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The Skills You Need to Build a Cattle Panel Greenhouse (go from “no-experience” to "big-project")

Shade cloth in greenhouse

Let’s talk about the practical, start-from-scratch details of what it takes to build a greenhouse similar to mine - a cattle panel greenhouse.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’re probably aware that I didn’t know how to build anything before I built my greenhouse (it’s basically my entire online identity…just kidding). And I know that many of you are in the same situation. So what did it take to go from “no-experience” to “big-project”?

I summarize it below in my “5 Step, Super Practical, Life Skill Level-up”. Haha.

Step 1: Get comfortable with the power drill.

I watched a YouTube video on how to use the drill – how to change the bit and how to adjust the settings. This might seem basic to many folks, but I had to start somewhere.

Step 2: Get comfortable buying lumber.

I went to the hardware store and found the aisle and the lumber that I wanted. And then I got it cut-to-size at the store. Make the first project easy on yourself – get the lumber cut for you. (Actually I make it easy on myself as often as I can; I still get lumber cut at the store when possible.)

Step 3: Learn how to figure out what hardware you need.

I explained my project to a sales associate and asked them what type of screws I should use and they helped me find them. I also asked about a screwdriver bit and a drill bit (for pre-drilling holes). I’ve asked lots of questions at various hardware stores over the last few years, and most everyone has been helpful and kind. If you ever run into someone that’s not, go to a different store – don’t let it deter you from your goal.

Step 4: Practice screwing two pieces of lumber together.

I went home and got to it. I screwed two boards together at a right angle to make a corner of a raised bed. (Prior to this, I did look online to see how they should be attached.) After adding two more boards, I had a raised bed! I was really excited! I had a new skill that would be the foundation for so much more.

Step 5: Learn how to use a circular saw (maybe).

So I did get a lot of lumber cut at the hardware store, but not all of it. The main reason was because I was figuring out the greenhouse measurements as I built it, so I didn’t always know what size I would need until I was ready to build it. (If you follow a building plan it will tell you all the measurements and you won’t have this issue.)

In my case, a good friend lent me her circular saw and showed me how to use it. Before this, my plan had been to barter with a friend; they cut the lumber and I help with their yard work.

If you’re considering options, all of the above are doable. You can get everything cut at the hardware store, you can ask a friend to cut everything, or you can learn how to cut it yourself.

So that’s the 5 steps. If these are new skills for you, I recommend building something simple like a raised bed to get comfortable with the first 4 steps. It will do wonders for your confidence.

So much of the cattle panel greenhouse is just building the frame – getting the right size boards and screwing them together. Practice with raised beds and you’ll be ready for a greenhouse.

To be sure, there were lots of other things I hadn’t done before and some were confusing or frustrating - like how do I attach a giant roll of plastic to a curved structure so that it looks nice. Or how do I hang a door so that it opens and closes smoothly. But I really feel like those are figure-outable, even if it takes some fussing or rework until it’s right.

What other advice do I have? I’ll leave you with this:

- Choose a design that’s doable; my design has no angled cuts

- Know when to ask for help with lifting something so that you don’t hurt yourself

- Believe you can finish the project once you start (because you can)



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