Step-by-Step Guide: Building a Small Greenhouse for Winter Survival

Step-by-Step Guide: Building a Small Greenhouse for Winter Survival

You’re probably thinking it’s time to hang up your gardening gloves as winter approaches. But what if you could extend your growing season, and enjoy fresh veggies all year round? With a small greenhouse, you can!

Building a small greenhouse isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It’s a project you can tackle over a weekend, and it doesn’t require a ton of materials or advanced DIY skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Building a small greenhouse can extend your growing season, enabling you to enjoy fresh vegetables even during winter.
  • Location selection for the greenhouse should consider factors like sun exposure, shadow casting, accessibility, soil type, wind exposure, and utility access.
  • Choosing the right greenhouse size and design impacts the amount and kind of plants you can grow. Designs include lean-to, detached, pit, Quonset, and gothic greenhouses.
  • The choice of materials for the greenhouse will depend on the design and local climate. Common frame materials are metal, PVC pipes, and wood, while common coverings include glass, polycarbonate, and polyethylene.
  • Greenhouse construction starts with building the frame, then attaching the covering material, and finally focusing on ventilation, insulation, and flooring.
  • Preparing the greenhouse for winter necessitates understanding how to manage temperature and light conditions. Additional heating sources and light optimization techniques, like reflective materials and artificial grow lights, can help the plants thrive.

Building a small greenhouse can be a rewarding project that ensures your plants thrive during the winter. According to Gardener’s Supply Company, selecting the right materials and site location are crucial first steps. The Spruce offers additional tips on constructing and maintaining a greenhouse to create an optimal growing environment.

Choosing the Right Location

Choosing the Right Location

Finding the perfect location for your small greenhouse is paramount. Location really does matter when it comes to maximizing your winter harvest. So, how do you decide the best spot?

Primarily, you’ll want to pick an area that gets plenty of sunlight. This is particularly important in the winter months when the daylight hours are reduced. South-facing spaces are often the best choices. These areas tend to receive the most light during short, winter days.

Bear in mind, your greenhouse should be located where it’s free from shadow for the majority of the day. Nearby trees, buildings, or even your home can cast long shadows that might hinder your plants’ growth. So, consider all potential shade providers when you’re selecting the space. Think about the best spots, perhaps even near your garages for easy access.

Another aspect to consider is the accessibility. You’ll want an area that’s easy to get to in all weather conditions. Close proximity to your house can be advantageous, especially when you need to make frequent checks or adjustments. This is particularly useful if you’re walking back and forth often.

You also need to ponder upon the soil type. Lucky for you, a greenhouse gives you the flexibility to amend the soil easily. But, it’s still wise to choose an area with rich, well-draining soil. A simple soil test can help you determine the pH and nutrient levels of the area you’re eyeing. This is vital if you’re planning to grow food for yourself or even to produce milk.

Don’t forget about wind and weather conditions. If you live in a windy area, you might want to consider placing your greenhouse either near a windbreak or building one. There’s no denying that an exposed, windproof area will help maintain an optimal internal greenhouse temperature. This could be crucial if you’re raising livestock like cows nearby or if you’re a busy college student balancing studies and greenhouse upkeep.

Lastly, consider utility access. You might want water and electricity supply inside your greenhouse for watering plants or powering tools. Making sure you’re within a reasonable distance of these utilities will make your greenhouse management less challenging.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to consider:

  • Sun exposure
  • Shadow casting
  • Accessibility
  • Soil type
  • Wind exposure
  • Utility access

As you delve into these factors, you’ll be a step closer to building your small greenhouse and enjoying fresh, homegrown veggies. However, remember that no spot is perfect. It’s about finding a location that works best for your unique gardening needs and weather conditions.

Selecting the Size and Design

Selecting the Size and Design

Choosing the right size and design for your small greenhouse demands careful consideration as the decisions will significantly impact the amount and kind of plants you can grow. While specific needs can vary, smaller greenhouses typically range from 6×8 to 10×20 feet.

