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Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

DIY Greenhouse Build with 2-by-4s and Gambrel Roof

Our family designed and built a gambrel-roofed greenhouse from the ground up. In this article, I provide step-by-step details on how to build this greenhouse with a 2-by-4 structure. We also created a detailed YouTube video.

The items below are what you will need for our design (10 feet wide by 12 feet).


• Safety goggles
• Gloves
• Tape measure
• Drill and 5/16 drill bit
• 1/4 hex driver
• Circular saw
• Miter saw
• Hammer or nail gun
• Tin snips
• Paint brush
• Level

Material Needed:

• TUFTEX polycarbonate panels
• Foam enclosure strips (80) and screws
• Aluminum corrugated siding - 20 pieces
• 2x4 x8 feet boards. 60 pieces
• 2x4 x12 feet boards. 5 pieces
• 2x4 x12 feet boards, Pressure treated. 2 pieces
• 2x4 x10 feet boards, Pressure treated. 2 pieces
• 12 feet aluminum ridge cap
• 25 feet of rolled aluminum
• 30-inch door
• Framing nails
• White Exterior Paint

Step 1: Build the 3-Foot-High Side Walls

The first step is to build the side walls. The side walls are 36 inches high and 12 feet long. With the top and bottom boards at 3 inches high, you will want to cut the studs at 33" high. Looking at our Sketchup design we have 26 studs at 33 inches each.

To speed up this process I created a stop with some scraps of wood next to my miter saw that allows cuts of precisely 33 inches.

The side walls are 12 feet long, so you will want to use 2 of the 12 foot 2-by-4s for the top and bottom of each wall.

We want the 2-by-4s to be 24 inches on center to have a proper location to screw the walls into. 24 inch on center will carry up to the rafters which will have the TUFTEX panels attached to.

Instead of measuring and marking the 12 foot board at 24 inches on center, I created a spacer board at 22.5". This spacer really sped up the process and we  re-use this spacer later in the project. The nail gun makes fast work of things.

Greenhouse Build Step 1

Step 2: Build the Front and Back Walls

Using my 3D Sketchup design, I print out the dimensions to get a cut list for the front and back walls.

The front wall is like the back wall at 10 feet wide, however we have a door in the middle. We leave the 10-foot-wide board on the bottom (don't cut it out for the door, it will keep things stable).

You want to allow for a 30" wide by 80" high door in the center of the wall. And then add additional 33" boards at 24" on center to the left and right of the door.

For the top of the door/header I sandwiched some particleboard scraps between two 30" wide 2-by-4s.

We will be adding additional framing to these sections in a later step.

Greenhouse Build Step 2

Step 3: Cut the Rafters

For this design, we have 14 top rafters and 14 bottom rafters. Since it is difficult to convey the various angles I suggest that you use my Google Sketchup design to get the lengths and angles. Another option is to purchase pre- made rafters from your local home center. I can provide the actual Google Sketchup files for free on request. Be sure to dry fit/test the rafters before you cut them all.

I used my Sketchup design to get my lengths and angles and I setup the angle on my miter saw and setup another stop and then cut all 14 bottom and then top rafters.

Greenhouse Build Step 3

Step 4: Build the 24 Gussets for the Gambrel Roof

Since we have a gambrel roof we need a sturdy connection from the top rafter to the bottom rafter. For this we built 24 gussets. Two gussets for each gambrel transition and one gusset on the inside of the first and last rafter.

To build the gussets, first mockup one with cardboard and dry fit it. Then cut them all out on particle board.

Greenhouse Build Step 4

Step 5: Assemble the Rafters, Attach the Gussets

Using some leftover scraps from cutting out the gussets, I created a jig. With this jig, I perfectly aligned each rafter and the jig holds things in place so that I could attach the gussets.

Greenhouse Build Step 5

Step 6: Assembly and Foundation

Time for assembly. At this point we attached the pressure treated boards to the bottom of each wall. We then moved the greenhouse and dug several holes and filled them with cement.

Dpending on your soil/location you should consider an ideal foundation.

Greenhouse Build Step 6

Step 7: Rafters, Purllns and Paint

It's all coming together now! We temporarily affix the 12-foot ridge board above the door and precisely center it. Then we start attaching the rafters. We attached through the ridge board with 2 long screws from the opposite side. We use our 22.5-inch spacer board when attaching each rafter.

After all the rafters are up we cut purlins to go between each rafter. After all the purlins are attached we paint everything white.

