The Original DIY Greenhouse Saga.
This project was not as easy as we first thought but it’s still doing the job all these years later.
First of all let me point out, (if it isn’t really obvious by the quality of the finished product) that all our measurements were approximate, and we had no clear design plan in the beginning.
We cut a 3.6m wide X 50m long roll of 70% shade cloth in half. It turned out they gave us a bit more than 60meters in the roll so that was a bonus! We laid the two halves on top of each other.
Me and the Mrs then each grabbed a corner, and carefully moved the top layer away, till we had an overall width of ~7metres and a length of ~30metres. When you looked down the width now on the right side it was 1.8m of single layer shade cloth, then the centre section was doubled over for 3.6m, then on the right side was 1.8m of single layer shade cloth again.
Therefore the middle section(which becomes the roof) is 140% UV light proof, in theory…
We then attached 5 pieces of 7.8m long 2inch Green stripe rural polypipe. Each end of the pipe fitted over the top of the pre-spaced and driven star pickets perfectly. In theory…
In reality that became two hours of wrestling and swearing that ended with a gloriously dodgy, wobbly looking frame in the top right. It was at that point realized why the more expensive “High Pressure Blue Stripe” is what most folk use, not the floppy cheap “Rural Green Stripe” stuff that immediately goes limp and even floppier in the sun…
Luckily the problem of being half as strong as predicted was easily solved by just using twice as many pipes/poles and star pickets.
The shade cloth was first meant to be attached to the pipes by cable ties, but that idea was dodgy and I was too busy to drive into town and buy metal washers to put on the ends of the screws. In the end, we got flooded in for a few days and I had to improvise, so I just cut sections of leftover pipe into squares and used them as washers instead. Turns out that works heaps better and they don’t cut into the cloth!
Once the shade cloth was attached it was looking how I imagined. The sealed blacked-out roof is to completely block the intense midday sunlight and most importantly heat. At the same time, gentle morning and afternoon light allowed in with ease, as is all light reflected up off the ground.
Our trays of pots sit up off the ground on cheap folding tables and there are many reasons why this is better too.
It stops the wallabies, bettongs, kangaroos, bandicoots and cane toads digging the seedlings up and it gives my back a bit of a break. It also means that when we water using a watering can or a hose all of the missed splashes along with all the drainage water that comes out of the pots just runs along the table to the lowest corner and down into a bucket sitting underneath to be reused later.
It doesn’t get wasted on grass or weeds and it is amazing how far we can get it to stretch because of this continual recycling!
After the plants have got a bit of height about them, they can be hardened off on the ground under the tables, before eventually being planted outside unprotected.
The finished greenhouse isn’t the fanciest, but it is perfect for our needs. Being 2.25metres wide it easily fits two large plastic tables with a walkway in between and being 3metres high I can grow climbers and staked pots with ease. It has 8 sections between poly pipe roof supports and is 30metres long.
It was fun to make and with us only renting the real bonus is that if need be I can easily pull it out, roll it all up and relocate it. Fingers crossed that day never comes!!!
Materials and costs.
- Star pickets $100.00
- Long Screws $12.00
- Wire $6.00
- Green “Rural” Polypipe $100.00
- 70% Shade cloth 50m $300.00
Total of less than $600.00, which has worked out to less than $100 a year so far. With its help, we have grown…….
Bloody hell, I was about to say “1000’s of plants” but now that I really stop and think about it there must have been tens of thousands of plants come out of there over the years so far, and it’s still doing the job it was intended to do.
Well worth every cent!
Plastic hot houses
We have bought half a dozen different designs and brands of these over the years.
Basically all the ones with a floor space of 3metres x 6metres or bigger but less than $800.00.
- The ones made of thin light steel pipe and a thin woven poly tarp like skin rip at the corners in the first winds that come along.
- The ones with thin light steel pipes and a skin made of a heavier duty bubble wrap type of skin rip along the seams in the first winds that come along.
- Both types of skin have dodgy stitching which soon has to be redone, and the frames rust away at the corners within two years even if you fish oil them.
- The plastic corner pipe fittings become brittle and break within about 6-8months which is easy enough to bodgy up with wire or metal putty epoxy, but yeah, that’s less than ideal…
- The ones with aluminium framing and flat panels of opaque plastic that interlock have irregularities in the machining which means they don’t actually fit together snug making the structure unstable.
- Being so light they all catch the wind in every weakened opening to the outside world which means if they are well anchored to the ground and can’t blow away or blow over onto their side, then they just kind of blow up like a popped balloon instead.
This scatters bits of the frame and plastic crap across a huge area and while it never harms any common or boring plants you may have inside or nearby, 100% of the time it completely obliterates all the rare ones you may have really loved…
Trial and error has also shown all the ones we have tried to unsuitable for the majority of our plant species due to the really hot conditions here in Queensland Australia anyway. Hot houses are no doubt great for cold climates, but here where we are the temperature and humidity gets way too high to be a sensible choice even in the middle of Winter.
I loved the way they retained our precious water and for years I was super focussed on just that one single aspect. They did save 100’s of litres which for us on our limited supply was a super big deal. But everything else about them really sucked and I can’t recommend any.
HOT house, in QLD AU.
That’s a suuuuper bloody obvious bad idea when you stop and think about it, but unfortunately, I’m not always the sharpest crayon in the box…