Factor in how much space you’ll need for each plant type. Remember, overcrowding can lead to poor air circulation and higher disease risks. So, it’s crucial to strike a balance between the total available area and the plant’s growth needs.

When it comes to greenhouse designs, the options are virtually endless. The main types to choose from are lean-to, detached, pit, Quonset (hoop), and gothic.

  • Lean-to Greenhouses: Attached to a wall or house, this offers cost savings in heat and electricity but provides limited space.
  • Detached Greenhouses: Standalone structures that offer ample space and flexibility but may cost more to heat and maintain.
  • Pit Greenhouses: Built into the ground to take advantage of the earth’s consistent temperatures, offering heat efficiency but a need for careful waterproofing.
  • Quonset (Hoop) Greenhouses: Simple to build with hoops over a flat surface, covered in plastic. Cheap, but the curved walls may limit growing space.
  • Gothic Greenhouses: Characterized by a central peak for improved snow and wind stability. More expensive and complex to build, but excellent in harsher climates.

In general, you can use your greenhouse size and design to manifest your creative gardening vision, create a unique, functional space for plants, optimize growth conditions, and ramp up your winter production efficiencies. Remember that considerations like maintenance, integration with the surrounding landscape, future expansion, pest management, and budget are also important aspects when selecting the right size and design for your small greenhouse.

Remember to accurately take into account the size of the land plot for your greenhouse, availability of essential utilities nearby, and the specific plants that you wish to grow in winter. Balancing practical elements with your aspirations can help create a greenhouse that’s both productive and enjoyable.

Gathering Materials

Gathering Materials

Once you’ve nailed down your ideal greenhouse size and have sketched out a design that fits your gardening vision, it’s time to gather the construction materials. Your structure type and your climate will more often than not dictate the sort of materials you’ll require.

Since a greenhouse is a serious financial investment, closely examine the quality of various products. Remember, the materials you choose could be the difference between a greenhouse that endures and one that tumbles at the first sign of a storm.

Frame Materials

When considering frame materials, your choice largely depends on the design. However, common materials include:

  • Metal
  • PVC pipes
  • Wood

Metal is durable and with proper rust-proofing treatment, can last for many seasons. PVC pipes, although initially cheaper, can become brittle over time and are more prone to damage. If you’re looking to blend your greenhouse with the surrounding greenery, consider wood. It’s aesthetically pleasing and a good insulator, although it demands more regular maintenance to prevent rot and pest infestation.

Covering Materials

As for the covering, you have an array of options to choose from. These include:

  • Glass
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyethylene

Glass, while attractive, is weighty, fragile, and costlier than other options. Polycarbonate coverings though pricier than plastic ones, are light, sturdy, and have good insulation properties. If you’re on a budget, polyethylene sheets are affordable, easy to replace, but not as durable.

Equally important are the fixtures and fittings like screws, brackets, bolts, hinges, and door handles – not to mention base supports and sealing strips. These will ensure your greenhouse is sturdy and draft-free.

Now that you’ve got your materials sorted, it’s time to delve into the real deal, starting with levelling and preparing the ground. The next part of our guide will show you how.

Building the Structure

With the groundwork laid and your materials gathered, you’re ready to move onto the next phase: building your winter greenhouse. You’ve got your chosen frame, the perfect covering material, and all the fixtures and fittings you need. Now it’s time to put them all together.

Constructing the frame is the first step. If you’ve opted for wood or metal, it’s wise to start by piecing together the sides on the ground before standing them up. Once you’ve built and established all four sides, then crossbars can be fixed across the top. However, if your choice of frame material is PVC pipes, you’ll want to set up the base first, then bend and secure the pipes to form the dome shape.