Step 8: Front Wall and Back Wall

While the painting is in process. I build a grid on the front and back wall. The goal is to have 24" center squares to attach the TUFTEX to.

Some of these cuts can be tricky, one thing that helps when trying to frame into an angled section is to align the board in front of the angle and use the angle board as a guide, draw a line and cut it. This is what we did to make the cut pictured above fit perfectly.

Greenhouse Build Step 8

Step 9: Side Walls and Flashing

The final step before adding the TUFTEX panels is to add the side walls. We bought 36" high corrugated aluminum for this. We attached these with metal roofing screws.

Then we rolled out the aluminum flashing and cut in 12-foot sections. We attach the flashing to the bottom part of the top section of rafter (top gambrel) and we don’t attach it to the bottom section of roofing.

The TUFTEX panels on the top roof section will attach over the flashing, the TUFTEX panels on the bottom roof section will go under the flashing. This way, any wind driven rain will not make it through the gambrel section.

Greenhouse Build Step 9

Step 10: Attach the TUFTEX Polycarbonate Panels

We can finally attach the panels! These TUFTEX Polycarbonate Panels can be cut with a circular saw with the blade in backwards.

We also cut some of the panels for the front and back with a tin snips.

A few notes on installation of these panels: Pre-drill all holes or you can end up with small cracks. Since you can see the foam filler through the panel- keep them nice and straight. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Consider starting the TUFTEX installation on the part of the greenhouse least viewed (the back-side) and install the final panels on the front-side (most viewed) because by the time you get to the front you will likely be doing your best work!

Step 11: Flashing and Finale

We used some aluminum edge flashing on each outside corner. We used a white ridge cap on the top of the greenhouse. Please be sure to watch the video of this project — it is a great video and will help better explain some of the steps of this project.

Photos by Kerry Mann and Jen Mann

Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest,  Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead.

Greenscraping Gourds

Gourds green and greenscraped

My last blog article covered how to clean a previous year’s gourds. The method described in that post is great for gourds of all sizes, from tiny to huge. However, letting nature take her course with mold growing over the entire surface can leave areas of discoloration that may interfere with artistic preferences.

In this article, I describe (and show via video) a nifty process that not only gives you a more uniform surface but also speeds up the drying process. While the old, moldy way is an over-wintering process, the greenscraping method yields ready-to-art gourds in just a month or two.

In the above photo, you can see my freshly picked banana and cannonball gourds in the bowl and those same gourds completely greenscraped and drying on the racks. Also pictured are three completed gournaments from past seasons. Though I may lose some of the freshly greenscraped gourds due to their immaturity at season’s end, I love the nearly perfect surface created with this method so much that I find it’s worth it to lose a couple in the process.

Gourds larger than you can hold easily in one hand should be left to cure naturally (as described in my previous article). The imbalance of moisture content between the very wet insides and the drying, scraped outside of a larger, thicker-walled gourd will cause it to explode from the pressure differences. Thick walls are definitely preferred for strength (such as needed for containers) but they do not lend themselves to speedier drying processes. That preferred thickness becomes a barrier to successful greenscraping by keeping water in too thoroughly while the outside environment is evaporating as quickly as possible.

I have created a video of the greenscraping process if you want to see this method in action. Here’s my outline for greenscraping gourds.


A safe working surface
Bleach (just a capful or two)
Rubber gloves
Cloth scrubber
Bucket with water
Dull knife
2 plates

The Greenscraping Process

Make sure that the area you are working in won’t be adversely impacted if any of your bleach (or water with bleach) splashes or spills. I like to work on a piece of rigid plastic that has a lip. I lay my rags down on it so they can absorb any excess water from the dipped gourds. I also like to use gloves so the gourds don’t collect germs from my hands after dipping. This keeps the potential for mold-growing to a minimum.

Greenscraping tools

Once your station is set up, scrape the outside layer (the green skin) off of the gourd to reveal the hard shell beneath. You’ll want to scrape off as much as possible so that the final scrubbing (with the cloth scrubber) is easier. Hold your knife at an angle and peel or scrape at will. I usually do this fairly quickly—only slowing down where there is a blemish or if my gourd is curved in a more difficult-to-reach way.

