Build This Multipurpose, Portable ‘Modular Grow Dome’

This versatile, DIY “Modular Grow Dome” can house seedlings and chicks in winter, pasture poultry in summer, and extend your harvests in fall.

| October/November 2014

Imagine having a single portable hoop house that you could use in winter to grow crops and start seedlings, and then employ again in summer to safely keep chickens on pasture. Using just one piece of equipment to accomplish these tasks and more is the goal of our new Modular Grow Dome design, a collaboration between MOTHER EARTH NEWS and our company, Four Season Tools.

Inspired in part by the ever-innovative work of Maine market gardener Eliot Coleman, we’ve outlined several options for building a sturdy, movable modular greenhouse for year-round gardening. From these options, you can choose the best fit based on whether you need a small unit for your backyard or want to connect a series of domes to extend the season for larger-scale vegetable production. You can round up all the parts for these designs yourself, or let us gather everything you’ll need by purchasing a kit, which can be shipped via UPS or FedEx (see “Resources” later in this article).

The hoop houses are engineered in 12-foot and 15-foot widths and are fitted with bracing, “ski tips” and anchoring, so they’re easy to move manually and simple to secure after being positioned.

Most greenhouses on the market aren’t mobile. Plastic-film hoop houses, also called “high tunnels,” are used primarily by market farmers and are large and stationary. Smaller glass or rigid-plastic greenhouses are often expensive and aren’t designed to be moved. Our Grow Domes are easily portable, however, and their movability is key to the units being suitable for multiple functions, including large-scale vegetable production. Mobile domes help mitigate problems with pest and disease buildup common in stationary greenhouses. They can rotate with your crops or provide a predator-resistant place to pasture poultry. The kits also allow for flexibility in size, so a unit can meet specific zoning size limits or be considered “temporary” on urban or residential lots subject to building restrictions. The domes on our City Bitty Farm in Kansas City, Mo., for example, are less than 200 square feet, which is below the city’s requirement for a building permit.

Our dome frames are made from off-the-shelf steel pipe and fittings commonly used for chain-link fences. In addition to the framing, the kits include 6-millimeter, UV-resistant greenhouse film as well as special hardware and channels with spring wire that make it easy to install and replace both plastic and shade cloth as needed.

A Truly Multipurpose, Portable Structure

Greenhouses are good for growing plants mostly in fall, winter and early spring. Pens for raising pastured broilers are necessary for only a few weeks in summer or fall. The Modular Grow Dome anticipates both uses. The plastic covering transmits plenty of light for plant growth, and if you use the unit to keep hens for eggs in winter, solar heat gain will keep the birds warm on sunny days. In spring, you could start seeds at the same time you brood some chicks. In summer, you can either move the unit into a shady area for poultry or replace the plastic with a shade cloth, all while experimenting with heat-loving summer crops.

3/13/2015 7:51:41 AM

I'm disappointed plans have never been added as Mother Earth News stated they would be. I have been checking back on a regular basis because I really want to this. Have you forgotten or have you decided not to follow up??

11/6/2014 3:14:23 PM

Hello MARKR, quackser, and all future readers and commenters on this article: You may have come to this page expecting to see plans, which was our original intent. Very brief plans are included in the video in the link at the end of the article, but beyond that, we are waiting for our architect's injury to heal so that he can draw up more official plans and construction details to put on this page. Please keep checking back, and if you'd like to be directly notified when the plans are available, please email Thanks, and apologies for the delay! —Amanda, Associate Editor for Mother Earth News

10/31/2014 8:29:59 AM

Build it yourself? Or buy it yourself. Seems like a decent product but I was looking for DIY, not Buy It Yourself. Sad Really.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!