How to Build a Greenhouse and Garden -- and Reap the Rewards All Year Long

If you're a homeowner whose green thumb shrivels during winter months, you might be wondering how to build a greenhouse in your own backyard. It's entirely doable -- and just imagine the benefits of being able to grow tomatoes or flowers year-round!

"If someone gardens as a hobby, it's not unusual for them to spend $30,000 on a greenhouse," says Craig Andersen at Crystal Structures in Wichita, KS. "To them, it's like buying a boat, but it will be used more."

But here's the news: Greenhouses don't have to cost that much. Just like the wide variety of flora out there, the types of greenhouses available (and what goes into making them) run the gamut. So first things first: You'll need to think about what type of space you have to work with and precisely what you want the greenhouse for.

For instance, if you live in an apartment, you may want to create a solarium structure off a window. This adds a "greenery" element to the space, so you get the feeling of being in a garden along with some fresh herbs, says Andersen. If you're in the suburbs, you may have a backyard to work with -- and plenty of space to house your garden in order to extend the growing season.

If you're pining for a permanent structure, a greenhouse needs to be able to withstand the elements.

"Basically, a permanent greenhouse is made of glass and aluminum," says Andersen. "Although you can find plans for greenhouses made of wood and heavy-duty plastic, those structures may not stand up to heavy weather, so if someone is serious about gardening, they'll eventually want to put up a permanent structure."

Other factors to consider: Glass can make the greenhouse very warm, which is why these structures may need to be vented. You may want to add an evaporative cooler for summer and/or a heater for winter.

How to build a greenhouse: The DIY version

Don't quite have thousands of dollars to build a permanent structure yet but think you might want to experiment with your own little hothouse? Well, you can actually build a small greenhouse fairly simply. Nope, it won't likely be a glass-cloaked work of art, but it will help your garden grow. We promise.

Master builder Alexander Ruggie of home rejuvenation company 911 Restoration drew up the following no-frills plan exclusively for

"This step-by-step greenhouse design will be a simple and small unit that can fit in nearly any backyard, and even some apartment complex balconies," says Ruggie. It will look something like the one in this photo when complete.

Materials you'll need

  • 3 8-foot-long two-by-fours
  • 8 8-foot-long pieces of inch-thick flexible PVC piping
  • 16 1-inch conduit straps
  • 1 16-by-12-foot roll of see-through plastic tarp
  • 1 roll of duct tape
  • 1 roll of adhesive velcro strip
  • 1 box of 6-penny nails

Tools you'll need:

  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Scissors

How to build a greenhouse

  1. Take one of your three 8-foot-long two-by-fours and saw it in half. Place these shorter pieces between the two longer two-by-fours on the ends to create a rectangle. The 2-inch sides should be facing up to the sky and laying on the ground; the wider 4-inch sides should be facing in and out. Nail the ends of the 8-foot sections to the sides of the 4-foot sections. This will serve as the base and framework of your greenhouse.
  2. Now it's time to build the dome over the top: Bend an 8-foot PVC pipe into an arc and attach the ends via conduit straps to the corners of one end of your rectangle so that it forms an arc. Repeat this process so that these PVC arcs run at one-foot intervals down the length of your rectangle all the way to the other side.
  3. Place the plastic tarp over the top of your PVC frame. From the inside, tape the tarp to your PVC pipes. Wrap the plastic so that it extends under the frame of the greenhouse.
  4. Since you will need to occasionally take off the tarp to easily reach the plants inside, attach velcro strips along one length of the tarp so you can detach one side whenever necessary. As for the rest of the tarp, make sure it's taped securely to the frame. This will prevent air, bugs, and pests from getting in or out easily.
  5. Enjoy your new handmade greenhouse! You can plant either directly in the ground or in pots underneath. Save a few cucumbers for us.