After the gourd is scraped free of its outer skin, dip it in the bleach water for 10 seconds or so. Take the gourd out and lay it on a rag. Use the cloth scrubber to clean off any green skin that remains. These are usually small streaks left from the imprecise stroking of the knife or areas near the stem, blossom end, or a blemish. If necessary, gently scrape hard-to-reach areas with the knife.

Dip the gourd into the bleach water one last time, then set onto a plate. Once you accrue several completely cleaned gourds, transfer them to a safe and undisturbed place to finish drying. Make sure that the gourds are not touching and that there is plenty of space around them for free-flowing air. I use old shoe racks set up in my studio to dry mine (as in that top photo). Check the gourds once a week or so. If you notice any mold starting up, simply wipe them down with a rag soaked in bleach water.

Depending on the thickness of the gourds and the heat and humidity of your drying space, the gourds should be dried and ready to work with in 6 to 12 weeks. Their color will slowly change, losing the green tones and turning more tan. When I think they’re ready I test mine by touching them to my cheek. They are room temperature when they are finished.

The photo below shows banana gourds at various stages after being picked.

banana gourd comparisons

Left to right: newly harvested, freshly greenscraped, greenscraped and dried for about 3 weeks, completely dried and altered for arting gournament, immature greenscraped gourd that has split, naturally curing and moldy gourd.  

Whether greenscraping or letting your gourds cure naturally, I hope these articles have given you food for thought and more of an appreciation for how much work goes into preparing a gourd for utilitarian and creative endeavors. As always, “Gourd forth and prosper.”

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A Gourdeous Day for Cleaning Gourds

Cleaned Gourds

Anyone who knows me understands that I love hardshell gourds in all shapes and sizes. Even though I have a lot of them in my waiting-to-be-arted-upon collection, I keep right on growing them. Part of my adoration comes from the transformation they go through from garden to canvas.

Hardshell gourds need a somewhat lengthy growing season (at least 120 days) so they have plenty of time to build up a nice thick shell. Once the season is over, the gourds can be left out in the elements to weather or they can be brought indoors. I let mine dry over the winter in my attic where the white and black molds don’t bother anyone. Speaking of that mold… it’s part of the drying process—your gourds are not rotting! It’s perfectly normal, don’t throw them away.

As you can see in the photo above (bottom left), after being harvested last year and drying completely this gourd is a fuzzy mess. It has also lost most of its weight. Last Fall it took both hands and some hefting to carry this gourd indoors. It easily weighed over 30 pounds. Now, I can lift it with one finger and it weighs under 2 pounds. Notice how beautifully it cleaned up with just a bit of elbow grease.

My favorite days for cleaning gourds are beautifully sunny days with not more than a slight breeze. Water is your friend when cleaning gourds and wind can slow down the process by swift evaporation. I choose a comfortably shady spot to work with full sun nearby so the freshly cleaned gourds can easily dry.

Gourd cleaning utensils

The tools I use for cleaning dried, moldy hardshell gourds:

2 large buckets
copper or stainless steel scrubbies (I go through at least one of these per session.)
old towels
scrub pad
old knife
plenty of disposable gloves (In one sitting, I only used one for my left hand but 4 for my right.)
large rocks (or other weighty things)
scrub brush (Optional—while you might find this useful, I tend to use the scrubbies the most.)

Set up Your Work Station

Fill your buckets two-thirds to three-quarters full with water and a little bleach (I use 1/4-1/2 a cup per large bucket). Put some gourds into the bucket and weight them down with rocks (see photo above, bottom left section). You’ll want to add water as necessary for proper submersion. Any parts above the waterline can be wrapped with soaking towels. If your gourds are too large for your container and you don’t have anything else that will suffice, you can soak the towels (don’t ring them out) and wrap the gourds. Let the gourds sit in the water (or soaked towels) for at least half an hour—longer is better.

Scrub Your Gourds Clean

Remove one gourd at a time to work on. As you take one out, you can start another soaking. I usually have at least 5 gourds going at once. I use one of the buckets for soaking and the other for dipping as I scrub as well as for adding water to the towels that are wrapped around the larger gourds. Scrubbing hard doesn’t damage the surface of the gourd but it does work well to remove the molds. (See top photo, bottom half. Both photos are of the same gourd on the same day—before and after cleaning.)

For the areas that I can’t easily access with the scrubbies, I use a scrub pad or one of my handy gourd knives. These knives were fashioned for me by a friend. He took some old kitchen knives and ground them so that I could greenscrape my gourds without damaging their surface. I use these to gently clean crevices that my other tools can’t reach.

