The Backyard Greenhouse Project Introduction

Let me formally introduce you to the next major project we are focusing on, the backyard greenhouse project. The green house project in a nutshell: making a small structure out of old windows, across from the front patio, in the middle of the daffodils.

Backyard greenhouse project framing finished and old windows going in, greenhouse set in a field of daffodils

After much deliberation over all the projects on our 2024 list, starting with the greenhouse made the most sense. And I’m very excited about it for several reasons.

So before we get into all the tutorials for how we are building this small, residential greenhouse, I thought it best to start with some background info. Like why we’re building it.

Why Are We Building Our Own Greenhouse?

So many reasons, let me count the ways. But in general, since moving to rural Vermont, our family has embraced growing our own food.

While we do have an amazing local food system here, with an organic farm and farmstand within walking distance, there’s something about learning how to grow our food that is exciting yet comforting.

Herb garden bed filled with basil and sage

Expand Our Growing Season

A greenhouse on our property could help expand the growing season here in Zone 5a according to the updated USDA plant hardiness zone map (formerly Zone 4b). After years of experience trying to start vegetables earlier in the spring and extend later into the fall using row covers and hoops, I would like to try using a greenhouse.

We were gifted a small greenhouse heater last year. It’s the type attached to a thermometer to keep a greenhouse from getting too cold. Using this in the greenhouse, especially if we attach the heater to solar power, would significantly help expand our growing season. The ultimate goal is to figure out how to grow some vegetables year-round. This leads me to…

Vegetables under row covers in raised garden beds in the early spring

Informational Purposes

The greenhouse we are building is a great way to experiment with growing in colder temperatures. Since moving here, our winters have become milder and I think achieving year-round growing on our property is possible.

While ultimately, I would like a larger greenhouse to grow as many vegetables as possible in the winter, having this smaller greenhouse for experimentation and gardening personal development, is a great way to start.

One of my personal goals for 2024 is to learn more about greenhouse growing. I’ve learned a lot thanks to growers’ experiments shared on YouTube. But I would like to start learning more locally.

Some community gardens in our area do educational programs offering group activities, tours of educational greenhouses, and connections to technical expertise. Sign me up!

Gardening with kids and tending the kale raised garden bed with a baby

Beautiful Outdoor Space

I’m also a firm believer in spaces being both functional and beautiful. I have an obsession with interior design and I want to bring beauty to the outside of our home as well.

While at first, the greenhouse will be primarily for educational purposes and learning about the greenhouse industry, someday I see us building a different greenhouse specifically for growing vegetables in the ground year-round. When that happens, the window sash greenhouse will be more for spring seedlings and overwintering potted plants.

The location of the greenhouse is at the end of what used to be a more formal garden space. We would love to bring this garden back to life and have a dreamy space for me and the girls to experiment more with flower gardening. I envision a cut flower garden in our future.

There are currently thousands of daffodils that bloom each spring in the area between the greenhouse and our driveway. We clean it up just a little more every year but someday want to have layers of flowers in there so something is blooming all summer long.

Toddler picking daffodils in a cut flower garden

Why Did We Choose The Greenhouse Project For Our Next Project

Several factors make the greenhouse project the next most logical project on our list. And, if you know me well, logical is my middle name. Logic, order, and iced coffee are my love language.

​All The Materials Are Here

We started this project a couple of years ago and have all the materials we need for it. Our house project budget is still recovering from finishing our primary bathroom renovation because like every home renovation television episode known to man, it went over budget. We don’t feel like spending much money right now and want some time to save up for our next big reno.

It would be nice to use up the materials that we currently have and get them out of the way, up on the greenhouse, before they get damaged. We’ve already had a situation where the polycarbonate roofing, which was left on the ground last summer, needs some heavy-duty cleaning before we can install it.

Greenhouse roof framing in the painting process

The Greenhouse Is Partly Constructed

​The summer before last, Colby framed the greenhouse and I painted the roof framing. Last summer, he started to install all the window sashes. Then that’s where we last left off.

We don’t want to leave the structure in this half-finished state for much longer and risk it starting to deteriorate. The sooner we can finish it, protect it from the elements, and start using it as intended, the better.