Next, securing your covering material is your prime task. For a glass covering, each glass sheet must be carefully attached to the frame. It’s a time-consuming process, but one that will make the structure robust and weather-resistant. On the contrary, if you’ve selected polycarbonate or polyethylene, you’ll apply it in large sheets, securing it with special clips, screws, or adhesives.

Then, it’s time to focus on ventilation and insulation. Adding vents in strategic locations assist in temperature regulation. Generally, one vent placed high and another lower down on the opposite side prove effective. Insulating the structure is equally important. Polyethylene bubble wrap or purpose-designed insulation panels are popular choices in this regard.

Lastly, to make your greenhouse floor robust, you may use gravel, stone slabs, or wooden decking. These materials provide excellent drainage while also adding stability to your greenhouse.

Remember, the key to constructing a well-built and durable greenhouse is patience. It might take longer than you’d anticipate, but ensuring each step is diligently performed will give you a structure that lasts. Planning does not simply end here—with your greenhouse standing strong, you’ll want to fill it with shelves and tables, considering both attractiveness and functionality in your layout.

Setting Up for Winter Conditions

Now that you’ve got your winter greenhouse frame and covering sorted out, it’s time to gear up for winter conditions. Understanding how to maintain your greenhouse during extreme weather conditions is important. Consequently, temperature management and light optimization become key areas of focus.

Temperature Management

With the onset of winter, heat management becomes critical. Sure, your greenhouse structure will naturally retain heat, but you’ll often require an additional source. There are various heaters designed specifically for greenhouses — you’d want to choose one based on the size of your greenhouse and the climate.

You’ll also want to invest in a thermometer to keep tabs on the temperatures inside your greenhouse. After all, certain plants are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and may require extra attention.

Light Optimization

In winter months, daylight is more scarce but every bit of it is crucial for photosynthesis. Your goal is to maximize the amount of light your plants get. An easy way to optimize light is to use reflective materials like aluminum foil or specialized reflective film. Line the walls, roof, and even the floor of your greenhouse. In doing so, you increase the amount of light available to your plants.

Further, consider using fluorescent or LED grow lights meant for indoor plants. These can supplement the natural light and keep your plants growing on darker days.

Your winter greenhouse is not just about making a space for plants to survive — you’re creating a sustainable environment for the plants to thrive, even in the harsh winter conditions. From here, you’ll surely want to consider adding shelves and tables to increase functionality and aesthetics, turning your greenhouse into a winter oasis.


You’ve now got the knowledge you need to build a small greenhouse for winter. Remember, temperature control and light optimization are key to your greenhouse’s success. Don’t forget to choose the right heater and monitor temperatures regularly. Reflective materials and additional lighting such as fluorescent or LED grow lights can really boost your plant’s growth. Lastly, adding shelves and tables not only enhances your greenhouse’s functionality but also its aesthetic appeal. With these tips in mind, you’re all set to create a thriving environment for your plants, even in the harshest winter conditions. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start building!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary focus of this article?

This article focuses on setting up and maintaining a greenhouse during extreme winter conditions. It provides insights into temperature management, light optimization, and transforming the space for better aesthetics and functionality.

What are some ways to manage temperature in a winter greenhouse?

The article suggests selecting suitable heaters and monitoring temperatures consistently to manage the heat in a winter greenhouse. It emphasizes the critical role these aspects play in ensuring a sustainable environment for the plants.

How can light be optimized in the greenhouse?

To optimize light in a greenhouse, reflective materials can be used. They maximize the natural light available. Additionally, the article suggests using fluorescent or LED grow lights as a supplement to natural light.

What are the next steps after setting up a winter greenhouse?

After setting up the winter greenhouse, enhancements like adding shelves and tables can be done for aesthetics and functionality. This will help to create a better space for maintaining and nurturing plants.

Why is light important in a green house during winter?

Light is essential in a greenhouse during winter as it aids in plant photosynthesis. The article emphasizes on supplementing natural light with fluorescent or LED grow lights during shorter winter days.