Once the surface of the gourd is soundly scrubbed, I rinse it off with my garden hose (or other plain water source). I check for missed spots and scrub a little more as needed. Otherwise, set your gourd in the sunshine to dry. Be sure to turn it every so often to ensure complete drying.

The top part of the first photo shows the result of six hours of scrubbing from a recent gourd cleaning day. The lighter spots on a couple of the large gourds are blemishes that I’ll have to design around. Every one of these gourds were covered in yucky stuff (aka mold), as you can see evidenced in the photo below. But, there are beautiful golden brown canvases under all that black, white, and gray fuzz. Go forth and make your world a more gourgeous place by growing, curing, and cleaning gourds.

Gourds being cleaned

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Holiday Heirloom Wallhanging

Christmas heirloom wallhanging

I think of myself as a permaculture educator and usually write about sustainable gardening. This post is not about gardening, but it sure is about permaculture. In permaculture we like to make use of everything we have. Well, I had accumulated a box full of jewelry that I never wore, so I decided to put the items in a wallhanging that we can get out every Christmas when the family is all here.

Each item seems to tell a story, especially the charms on the two charm bracelets I had. The activities they represent happened so long ago, I might not have even mentioned them before.  I used to wear a necklace now and then until the children (now ages 31-44) came along. The babies would quickly pull off anything dangling on the chains. In my wallhanging the empty chains are now garlands and the trinkets pulled off are ornaments on the tree, along with all the charms that never made it to the bracelets.

Being an active person involved in my community, I have accumulated pins given as awards, recognition, or membership. I can’t think of a better use for them other than putting them on this tree. Relatives who have passed are remembered here with pins they used to own.

If you don’t feel you are ready to give your jewelry up to a wallhanging, if your mother or grandmother are still living, you might make one with their jewelry. It could be a great bonding experience and the stories behind each piece can’t help but come tumbling out. If they have already passed on, you might have their jewelry, but you will miss out on the stories. You can find details about how I made this Christmas wallhanging and photos showing more detail about the pieces on it at Homeplace Earth.

It might be that you aren’t into Christmas trees, but some other idea will pop into your head for a wallhanging. Maybe the memorabilia that you decide to preserve for all to see won’t fit on a wallhanging, but would be great in a shadow box that you could hang on the wall. Whatever you decide on, enjoy the process and share it with others.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Septic System Rescue: DIY Fix for Hopeless Cases


This is what my septic system looked like during the height of failure. The sewage is about 24” above the outlet of the tank and threatening to spill out onto the lawn. 

June 2011 was a bad time at my place. That’s when I discovered the sewage level in my septic system was sitting 6” above the top of the concrete tank as I opened the ground level access hatches. That’s at least 18” higher than the outlet of the tank and it would get worse – bad news for a septic system that was installed back in 1989, and bad news for my financial situation.

A local septic contractor came quickly when I called, and after one look he started telling me when he’d be able to come out to rebuild my leaching bed. “I’ve never seen anything work to fix systems clogged this badly, other than rebuilding the leaching bed”, he explained. I braced myself for a repair bill that could easily run into five figures (plus all the disruption to my yard), then I realized something.

Have you ever heard the story of how Thomas Edison tried thousands of different materials before he discovered that a carbon filament was just the thing to make the first light bulb? When things get as bad as my septic system, it’s actually good in one way. With nothing to lose, it gave me a chance to try fixing my septic system myself. And in the end, just like Thomas Edison, I discovered many things that don’t work before finally finding what I consider to be the ultimate solution. The septic system that was pronounced hopelessly dead has been working perfectly for more than 3 years, even with 7 people living in the house.

One of four leaching pipes exposed for cleaning. Addition of a clean-out port made future pipe maintenance easier. 

My first step was to go online to see if there was something that would get me out of the $10K rebuild. No surprise that there’s plenty of powders and additives out there to help fix clogged septic systems just like mine and I tried quite a few. Nothing worked, not even a prominent, $400 treatment regime that came with a money-back guarantee. Not even the money-back guarantee worked. Whenever I contacted the company with the bad news that my septic system was still sick, they’d just send me more product.

“We’ll keep sending you more until it works”, the cheerful young lady explained on the phone. After three heavy duty treatments and no improvement in 6 months, I gave up on the cheery young lady.

