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DIY Mini Greenhouse

I decided to give our pepper plants a little TLC by building them a miniature hoop house right over their raised bed. I’ve nicknamed the structure The Pepper Palace, but Jon thinks it looks more like a Conestoga wagon. Either way, it’s keeping our plants toasty warm! 

We constructed our little greenhouse with rebar, copper tubing, and plastic sheeting. As the summer warms, I’ll probably take off the plastic and replace it with TufBel—an extremely durable row cover developed in Japan. Tufbel lets in tons of light and it will keep the peppers warm without baking them (peppers tend to drop their blossoms if temps rise over 80 degrees F or drop below 60 degrees F at night). I’m also planning on leaving the hoop house up over the winter and growing spinach, cold hardy lettuces, kale, and chard inside.

Here’s a little photo essay that details the construction of our peppers’ new digs. The whole process took less than a half and hour!

Use sturdy stakes

To help ensure the hoop house stays upright during windstorms, we used 3/8-inch rebar stakes to support the hoops. We purchased the rebar in 2-foot lengths and used a heavy hammer to pound the stakes about 20 inches into the ground. Our raised bed is about 6 feet long and we put a stake in each corner of the bed and one on either side of the middle. 

Avoid PVC

Most people build mini hoop houses with flexible PVC tubing, but we happened to have a roll of copper tubing hanging around in the garage. Not only is the copper easy to cut with a hack saw, it looks pretty, and doesn’t contain phthalates or other toxic chemicals. I can’t wait to see how the copper weathers over the winter. To create the hoops, just slide one end of the tubing over a stake, arch the tubing across the bed, and slip the other end of the tubing over the other stake. 

Make a sturdy frame

Peppers typically top out at about 24 inches, so we made our hoops about 36 inches tall. Make sure that the tubing you use is slightly larger in diameter than the rebar stakes. This way you can easily slide it over the rebar.

Enclose with plastic

Drape plastic sheeting (or a row cover) over the frame, making sure to leave extra plastic so you can easily weigh it down. Right now the plastic is secured with rocks, but I plan on stapling 1 x 1 pieces of board to the edges. I think this will make the plastic easier to roll up when I need to water and it will look neater.

Our peppers’ new home!

    

Here’s a peek inside the hoop house. Today after work I’m going to plant some basil seedlings down the middle of the bed and mulch with composted chicken bedding around the peppers.

 

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35 Responses to “DIY Mini Greenhouse”

  1. 1
    laura Says:

    Your timing, for me, couldn’t be better. I’ve been looking for an easy, inexpensive, and tidy way to cover a couple of our raised beds. And we have rebar on our back deck that I’d like to make disappear :) Would love to see what you do with the 1×1 pieces–I’ve had bad luck with plastic and wind.

  2. 2
    c Says:

    I enjoy your talk on KUOW Greendays every week, and we are backyard chicken owner in Seattle as well! Finally had a chance to look up your web site. :) This is great idea for making green house. I was thinking about making coldframe which can be attached to my existing raised bed this winter, but would this setup work for winter vegetable as well as winter sowing?? If so, I would definitely copy your idea!

  3. 3
    HOMEGROWN.org » Blog Archive » DIY Mini Greenhouse Says:

    [...] colder weather. Our good friend (and HOMEGROWN Contributor) Willi has a great how-to on her site, DigginFood.com using cheap and easily available materials. Below is a list of other sources for DIY cold frames [...]

  4. 4
    How to build your own DIY greenhouse | FAQ, articles, discussion Says:

    [...] Digginfood.com has a great tutorial on building a mini greenhouse in your yard. [...]

  5. 5
    I’m Proud of My Peppers! | DigginFood Says:

    [...] was by far my best pepper year ever and I give all the credit to the fabulous mini greenhouse (pictured above at the beginning of the season) that Jon and I built. The Pepper Palace, as I [...]

  6. 6
    c Says:

    Hi Willi,

    I’ve started thinking about building green house over my raised bed sometime in February.

    I wanted to get Tufbell, but it seems I cannot find anywhere after googled it for an hour. Do you have any other alternative to recommend?

    I would really appreciate your input on this! I hope I’ll be successful with pepper this year!

    p.s. Happy New Year!

    -c

  7. 7
    2010 Gardening Resolutions | DigginFood Says:

    [...] failures (ahem, remember when my chickens ate my entire fall garden) and big successes (like the Pepper Palace). So, drum roll please, this is what I hope to accomplish in the coming 358 [...]

  8. 8
    Peter Says:

    Thank you! This was very helpful.

  9. 9
    Susan Moore Says:

    We are in Tolland, MA, the Berkshire foothills where one of our best crops is Tolland potatoes – that would be rocks and such to flatlanders.
    I like the idea of the conestoga green house. I’m not sure about pounding anything 20″ into the ground here, but willing to try. I wonder what would happen when the bear wanted to know what was in the ‘green house’. Guess I don’t want to find out. Squash! and I am not speaking of the edible variety. What the bear don’t stomp on, the deer eat!
    I keep trying though.
    Love the show and your web site.

  10. 10
    steve meredith Says:

    So the plastic does not have to be perfectly clear?

  11. 11
    Willi Says:

    Steve–The plastic actually is completely transparent…it just gets condensation on the inside, so it looks opaque in the picture. I use 4 mil plastic that they sell in rolls in the painting supplies section of hardware stores. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  12. 12
    julia Says:

    …love your copper hooped greenhouse! i used bamboo strips from bamboo hardwoods to make the arches for my pepper palace. the bamboo is long enough to create a 3 ft arch off the ground and is super flexible and strong. bamboo rocks!

