How can I make a greenhouse out of recycled stuff?

greenhouseWe’ve had a little (1ftx3ft) greenhouse in our garden for about five years now – it started off as an actual greenhouse for growing things in but quickly became the cats’ favourite hang-out and the winter home of the local stray cat, so we dropped the growing things pretence and it’s now kitted out with old sofa cushions for the ultimate cat luxury.

It’s a simple – cheap – thing: hollow metal tubes and two shelves, covered by a shaped plastic sheet, with a zipped door flap at the front. The main problem we’ve had is when one cat is in the greenhouse, it’s not uncommon for a second cat to sleep on the roof – and under the heat of the sun/weight of the cat, the roof sags and eventually rips. That’s happened twice now and we’ve repaired it for as long as possible, then ordered new covers off the internetz – still not ideal though.

I’ve looked into buying little glass/solid plastic paned ones but they’re pretty rare compared to large ones and seem really expensive for the size of them. We’ve not got room for a big greenhouse but it would be great to make one that could be used by both the cats and our growing needs.

I know some people make them with old windows and they’ll depend on exactly what type of windows are at hand but anyone got any suggestions/advice? What other types of materials could I use? Does it have to be clear-clear or is reasonably translucent enough? What shape would be best – square? sloped roof? round? polytunnel-ish? biodome?

Related Categories

garden, reverse this

Search for other related items

10 Responses to “How can I make a greenhouse out of recycled stuff?”

  1. Alice says:

    I’ve made a couple, and the tipi design worked best – four poles tied in a big tripod, then panels of polytunnel plastic sewn around it. Roof too slopey for cats so they’d have to sit inside!

    Unfortunately plastic degrades in sunlight, cracking and falling into tiny bits within one season. This means you need UV stabilised plastic rather than any old transparent plastic – I’ve tried using plastic coverings from new mattresses etc, but they don’t last long enough to make it worthwhile.

    Polytunnel plastic is UV stabilised, and can be bought on the internet if there’s nowhere near you that sells it. It’s worth buying a roll big enough to share with neighbours etc as this cuts down on the postage charges.

    I’m not a great fan of glass as it breaks, which isn’t much fun if your greenhouse roof is above eye-level, and all the tiny shards end up in your soil.

    Glass lasts longest if it doesn’t get broken though – make sure your frame is very strong and keep it maintained so it doesn’t rot. Could also try putting clear sticky-backed plastic over the panes so they don’t fall out even if they do get broken.

    Old windows are easy to find – we have a glass business just around the corner from my allotment and there are always old windows outside that they’re happy for us to pinch for greenhouses.

    If you’re using flexible polytunnel plastic then make it any shape you like as you can just stitch replacement panels on if any of it breaks – you could probably sew your own cover for your existing frame from this stuff.

    If you’re using something that’s hard to cut, like glass or plexiglass then go with squarish designs otherwise it’ll be very difficult to replace any panes that break.

  2. Bobbie says:

    I think you could make a greenhouse out of pipe, either copper or pvc, then cover it with clear plastic, perhaps taping it together.

  3. eliane says:

    Just wondering what has happened to Things to do today? Have you given up on it? I used to enjoy a daily visit!

    • louisa says:

      Hi eliane!

      Things To Do Today is on a temporary hiatus while I wrangle my workload and life back under control – it’s been a super stressful summer and something had to give.

      I really liked doing it though – the research was so much fun! – so it should make a comeback later in the year – probably next month or the start of October after we’ve finally, FINALLY moved house (4.5months so far…).

      -louisa :)

  4. Kara says:

    Unless you can/want to use grow lights, you need something fairly transparent. For years my mom had a greenhouse that consisted of railroad ties, about 8 pieces of 20′ rebar bent into a U shape, and Visqueen plastic. The plastic pretty much had to be replaced every year, but one roll (stashed out of the elements in the garage) was enough for several years of greenhouse coverings. It is used as a vapor and gas barrier in building construction so you may be able to get leftover rolls from construction sites or even from the neighbor who did a little remodeling – I have half a roll left from our floor installation.

    Her greenhouse now is a lean-to framed from metal left over from one of their DIY projects and covered with salvaged skylight material, polycarbonate I think. It’s incredibly tough stuff that survived the weight of more than an inch of ice and several tree branches this past winter. I suspect that plexiglass would hold up almost as well and might be easier to salvage, and the thicker stuff would hold up to cats laying on it. ;)

  5. Margi says:

    I made a green house out of the framing for a trampoline. I actually used 2 tramp frames that I found during bulk pickup in my area. I took one quarter of the circle and leaned it against the side of my shed. The cirved pipes have holes in it for attacking the bed. I laid green wire fencing ove the curves and stuck the ends in the holes. Clear plastic covers that. I also built some passive solar heating bypainting PVC pipe black and running piping under the flooring. The pipes are then fill with water. The flooriing also has a 3″ layer of horse manure and hay. The decomposing of this should provide more heat. In the spring I should have nice decomposed manure for my flower beds.

  6. Jack Cornish says:

    I think thay usuing plastic is a good idea. I once helped make a green house for some nuns in peru that was basically logs that we cut and some plastic sheeting ironed together (you might want to user an old one!) and apparently its still working well years later.
    Jack x

  7. Here in Texas says:

    I had an idea, though untested, that is quite similar to Margi’s. I’ve been holding onto two trampoline frames myself and mulled for almost 1 1/2 years about what I could do with them… I just knew that there was a really good reuse idea for all this sturdy metal tubing. Then it hit me one day… and this doesn’t even have to be for a greenhouse- it could be for an outdoor gazebo, a kid’s playhouse, heck- even for the framing of the outdoor run of a chicken coop!
    Instead of dividing the frame into quarters, only divide it in half. On the frame are collars where the legs inserted. One of these halves, when standing on end is actually quite roomy to walk underneath. If you dig footers into the ground and then do the gravel base, concrete -and- tube thing, you can stand each half into a secure base. You can even insert bolts into the holes to give the posts more bite into the concrete. Just make sure that the collars where the legs used to be inserted are facing one another, and that before you let the legs of you new structure completely cure into the concrete you insert lengths of PVC, wood, other steel tubing, etc. into the collars that are now opposing each other. You can even lash on additional lengths of tubing onto the frame- ceiling and sides- it’s full of holes where the springs used to be. You could even elevate the height by making the footer stand out of the ground. To make it bigger, simply just place them back to back, forming a tube.From this simple frame, there are just so many things you could do- an Indian wigwam, a rustic, branch- covered outdoor getaway, a Haunted House, an walkway frame for an outdoor wedding, a rose room, a man cave (with television for football games) :), and yes, a greenhouse. I would use the flexible, corrugated plastic to cover it on the top and then use a heavy mil plastic for the ends that you could easily make door flaps out of. If topside venting windows were needed, I do believe that the corrugated plastic is easy enough to cut small flaps into. Additionally, the corrugation would act as an insulate against cold weather. I’m confident that it would work and that with this simple reuse idea it would encourage so many people to go outside again and just enjoy what it seems many of us have forgotten.

  8. You could use recycled plastic sheets for the interior of the building. Something we sell at solway quite expensive relative to plywood but won’t need treated for the weather.

    We could cut the sheets to the size desired if it was for a project. There is a lot of old polytunnel plastic out there which you could possibly get cheap second hand if your anywhere near a big fruit grower. It might be suitable.

  9. Olia says:

    Use an old bath tub.

Leave a Reply

Your name
Your email (it will not be published. If you want people to contact you, leave your email address in the message too.)
Your website (if you've got one)