An Upcycled Greenhouse

Reader Contribution by Bethann Weick

Our first project on this summer’s list is begun.  It’s not part of the original season’s plan, but one that we readily embraced when the opportunity presented itself: building a greenhouse.

You see, neighborhood friends recently had a carport blow over in a windstorm. Five of the six rib supports made it through the tumble, but the whole unit was destined for the dump. Luckily for all, another option entered the picture – upcycle the remaining parts!  So thanks to neighbors’ generosity and our thriftiness, we loaded the parts and trucked them to our property’s edge. From there it was quite the carry.

Each rib of 2” piping arches over a 24’ span, making it an unwieldy armful with which to navigate through the woods. But it had to be done, and so it was.  And that was simply the beginning.  We now had a pile of arches and support poles piled amongst brambles, wild strawberries, small saplings, large stumps, and old slash. All told, this tent-turned-greenhouse would measure 16’ x 24’. Though I had been steadily clearing small amounts of land to increase the garden space, this sort of square footage would take some work.  

As to where the greenhouse would stand, and which direction it would be oriented…well, there were a finite number of options before us and Ryan & I came to agreement fairly rapidly. West of the old cellar hole, north of the current compost pile; the young Northern Spy apple that I planted last spring will likely have to be dug and moved come next April.

It seemed like a formidable task in front of us: take this overgrown mess of an area and turn it into something that can grow food.  Not only that, but we set ourselves an ambitious deadline: later this month we’re hosting a gathering of friends, and the opportunity to use the greenhouse as a tent in case of rain quickly became appealing. So ready, set, go: we have just a couple weeks to transform the ground, level the area, and anchor the structure’s skeleton in the ground.

We started with the loppers and took down saplings and brambles, then turned to the fire rake, amassing the slash and debris. Ryan took stumps down to the ground, and bucked up the large pine he had felled to first make the cabin’s clearing a reality. Wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load we dumped all this biomass at the backside of our clearing (a sloped area where we are slowly building berms and terraces from weeds, slash, and the like). From there, the work turned more to digging and pulling, extracting roots and small stumps. Rocks and boulders, too, of course.

It was dirty, sweaty work, but what else can we say than that it felt good.  With the tangle of shrubbery and slash removed, the ground was more level than we anticipated – and with black dirt beneath us! Our good fortune seems to have held once more – it would appear that the old homestead has left us with yet another site of rich dirt thanks to an unknown past.

Now we look out the window and the bare spot leaps out at us, impressing us with the the work it required and enticing us with the promise of possibilities to come. For this weekend, it will be the work of leveling and pounding anchors that fills our time. From there, raising and framing the structure will be our focus.  After it’s brief stint as a party tent, the push to grow produce will take hold at last – manure will be spread and cover crops seeded.  In the fall, plastic will be rolled on, and cold weather greens planted.  From there, we hope to relay a tale of bounty for seasons to come.

Garden work is my specialty!  Weeding, planting, mulching and pruning services available, plus edible landscapes and garden designs.  Contact Beth via for your annual, perennial, herbal, or ornamental garden needs.