Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse

You can build this raised garden bed mini-greenhouse to extend your growing season with used railroad ties for the base and some scrap wood and sheet plastic for the cover.

  • Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse
    A raised garden bed with a greenhouse cover can help you extend your growing season. 

  • Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse

Thirty years ago, I bought MOTHER EARTH NEWS to help pass the time while I was a U.S. Navy sailor stationed on an aircraft carrier. I enjoyed reading the magazine from cover to cover — often three or more times per cruise — and I couldn’t wait for the next issue. The magazine has inspired me to do many projects.

Recently, I wanted to try growing in a small raised garden bed. I had railroad ties lying around, and I used the ties to build a three-tier, 4-by-8-foot raised garden bed. I drove rebar into the ties (after pre-drilling smaller holes in them) to tie them together. I lined the garden bed with heavy plastic to limit potential contamination to the soil from the railroad ties, and I poked holes in the plastic for proper drainage. Next, I filled the bed with a combination of cow manure and topsoil.

I also made a mini-greenhouse cover for the bed so the crops could get an earlier start. Some of the cover materials I had on hand and some I bought. The cost for the greenhouse cover was $95. Last, I wound a soaker hose around the plants for irrigation.

Robert Ford
Montrose, Pennsylvania

3/30/2019 9:10:44 AM

People here seem to be wanting directions to build the green house. I'll give it a shot here from just looking at it and assuming the outside dimensions are 4'X8'X4'tall above the ties. If that is the case, the angle boards will be cut at 45 degrees. If you want a taller house, say 5'5", then the cuts would be about 30 degrees. I'm going with 4' tall. Build the box part first, in 4 panels. The ends use 2 - 2X4s 4' long and 3 - 2X4s 1'9" long. The long sides use 2 - 2X4s 7'5" long and 5 - 2X4s 1'9" long. Connect them together. Build 2 end poles. Lay a 2X4X3'8.5" down flat. 2' up from one end attach a 2X4X1'8.5" on its side to form a T when looking at the end, both of which should be even. These uprights can then be attached to the end walls on the inside, dead center, with the short 2X4 resting on the wall. Attach a 2X4X8' center beam on top of the 2 uprights, using metal brackets meant for connecting 2X4s. Cut 4 - 2X4s approximately 2'9" with a 45 degree angle at each end. Measure your structure first to get an exact measurement. This should complete the basic structure, even though it is slightly different. Next are the doors. Those could actually be made with 2X2s for lighter weight. For each use 5 - 2X2X2'10" (a little extra to hang over the edge slightly) & 2 - 2X2X7'9" and attach into simple rectangles. He used some angle blocks in the corners for extra rigidity. You could do the same or use a couple of cross braces 2'9" with 45 degree angles or one of those long rods with a turn buckle in the middle like the use on screen doors. Attach the doors with some hinges, galvanized or brass would probably be best and latches of some kind. You can staple the 6mil visqueen to the frame. He also used thin lats over the edges of the plastic attached to the 2Xs. You could also make it more permanent by using corrugated plastic or acrylic panels. I could be fully covered using 7 - 26"X8' panels, 1 for each side, 1.5 for each top side & 1 for each end and actually 1 - 12' panel could be used for both ends instead of 2 - 8' panels.

Rock gardener
3/29/2019 3:16:21 PM

missing the point here people! The post is about the "green house" not what it is built "on"!! Mother Earth~ If you could send some construction info, it would be much appreciated by my builder!! Thanks!

3/29/2019 10:12:13 AM

Robert, thanks for this useful idea. Can you tell me what type of plastic covering you used? Note to others: If you don't have access to rairoad ties or don't want to use them because of potential contamination, you can usually get untreated 6x6 at your local lumber store. Yes, it is more expensive, but it will last a long time as long as you line it as well.

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