of the world mind! :-)

    lol , tell be about it.!

    The new meds are going good at the moment and I have managed to get out in the shed i weather i would have not ventured beyond the front door in so that is a moral booster, I'm looking forward to the oncoming spring as I will get out more

    The cling film seems to work fine. At least for a season. I dismantled the dome at the end of the year to erect a poly tunnel.

    As for the growing no problem tomatoes & cucumbers grew well in there.

    I may make another to go over the raised beds I have in the garden. If for no other reason then it attracted a lot of interest when I was building it.

    If you have a bad back raised beds and no dig gardening is for you.

    Deep composting to avoid digging - talk to your local council parks division they generate more compost than they know what to do with and may be willing to share a lorry load for the asking.

    No replacement for a) the cost of home grown and the taste of really fresh produce.

    I have a nice little wall that is about as wide as a grow bag and just about the right height to work at while standing. I plan to make a surrounds out of treated fence boards and square tree stakes that will hold a grow bag yet can be made bird and kitty proof.

    I will also experiment to see if I can make them snail and slug proof I have a sound theory that I'm going to give a go to see if it works.

    I have never been a gardener but I've heard it can become an addiction once started but can be very therapeutic so for that alone I'll give it a shot.

    Good place to start and not a lot of bending. I suggest getting a potato bag (actually anything that will contain compost will do even stacked old car tires,) and planting 4 or 5 potatoes water well and you will be surprised how many you get in the lat summer.

    grow things that are quick - Salad stuff if you like that, Tomatoes give a good return for little more than watering, You will be surprised how many things can be grown in tubs and grow bags. Remember that the grow bag has little nutrient in it after the first 4 or 5 weeks and will need some help with fertilizer, natural or chemical.

    My dad is no longer fit to get out into the 2 green houses so I may have a go at growing tomatoes under his instructions, I'm going to try a few salad things and maybe some peas and beans.

    We have never grown potatoes before, I guess that after seeing a farmer rent my land and grow 9 acres of spuds that a few little drill looks kind of on the lame side of things.  The land was used for turnips for a number of years (that would have made you tired watching the people working the fields then) but it has been grazed for the last number of years.