Next thing I tried was septic bubblers. These add oxygen to the septic tank, changing the makeup of the microbes in the sewage. Oxygen-loving bacteria are supposed to have quite an appetite for the kind of sludge that clogs leaching beds and that sounded good. For six months I pumped a steady stream of compressed air through a diffusion hose made for sewage. Some days the sewage level dropped, and I was happy.

The next day, the sewage level rose again and I was discouraged. It was something like the emotional roller coaster you experience when your favourite ball team is in a close game. In the end, I gave up on septic bubblers as a fix for my clogged system, though I still think they have value.

In the end, I stopped looking for ready-made solutions and went back to first principles. My septic system wasn’t working because something was blocking the perforated pipes in the leaching bed that were supposed to let sewage seep into the ground. I knew the problem wasn’t tree roots, it must be some kind of slimy stuff in the pipes.

So how can I clean the inside of my leaching pipes? Unable to sleep one night because of the worry of having to find $10,000 I didn’t have, a went online looking for something that would let me clean out those choked pipes. I owned a pressure washer, but of course the wand was way too short. My four leaching pipes were about 60 feet long each.

In the end, I found something that let me bring the full force of my gas-powered pressure washer to bear on the sludge inside the pipe, and boy was there a lot of it. I also ended up using a leaching pipe treatment (not a tank treatment) that was supposed to boost the porosity of the soil around the leaching pipes. In the end, for a cost of about $300 and two days labour, I got my septic system working perfectly. I also reconfigured my leaching pipes a bit so future clogs can be solved before lunch time on Saturdays.

There’s more information than I have room for here, but you can get the full story here.

Steve Maxwell and his family homestead on Manitoulin Island, Canada, on a little patch of farmland surrounded by a sea of forest. Connect with Steve a Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

A Multi-Pronged Approach for Fending Off Fleamageddon


Granted, living with 15 feline furbabies (12 indoor, 3 outdoor) isn’t a normal state of affairs for most households. However, most of us with furball family members have had to deal with fleas at one time or another. Depending on where you live, this can present a year-round problem.

We suspect that basement mice brought the first fleas in with them though we may also have carried a few in from the garden on our pant legs and socks. With a milder winter last year, I was afraid the flea situation might become worse than usual. I was not expecting to have to go to war.

We started out the season with an habitual dosing of our cats with Frontline Combo (not an inexpensive solution with so many cats) even though we both feel badly about assaulting our pets with these chemicals. In the past, we believed it helped to keep us flea-free. While the cats obviously don’t like feeling ill on the day they are dosed, they do enjoy life without being constantly bitten. Unfortunately, the effectiveness only seems to last for 7 to 10 days. Since redosing isn’t recommended for 6 weeks, that leaves more than 4 weeks of footloose and fancy freedom for the fleas—not good.

My husband began researching alternatives when an impending fleamageddon became clear. We started by adding non-toxic flea traps. We used both Aspectek and Victor brands. We haven’t noticed a difference in performance, though the Victor is a little easier to assemble. Plan on periodically replacing lights. We bought green lights to try since some people mentioned they are more attractive to fleas. They seem to work about the same.GatheredFleas2

Next, we tried Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Home Spray. This enabled us to spray carpeted areas that seemed to be particularly popular for flea parties. The drawbacks to this product are that it makes me cough and it cannot be used on the animals themselves. However, I still use it because I like to alternate products in order to foil the pesky fleas.

Our preferred sprays are Cedarcide Original and their 3% solution (D.A.S. Domestic Animal Spray). These can be sprayed on carpet, upholstery, bedding, and pets (with care). They can also be applied with a special brush. I’m not a fan of the smell of this spray but it’s a temporary drawback because I’m a total fan of the job it’s done in abating our infestation. I can spray it liberally without worrying about harming our cats or ourselves while it kills fleas dead.

Another major component of our battle tool chest is my beloved vacuum. I’ll admit that I don’t much like the chore of vacuuming. However, with the right vacuum it’s much more inviting. When my husband and I first married, we were fortunate enough to purchase an Electrolux (back when the canister was made of metal). I wore out two hoses with that old workhorse. It lasted 20 years before giving up the ghost. We then went through a series of much less expensive brands, most of which lasted a year or so.

A few years ago we found a suitable replacement that may seem expensive but has already taken hold of our hearts like the old Electrolux did. Our Miele Cat & Dog Canister vacuum successfully sucked up countless fleas over the past summer enabling us to fight off this infestation ourselves. We didn’t have to resort to the big-time chemical assault of the exterminators we used several years ago.