Greenhouse building progress, currently adding strapping to the roof

Spring Gardening Is Coming

The biggest reason of all, is that spring gardening is quickly approaching. There’s a very good chance I’ll be starting a few seeds indoors soon. I always feel like I’m pushing the envelope with indoor seed starting and this year is no different. Kale is one of my favorite plants to start super early and try to get them out under row covers while there’s still snow on the ground.

If we can get the greenhouse finished, we may be able to plant a few plants in there in early spring. More importantly, I want the space ready to use as a place for spring seedlings. They take over our outdoor dining table for what feels like months on end. Nothing like a spring dinner party seated next to Mr. San Marzano Tomato Seedling.

Plus, moving dozens of flats inside and outside every day is hard. It never fails that a freak frost shows up on the one night I don’t bring them in. Every time! Last season I lost almost every tomato and pepper plant I had due to an unexpected frost. Lessons learned.

The goal is to get the greenhouse finished enough that the seedlings can live there. The heater, which is combined with a digital thermometer, will turn on and off automatically to keep the greenhouse from getting frosty. Early spring gardening can be cold!

Early spring gardening bed and soil prep outside in raised bed with our kids

​Greenhouse Master Plan

​Let’s talk about our greenhouse master plan for a second. I’ll go into more details about the materials, design plan, measurements, etc. in future posts but here’s a quick overview of our greenhouse plans.

​Old Window Style

I adore the greenhouse style of using old window sash for the sides. Those greenhouses are beautiful and I love that they repurpose something that would get thrown in the trash.

We have a plentiful and never-ending supply of old window sash. We kept all the old sash when we replaced the windows on the second floor of our home. Just those windows will cover the majority of the greenhouse.

To fill in, we can dumpster dive from Colby’s work. He’s a window and door salesman and his company does window installs. Meaning, that they dispose of old windows which we can salvage.

I know this style of greenhouse isn’t the most durable and requires a lot of maintenance, like regular painting to keep the wood from rotting, but I’m willing to put in the work for the style.

Using old windows for greenhouse sides, starting to install window sash in greenhouse frame

Polycarbonate Roof

After researching roofing material for our greenhouse we ultimately landed on basic 8′ polycarbonate roofing with 4′ polycarbonate ridge cap from Home Depot. It seemed like the right fit for protecting the greenhouse from snow and rain. But more on that another day as we learn more about it and how to install it.

Greenhouse Interior

I’m still very much undecided on how I want to use and finish the greenhouse. Part of me wants to create a gravel path down the middle with raised garden beds on both sides to try growing in, like this greenhouse Pinterest pin. Another part of me wants to have tables and shelves throughout for seedling trays, like in this Pinterest pin.

​How the greenhouse interior gets finished depends on how I want to use it. Since I’m still so undecided, it will likely start as a hybrid of both shelves/tables for seedlings and a small in-ground patch. Then it can morph next year as our specific requirements for the space become clearer.

I may also have to consult with my gardening assistants. They have opinions, STRONG opinions about what to grow. Like more ground cherries! I’m here for it AND fresh from the garden snacking.

Gardening with kids outside with raised garden beds and snacking from the garden

Greenhouse Projects List

Here’s the very general greenhouse project punch list, including a few items that are already done. But I’m sure so much more will crop up as we go.

Why does it always seem like you cross off one thing but add three more when working on house projects?!

  • Frame the greenhouse (done)
  • Paint the greenhouse framing (partly done)
  • Install the polycarbonate roofing
  • Install ventilation
  • Install the window sash
  • Add boards underneath the window sash and finish trimming out the greenhouse
  • Build a Dutch door for the entry
  • Paint all the window sash and trim
  • Build seedling tables
  • Prep an in-ground garden bed
Greenhouse roof strapping and starting to prep for the polycarbonate roofing material

I hope you’ll follow along as we work through this project, learning and sharing as we go. To follow this project specifically, visit the gardening section of our blog. You can always find our current project on the home page.

Pssst…Anyone else have a greenhouse in their backyard? Any hot tips for greenhouse building or use we should know?!

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