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Autumn’s Inexpensive DIY Greenhouse

One reader shares how she created a small, urban greenhouse for under $150 using reclaimed windows.

| February/March 2018

  • Autumn completed her greenhouse in three days for under $150
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • Autumn and her dad finished the 2-by-4 frame with low cost fence boards.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • Autumn was able to salvage her neighbors old windows.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • Curtain cloths provide shade and help to regulate the temperature inside during the hotter parts of the day.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • A vent allows for hot air that rises to escape.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • Water filled containers help regulate temperature swings.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen
  • Water can also be stored to use later.
    Photo by Autumn Hansen

I live on a small urban plot in the heart of downtown Reno, Nevada. Even though I live within walking distance of a grocery store, I pride myself in growing fresh food for my family. Winter has always been my most challenging growing season, but now I grow an abundance of fresh salad greens in an unheated greenhouse, and I’d like to share my story with you.

My greenhouse journey began with patience. I knew glazing would be the most expensive part of my project, so I made a decision to wait for free windows. One day, I was talking to a neighbor who told me she was replacing her original 1953 single-pane windows, and I found myself blurting out, “Can I have your old ones?” She happily brought them over, and with those beautiful old windows stacked nicely on the side of my house, I began to formulate a plan.

The Important Features

Location was very important. My greenhouse had to have southern exposure and be within a few feet of my back door. This narrowed the location down to a small corner of my patio, which determined the size of my greenhouse; it would be 6 feet square.

Having a beautiful structure was important to me as well, not only because I like being surrounded by beauty, but because my neighbors would see it over the fence, and I didn’t want them complaining.

Also, I wanted a completely off-grid structure that wouldn’t require any further investment to grow food. And lastly, it had to be inexpensive; I had a budget of $150.

With size, location, and budget established, I sketched out my plan and recruited my builder — good ol’ Dad! I’m sure he thought his job was done when I got married and left home, but no, he’s still my No. 1 building partner! I watch everything he does and ask a lot of questions. With every project, my skill set increases, and this was the biggest one we tackled together.

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