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The Materials I Used to Build My Greenhouse (including costs and alternatives)

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Shade cloth in greenhouse

This post will cover the basics, including the: base, arch, plastic, door, and floor. I’ll tell you what I used and why I chose it, and I’ll also talk about other good alternatives.

My greenhouse is called a cattle panel greenhouse (due to the cattle panels used for the arch). The style and shape is similar to a hoop house or a high tunnel greenhouse, but those types use metal tubing for the arch instead of cattle panels.

The beauty of the cattle panel design is that it doesn’t require a large quantity of materials and there’s flexibility in the types of materials you can use. It lends itself towards creativity and using items you might already have. A perfect DIY project!

The Base

I used one of the more expensive options, cedar lumber. If I were to build again, I’d use pressure treated lumber. I chose cedar because it’s naturally rot-resistant and I thought that pressure-treated lumber was unsafe to use in edible gardens. I know this is a common concern; however, pressure treated lumber has been safe to use in gardens since 2003.

Here’s the quick backstory on all of that. Many types of wood will rot within just a couple of years if untreated. During pressure treatment, air is removed from the wood and water and chemicals are added to preserve the wood and make it last much longer. In the United States from the 1940’s to 2003, arsenic was one of the chemicals used, and there was concern that it would leach into the soil and into the plants growing in the soil. In 2003, regulation was passed that discontinued its use in residential construction, playgrounds, landscaping, fences, decks, etc.

A note about the height of the wall: my wood walls are 20” high, but there’s flexibility here for what you’d like to do. Once the arch is attached, the center is about 7.5 feet tall. This gives a comfortable amount of headroom for me. Some cattle panel greenhouses don’t have a wood wall and the arch is attached to a 2x4 base. These are much shorter inside, and they are also very lightweight and more susceptible to high winds. A solid 20” base is very heavy.

So what are some alternatives to cedar and pressure treated wood? I’ve seen many folks use pallets to build the short walls. The pallets can either be broken down so the wood can be reused, or the pallets can be used whole. The wood for my side walls are 12 foot long, horizontal boards, but I’ve seen many greenhouses use shorter vertical boards to take advantage of the pallet wood.

Be sure to research the markings on pallets to understand which ones are safe to use. (In general, avoid pallets marked MB, EUR, or that are colored.)

Another idea that uses a lot less lumber than mine is to frame the wall (rather than a solid wood wall), and then cover it with corrugated sheet metal. Just realize that this will be much more lightweight than a solid wood wall.

My greenhouse is secured to the ground with rebar and sits directly on the ground; it does not have a foundation. I live on a small city lot and am surrounded by windbreaks (garage, fences, houses). If you live in a high wind area and it’s wide open, you will want to consider building it on a foundation.

The Arch

The arch is made of 3 cattle panels. Cattle panels are galvanized, welded steel (4 gauge before welded) that measure 16’ long and 50” wide. They are used as fencing for livestock and are very sturdy. They are also fairly lightweight, weighing about 30 pounds.

You’ll need a truck or a large SUV to get these home. Fortunately, they can be gently folded over for transport without damaging their shape. I was hesitant to borrow a friend’s truck to get these home, worried that they’d scratch the truck. This didn’t turn out to be an issue.

These are strong enough to withstand snow and easily attach to the greenhouse base with fencing staples. I bought mine at Tractor Supply Company, but you can also check farm supply stores. They were around $23 each when I bought them and they are currently listed for about $33 each.

The Plastic

I used 4 mil greenhouse plastic for my greenhouse (from Amazon) which provides UV protection and won’t get brittle in the winter. It cost about $120, but regular plastic sheeting is not a good idea for a greenhouse - it’ll break down in just a year or so, and you’ll have to replace the whole thing. It’s important to use the right kind, so I have a whole post dedicated to it: What is the Best Greenhouse Plastic to Use?

The shade covering is burlap (also from Amazon), and shade is necessary in most greenhouses to help reduce the temperature. Check out How to Choose the Right Shade Cloth for Your Greenhouse.

The Door

I purchased my wood screen doors from a hardware store for about $80 each. Since I had never built anything before I started the greenhouse and I didn’t have a plan to follow, I knew it was going to be a challenging project. I wanted to save myself some work by buying the doors. I love the way they turned out so I’d probably do that again.

Many people build their own doors and save some money in this area. Some folks also just use one door, and a large window on the other side. Just make sure the window is a good size so that it allows for airflow and ventilation to help reduce overheating on hot days.

The Floor

I used cedar mulch and I don’t think anything else can beat this if you’re looking for something quick and easy! I put a layer of cardboard down to suppress weeds and then added about 3 inches of mulch. I can’t remember how many bags I used, but I think it was about 6. The bags cost a little less than $6 each (at Lowes).

Cedar mulch is fantastic for this type of space because it breaks down more slowly than other mulches, naturally repels some insects, and smells great! (Imagine opening the greenhouse door after the mulch has been slowly heating up all morning - it smells amazing!)

If you like, you can spruce up the mulch by adding pretty outdoor rugs or by creating a path with pavers set into the mulch.

Of course other options such as bricks, pea gravel, and pavers look beautiful and will work great. It all depends on your budget and your time.

For inspiration, head on over to my Instagram Highlights called “More Designs” where I’ve collected all the pictures that people have sent me of their own cattle panel greenhouses.

For the full step-by-step process, read Building the Greenhouse.


2 коментарі

07 бер. 2023 р.

How did you secure the plastic and the burlap? Do you remove them for summer growing?


02 бер. 2023 р.

Thank you for this. When building our garden beds, we used pressure-treated lumber, but also coated it in a product called Waterlox. It basically soaks resin into the wood. That was two years ago and the beds look brand new. We would do the same with the frame of this, I'm sure.

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