Year-Round Gardening Using Greenhouses, Hoop Houses, Cold Frames and More

When the growing gets tough courtesy of Jack Frost and company, take action by outfitting your garden with a homemade selection of season-stretching gear. Here, you’ll find our best ideas and plans for DIY cold frames, greenhouses, hoop houses, low tunnels, cloches and other tools that can keep the harvests coming throughout fall and beyond.

By Staff
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Shorter days and tumbling temperatures needn’t put a halt to your supply of homegrown food. When the growing gets tough courtesy of Jack Frost and company, take action by outfitting your garden with a homemade selection of season-stretching gear. The icing on the cake? Many of the devices you make can also get things growing sooner come spring!

Here, you’ll find our best ideas and plans for DIY cold frames, greenhouses, hoop houses, low tunnels, cloches and other tools that can keep the harvests coming throughout fall and beyond. The dozens of projects range from elaborate and permanent to quick and simple, and many can be made from recycled materials. Have some juice or milk jugs? Turn them into fast cloches. How about some used windows? Fashion an easy cold frame (see photo, above).

No matter the size or style of your plot, you’ll find an effective garden-protection strategy that fits your budget.

General Season-Extension Information

Winter Gardening Tips: Best Winter Crops and Cold-Hardy Varieties
October/November 2013
Growers in any region needn’t resign to experiencing fresh harvests solely in summer. Try cultivating these 13 stalwarts of the winter garden that have proved hardy in the face of tumbling temps.

Garden Know-How: Extend Your Growing Season
February/March 2007
MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributing Editor Barbara Pleasant shares how to craft an amazing array of season-stretching devices on a shoestring budget, including cloches, tunnels, a classic cold frame and more.

14 Ways to Extend Your Gardening Season
June/July 1994
Savor produce straight-from-the-garden, no matter the season, by using raised beds, trellises, crop rotations and other growing strategies that encourage year-round harvests.

Extending the Season
September/October 1985
New to the art of coaxing crops to grow out-of-season? This primer will get you started strong. You’ll learn how to set up a tunnel cloche and a cold frame, how to use and maintain them, and which crops you can grow in them.


Undercover Device: The Cloche
September/October 1984
Used in gardens since the 1800s, the cloche — which means “bell” in French — is a low-cost season-extending structure that you place right atop your plants in their existing location. Get the goods on a variety of cloche designs — individual, tent, barn, umbrella-style, tunnel — so you can select the best for maximizing your garden’s productivity.

How to Make Mini-Greenhouses
March/April 1977
Turn familiar “throwaway” items — peanut butter jars, plastic milk containers, 1-gallon glass jugs — into easy cloches to combat the chill of early spring and late fall.

Cold Frames

Use Cold Frames to Grow More Food
December 2007/January 2008
So you can’t afford a $5,000 greenhouse? You can still grow fresh fare in the face of frosts! This cold frame primer tackles basic designs, low-tech climate-control options, how to garden in a cold frame, the top 12 winter cold frame crops, and how to make seed starters from milk jugs.

Cold Frame Gardening Success
February/March 1992

Build a Cold Frame for All Seasons
November/December 1989

How to Make an Inexpensive Cold Frame
March/April 1982

Build a Ventilated Cold Frame for Winter Vegetables
January/February 1982
Exercise your right to homegrown salads year-round! This sturdy, thrifty twist on the homemade cold frame is ideal for growing winter lettuce, carrots, beets, chard and more.

Building a Cold Frame
March/April 1981

How to Build a Cold Frame and Hotbed
March/April 1976

Hoop Houses

Build This Easy Hoop House to Grow More Food
October/November 2011
Extend your season like never before for less than $1,000.

Low-Cost, Versatile Hoop Houses
February/March 2003

Low Tunnels

Make an Easy, Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse With Low Tunnels
February/March 2013

Try Quick Hoops — Easy-to-Make Mini-Greenhouses
March 2013

Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter: Quick Hoops
October/November 2009


How to Choose the Best Greenhouse Kit
April/May 2013

DIY, Low-Cost and Multipurpose Greenhouses
October/November 2009
This collection of greenhouse ideas will inspire you to design and build your own greenhouse from recycled or inexpensive materials.

The Amazing, Low-Cost, Multipurpose, Solar-Heated Greenhouse/Guesthouse
October 2009

A Small Greenhouse From a Bus Stop Shelter
July 2009

Build a Greenhouse From Used Windows or Storm Doors
March 2009

Earth-Sheltered Greenhouse
February/March 2004

Triple the length of your growing season with this simple, energy-efficient design.

Choosing a Greenhouse
February/March 2003

Will’s Mini-Greenhouse
October/November 1997

MOTHER’s Portable Garden Room
June/July 1997

Designing and Building a Recycled Greenhouse
December/January 1996

How to Build a Window Greenhouse
November/December 1987

You Can Build Your Own Add-On Greenhouse
January/February 1987

Cut on a Hot Tin Roof
November/December 1985

How to Build a Low-Cost Greenhouse With Pine Poles
January/February 1985

Greenhouse Growing: Tips for Basic Greenhouse Cultivation
November/December 1980

MOTHER’s Backyard Greenhouse
September/October 1980

Build a Solar Window Greenhouse
September/October 1980

How to Greenhouse Garden
November/December 1976
A greenhouse can be as extravagant and costly or as utilitarian and inexpensive as you want to make it. No matter the route you embrace, this comprehensive, tried-and-true advice for planning, building, maintaining and gardening in a greenhouse will guarantee success.

Build an Ecosystem: The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse
July/August 1974

How to Build a Pit Greenhouse
July/August 1972

Readers’ Season-Extension Tips

Real-World Winter Gardening Tips From Your Growing Zone
October/November 2013

Use Hog Panels for a Greenhouse Frame
April/May 2012
Heavy-duty wire fencing — also known as “hog panels” — can be arched over an existing garden bed to create a simple, cheap greenhouse frame in a jiffy.

Raise Seedlings With a Greenhouse on Wheels
April/May 2012
Your vehicle can provide a warm, nourishing environment for seeds.

Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse
February/March 2012
This raised garden bed mini-greenhouse has railroad ties for its base and some scrap wood and sheet plastic as its cover.

Lightweight Plant Protector
October/November 2011
Use a lightweight fleece blanket to safeguard your plants from early frosts.

A Frost-Free Garden Greenhouse
August/September 2011
This simple greenhouse design will let you get a big head start on spring planting.

Simple, Heated Cold Frame
February/March 2011
Use a birdbath heater or a crock pot to warm up a small cold frame, extending your growing season even further.

Freezer Cold Frame
February/March 2006
Transform an old chest freezer into a cold frame.

Build a Free-Standing Greenhouse
February/March 2004
Reader Clara Coleman of Woody Creek, Colo., designed and built this 200-square-foot greenhouse.

Photo by Paul Gardener