  13. 13
    Willi Says:

    Julia–What a cool innovation. I’d love to see pictures. I’m really interested in PVC alternatives because I don’t like to use vinyl in the garden and it’s ugly. The bamboo must be beautiful!

  14. 14
    Jim Landen Says:

    Willi,

    It has been great to see you and your site! I was inspired to build my own hoop house for my tomato plants, which are always a challenge to grow at our altitude (6000′) and short growing season. I covered two 6′ x 4′raised beds with one hoop house. After a few near disasters, I added enough cross bracing and center posts to support my house against the Wyoming wind! I can’t wait for the BLTs!

  15. 15
    Lisa F Says:

    Willi,
    Thank you so much for providing the directions on this hoop house. I decided to try it in April and planted tomatoes for the first time. We now have dozens of tomatoes (and a few peppers) getting beautifully plump under the warmth and protection of the hoop house; they love it. I’m so thankful for this tip as it’s helped me feel more confident about my ability to grow veggies and will help me extend the growing season for years to come. THANKS!

  16. 16
    Extending the Season « Says:

    [...] Here’s a plan for a simple row cover that can be built in just a few hours, from Willi Galloway of  Digginfood. [...]

  17. 17
    Greg Says:

    Hi Willi

    What about air circulation? Do you leave any openings?

    Thanks (and thanks for your great advice on KUOW!)

    -Greg

  18. 18
    Willi Says:

    Greg–Good question!When It is chilly (like now), air circulation hasn’t been a huge issue for me. As it starts to warm up and get more humid inside the house, I pull up one corner a bit.

  19. 19
    Mary Sheldon Says:

    you should add a purlin under the top of the hoops by either tying a piece of pipe or a firring strip to stabilize your hoops in case of wind . also using copper is very expensive in our area and gets stolen because of the recycle value of copper at $2,00 a pound.

  20. 20
    Nicole Says:

    This was so easy! It took longer the locate the copper tubing at the hardware store than it did to complete the whole project. Now I can’t wait to grow some peppers!! Thanks!

  21. 21
    Grow. Cook. Eat. August 11 | DigginFood Says:

    [...] didn’t sow or plant anything this week. I did set up a hoop house around my squash and they literally grew overnight. My goal this weekend is to put hoop houses [...]

  22. 22
    Niki F Says:

    Hey Willi! Why copper? I’m using 1/2″ PVC for my hoop house and it seems to work well (and I imagine it’s cheaper). I use bricks to weight down some 6 mm plastic sheeting but would like to know where I can find clamps or clips that would hold the plastic to the hoops… Thanks!

  23. 23
    Niki F Says:

    Oh good lord – if I’d read the directions more closely I would have seen you answered my questions in your original entry. Duh. And I will try stapling the plastic to some 1×1′s.

    Keep an eye out for scrappers my dear – as a West Seattle Patrol Officer I can tell you that copper tubing would be a hot commodity if it’s visible from the street / alley!

  24. 24
    Willi Says:

    Niki-yes, I keep the copper hoops in the backyard for just that reason!

  25. 25
    andrew Says:

    my understanding is that phthalates are not used in pvc pipes, just in pvc used in situations where the material needs to be soft and pliant

  26. 26
    Grow. Cook. Eat. Video: Salad with Goat Cheese Toasts | DigginFood Says:

    [...] starts into the garden, especially if you give the greens a little extra love and construct a hoop house over them. Share and [...]

  27. 27
    Picture Frame Maker Says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Just wanted to say how I really enjoy reading your site. Many thanks.

  28. 28
    Theo Says:

    Hey,
    I was wondering where you got the plastic sheeting shown in all your pictures? Could you post/send me a link?
    Thanks!
    -Theo

  29. 29
    Willi Says:

    Theo–I use 3-ply plastic sheeting from the hardware store. It is in the paint section. Or I also use a perforated plastic product called GroTherm that is available from Territorial Seed company: http://www.territorialseed.com

  30. 30
    Pat in Tacoma Says:

    Hi Willi,
    Thank you for this tutorial. This spring, with overnight lows in the 40s in mid-June, has convinced me to make a temporary hoop house over my peppers and tomatoes. Crop rotations mean i’ve run out of the permanent trellis-hoops on my other raised beds. At this hour, they’re under GroTherm AND plastic sheeting over bent clothes hangers. When the stores open, i’m buying pipes! To ease my worrying mind, i’m also going to get a couple of inexpensive min-max thermometers to leave in the hoop house.
    Something i’ve done every year is put water-filled, matte black-painted pop bottles inside the cover with the plants. They lie on the ground between the plants and, with bricks along the walls, absorb the heat during the day and release it slowly at night.
    I’m always so happy when you join the Greendays gang on Tuesdays! Whether you’re in the studio or online, you and Greg make the hour worthwhile for me.

  31. 31
    Blog of the Week: DigginFood Says:

    [...] my post on how to build a hoop house. I live in the Pacific Northwest and growing warm season crops is a huge challenge here. I am kind [...]

  32. 32
    Misty Fitzpatrick Says:

    Wow, This is awesome. I loved this mini greenhouse. :)
    Misty Fitzpatrick´s last [type] ..Educational Greenhouses

  33. 33
    abd Says:

    dear
    very easy and nice ,,,,i will make the same
    regards
    abd

  34. 34
    Ways Extend Your Vegetable Growing Season - Garden Mentors Says:

    [...] trying both methods this year and doing our best to keep the PVC away from our soil. I have seen other materials used for hoops, but none are as cost effective as the [...]

  35. 35
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    I bookmarked it.

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