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Are Cheap Greenhouses Worth It? – Homesteading Basics

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This is Marjory Wildcraft. On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to show you the lessons that I have learned from my cheapie greenhouse.

Having a greenhouse is important in every bioregion. Even down in the tropics, they use greenhouses to keep the water off. Quite a few years ago, I wanted to learn more about greenhouses, because they are so important for extending the season.

Generally, whenever you’re doing any new project or learning any new thing, start small.

The first thing I did was buy a really cheap greenhouse. This is a little 8-foot by 10-foot thing from Harbor Freight that I bought for $250 or something like that.

We built it and put it up.

It came with some little clips to hold it together. Even though we’re braced up against a barn here, the very first thing we learned was that with almost any kind of wind loading at all, the panels on this thing would be flying off all over the place.

The whole frame is just a thin aluminum; it would twist. We immediately started getting some extra wood to brace it, and we screwed in the panels rather than using the little clips to secure them.

That seemed to help. Although, occasionally, we did get a strong wind storm that would rip the panels off. Still, for just being a little cheapie greenhouse, it did work well. I started a lot of seedlings. We got a pretty good season extension out of it.

It wasn’t that many years, though, before I started to notice that my seedlings were getting very, very leggy. They just weren’t getting enough sunlight.

To me, it still looked like there was plenty of light coming in, but it turns out there wasn’t. This is really, really thin. I think this is called 4 mill polycarbonate. It deteriorates in the sun, turns yellow, and starts to block sunlight. Effectively, after a few years the greenhouse was pretty useless.

I actually wanted to get rid of this thing, but my husband’s real attached to it. He says, “Hon, that frame is valuable.” That’s a little internal family debate you might not need to know about.
Nonetheless, he won, because it’s still here.

Anyway, there’s a lot of value to starting out with something cheap. If all you’re wanting is a quick season extender, and you know you’re going to be replacing this every couple of years and bracing it against wind, I’d say go for it.

But I’m also going to go through a bunch of other different greenhouse types in upcoming Homesteading Basics. Let’s see if something else might be better for you.

This is Marjory Wildcraft, and we’ll catch you on another one.

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