Without carpet, we might have gone with a less expensive version of the Miele. I’m guessing the bags are a large part of the success of these machines. I plan on taking out more of our carpet over the winter since it seems to harbor the little devils and their eggs.

Our last tool is the flea comb, which my sister-in-law calls her cat cuddle comb. I have to admit that it’s kind of fun to see the cats queue up in line once they see the bowl of soapy water and comb come out. Most of them really enjoy being combed and now associate the combing with having less fleas to deal with afterwards.

The proof of success from our recent battle against fleamageddon can be seen in the happiness of our relaxed cats and their spending more time on the floor. While it might be humorous to watch them try to get from point A to point B with as few steps on the carpet as quickly as possible, it becomes a lot less funny when considering their reasoning is based in pain, suffering, and fear. Suffice it to say that we are happy to be nearly flea-free again. I highly recommend using this multi-pronged, non-toxic approach in the battle against fleas.


Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Step-by-Step Garden Hose Repairs


Unavoidably, garden hoses spring leaks or get run over and cut by the mower. No need to be in dread of having to fix hoses. We have figured out a system that works smoothly, and gets you and the hose back into action quickly. We put our broken hoses next to the cold-frames by the greenhouse in a sunny spot. We wait for the right combination of desperation (need for another good hose), spare time and “ideal hose-mending weather” - when it is disgustingly hot, hoses become more flexible and easier to repair. Here's our step-by-step "how to fix a hose" process:

Gather the kit: Hose and fittings, sharp knife, Philips screwdriver, wooden dowel, dish soap and unbreakable insulated mug. The wooden dowel should be tapered to fit into the end of a hose and stretch it out.

Buy the heavy duty all-metal hose repair fittings, not the plastic ones. We find that the threads on the plastic repair fittings wear out, leading to leaks, and the ends sometimes just break off. The metal ones save frustration and are well worth the extra cost. If they last longer than the hose, you can simply remove them onto another hose needing repair.

If you are replacing an end fitting, be sure to get the right kind, so-called female or male hose fitting (with the threads on the inside or the outside.) If you are splicing in the middle of a length of hose, get a connector with two clamp pieces and a double-ended insert.

You can, if you like, permanently join two previously separate hoses to make one good hose, using a connector, or divide one broken hose into two shorter hoses using end menders. We sometimes do this if we are running short of spare repair fittings, just to get back in business. Also note that short lengths that fasten onto faucets are a handy thing to have, for filling buckets and cans, so if the break is near the female end, you might just make one very short hose and one almost-full-length hose.

Remove any old fittings from the hose. If you want to save the insert for re-use, slice the hose vertically over the insert, but make sure you don't cut a channel in the plastic, because that will create a leak. Sometimes it is easier to just make a fresh cut below the fitting.

The next task is to make a clean square-cut end on the hose with a utility knife, to ensure the fitting will be snug and not leaky.

Boil some water and fill an unbreakable insulated mug.

Put the hose end into the hot water to soften. Prop the mug against something solid and before you look away, make sure the arrangement won't tip over.

While the hose is softening in the water, loosen the clamp screws on the new fitting. You don’t have to take the screws all the way out. You can just loosen them enough to slide the clamp on the hose and up beyond the end you are working on.

Also while the hose is softening, lubricate the end of the repair fitting with dish soap. (Honest, this makes a lot of difference.)

Dowel stretching softened hose end.

Take the hose end out of the water and push the wooden dowel in the hose end to widen it. Some hoses are more flexible than others and don’t need this step.

Push the hose fully onto the fitting.  

Pull out the dowel and push in the soaped-up fitting, Push firmly until the fitting is fully seated. With female fittings it can help to use a male fitting in the one you are pushing on.

Next, push the clamp into place over the insert and fasten the screws up tight.

You might test the hose next, to look for any other problems, then drain and coil it. Or you might just coil it.

Loosely fasten the ends of the coiled hose, to stop mud-dauber wasps from setting up home, and to prevent the washer dropping out.

Bonus tip: If you have a stockpile of old plastic repair clamps, don't throw them all away. If a hose has a pinhole leak you can fix it by wrapping a piece of bicycle inner tube around the hose, then fastening just one of the clamps over the area.

Pam Dawling works in the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs. Pam also writes for Growing for Market magazine. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, is available at, Pam's blog is on her website and also on Facebook.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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