Grow More Food in a Portable Greenhouse

Boost productivity in spring, summer, fall and winter with a DIY movable greenhouse you can transport around your plot.

| December 2013/January 2014

  • In addition to allowing you to grow more winter fare, a greenhouse can also make the experience of growing food more comfortable by sheltering you, the grower, from cold weather.
    Photo By Barbara Damrosch
  • This portable greenhouse design has door flaps you can open for ventilation on sunny winter days.
    Photo By Barbara Damrosch
  • Get movin’! At 100 pounds total, the greenhouse can be picked up and relocated by two people.
    Photo By Barbara Damrosch
  • Grow even more crops by using row covers as a second layer of protection inside your greenhouse.
    Illustration By Barbara Damrosch
  • Grow fall greens outdoors and move the greenhouse over them when winter sets in.
    Photo By Fotolia/norrie39
  • Plant your tomatoes up to six weeks earlier under your movable greenhouse, and you’ll be eating fresh, juicy tomatoes six weeks before your neighbors.
    Photo By Fotolia/majaan
  • Growing food in a greenhouse can bring many treasures, including tender new potatoes in spring.
    Photo By Fotolia/Viesturs Kalvans
  • Parsnips are another favorite root crop for greenhouse cultivation. Plant them in fall and enjoy harvests will into winter.
    Photo By Fotolia/Andrea Tanja
  • A greenhouse can help you extend the spring and fall seasons, when you might be growing cool-weather root crops, such as carrots, that actually get sweeter with cold weather.
    Photo By Fotolia/annamavritta

Many gardeners use cold frames and quick hoops for season extension, but just beyond these is a simple and super-productive option for the home gardener: a small, low-cost, portable greenhouse. We’ve found that you can build a 10-by-12-foot greenhouse for less than you’d spend on a store-bought 4-by-4-foot cold frame. Our goals in designing this movable greenhouse were that it be simple to build with off-the-shelf parts, easy to move, easy to anchor and inexpensive.

Even gardeners in moderate or warm climates can benefit from a greenhouse, which gives you much more variety in your winter fare, and also makes the experience of growing it more pleasant. A greenhouse furnishes a warm and sheltered spot for plants, but because you can stand up inside of it, it also shelters you.

Similar to a cold frame, a simple greenhouse captures the sun’s heat and eliminates the drying, chilling effects of wind. You don’t even need to heat your greenhouse in winter if you plant hardy crops that are most content growing in cool weather. Come spring, you’ll get in those early crops even sooner than normal and you’ll transplant your warm-weather tomatoes earlier in the year. Then, sit back to wait for extra-early ripening.

Constructing Your Portable Greenhouse

The ability to move a greenhouse from one place to another will ease the seasonal transition from winter to summer and back to winter for all of the crops covered by the greenhouse. You can leave it over summer crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and basil, to safeguard them from fall frosts and keep them producing longer. Then you can move the greenhouse to protect cold-hardy crops that you’ve planted nearby so you can enjoy them well into winter.



With a portable greenhouse, you get the positives of greenhouse growing — namely cold protection — while eliminating the negatives, such as the pest and disease buildup that can occur in soil that’s continuously covered. In addition, you increase the number of crops that can be sheltered by one greenhouse by covering plants only when they need protection.

All that’s required to make a greenhouse mobile is a slight modification to its construction. (Four Season Farm provides step-by-step building instructions in Building the Modular Movable Greenhouse.) Normally, the standard pipe-frame, plastic-covered greenhouses stand on a foundation of pipes driven into the ground. Ours is firmly attached to the ground when it’s in place, but it can be detached for moving and then anchored again in a new location.

Bev
2/7/2014 8:35:02 PM

We read the instructions on line several times. Not experienced builders, but we couldn't figure out where the instructions were for putting the pipe/pole(s) across the 12'6" bottom under the front and back doors as sown in the pictures. Please explain. Is there a youtube video for this?


lalee
12/4/2013 1:18:38 AM

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Amy Hagstrom
12/3/2013 11:50:06 PM

How many years should a portable greenhouse last?







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