How to Build a Plastic Greenhouse

Another name for a greenhouse is a glasshouse and that would lead you to expect that all greenhouses have glass roofs.


It is true that traditional greenhouse use glass panels but plastic panels are a worthy alternative if you are on a tight budget.

It is actually better to consider building plastic greenhouses if you are going for larger scales because modern plastics are more durable, easier to clean, lighter and regulate the heat more efficiently.


At the same time, plastic greenhouses still bring out the best benefits of greenhouses in general so your plants are well-protected even if the weather conditions are harsh. You can also get an early start on the growing season by doing all of your gardening with the greenhouse and moving the planted seeds outside during better weather conditions. Just prepare these materials and follow these steps to build a small plastic greenhouse.


Prepare 6 pieces of ½-inch reinforced bar or rebar that is 2 feet long. You also need to prepare 7 10-foot lengths of white PVC pipe each with a ¾-inch diameter. Find or purchase 8 of those large binder clips along with 4 PVC Tee slip fittings with ¾-inch measurements. You should also have a single piece of painter’s plastic measuring about 12 by 25 feet. The rest of the items you need include a hacksaw or pipe cutter, hammer and PVC cement.


Clear the area and smoothen the surface area where your greenhouse will be situated at. The perimeter should measure 7 feet long and 15 feet wide. Your finished product should measure 6 by 14 feet so it will be placed within those dimensions. Be sure to mark the corners of your planned structure as well as the center of both sides. You can find the center by measuring 3 feet from each end. You can use a piece of rebar to scratch the ground for marking purposes.


Use the hammer to pound a single piece of rebar into the ground. Repeat for each corner as well as the midpoint. The depth of each should measure around 1 foot. Take out your pipe cutter or hacksaw and cut two pieces out of the PVC pipe. Make sure each piece measures 3 feet long because they will be used for center supports. Cut another 3-inch piece out of the same PVC pipe.


Set aside four of the other 10-foot PVC pipes that you haven’t cut and glue a Tee slip fitting to each of these pieces. Combine two full-length PVC pipes end to end by applying glue so they can connect to the Tee slip fitting. Attach the 3-foot piece to that Tee slip fitting to form a perpendicular connection. Do the same step with the other pair of 10-foot length PPC pipes.


One of the 10-foot pieces should be marked as the back while the other one should be marked as the front. All the rest of the pieces should be joined as the center. Form the center section by gluing the 3-foot piece of the front part to one of 10-foot pieces remaining with a Tee fitting.


Use the glue once again to attach the 3-inch piece to the Tee fitting found on the center section. Make sure you do this in a straight line with the 10-foot PVC pipe. As a result, the Tee openings should be facing opposite directions. Form a long pipe by gluing another 10-foot PVC pipe to your creation so you finally end up with a pair of Tee fittings that are facing opposite directions. The center support pieces will be placed there.

Polycarbonate Hobby Greenhouse Interior

Complete the frame assembly by gluing the 3-foot center piece to the Tee fitting on that piece which you marked as the back. Do not proceed to the next step until the glue you applied on all pieces has dried up.

Commercial Greenhouse Frame Construction Beginning Phases

Each open end of the PVC pipe should be inserted onto the reinforced bar that you previously pounded deep into the ground several steps back. When you move to the next side, be sure to apply some pressure towards the previous side so an arc is formed. Then you can insert that side onto the rebar. Finalize the plastic greenhouse by covering the frame with that large piece of painter’s plastic. Use the binder clips to secure the plastic onto the frame.

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What to Grow and What Not to Grow in a Hydroponic Greenhouse

Are you setting up a hydroponic greenhouse? Good for you, because this type of greenhouse produces a larger harvest compare to a traditional greenhouse. However, for maximum success you must understand what to grow and not to grow with this type of gardening.

Hydroponically Growing the Best Hydroponic Tomatoe Plants Commercially

You see some plants may spread out too much to be an easy fit in the setup of this greenhouse. Others will not be able to stand the constant high temperatures that other plants may need to thrive in, because they are cool weather plants. Then there are other plants that need special attention, if you decide to grow them in a hydroponic greenhouse. We will show you some plants that fit into each category, so you can plan what you will grow in your structure.

What to Grow

Strawberries are one fruit that does quite well in this type of growing environment. Plants of this fruit are compact enough to fit in with the usual layouts of hydroponic greenhouses. You can set the plants out in a number of configurations and they will still thrive. Also, there are so many varieties to choose from depending on the size of berry and level of sweetness desired.

Greenhouse for strawberries in Japan.

Greenhouse for strawberries in Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Potatoes and other root crops also work well, but only if they are given enough depth to grow adequately. You have to remember with these crops that they do a lot of their growing in the root area as well as up in their stems and foliage. If they are cramped for space, it will stunt their growth. You can choose the smaller varieties of the root crops, when available to help offer them enough depth.


Tomatoes thrive when grown hydroponically. Of course, they need to have a support system with this type of greenhouse setting just as they do in a traditional greenhouse or garden setting. Some varieties grow larger than other ones though, so choose the type you think you can provide the best support for in your particular setup. Some other vining veggies that need support include peas, cucumbers and pole beans.

There are many varieties of mint that do well in this type of greenhouse, because they enjoy wet conditions. Mints spread quite a bit and should be given enough space. Other than this requirement, your chosen mint whether it be peppermint, spearmint, ginger mint or another type of mint should produce nicely for you.

Basil is another herb to plan to grow in your hydroponic garden setup. The moist conditions provided the herb through this system actually enhance its flavor. As with other plants, your yield will most likely increase with using hydroponic methods of gardening. Many other herbs do well too, but you need to check the growing conditions they need to make sure before planting them.

NASA researcher checking hydroponic onions wit...

NASA researcher checking hydroponic onions with Bibb lettuce to his left and radishes to the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Various types of lettuce will provide you with more flavorful harvests. Some people only think of iceberg variety when lettuce is mentioned, but there is romaine, sweet butter and many more to choose from for growing your salad greens hydroponically.

Cabbage is one of the cool weather vegetables that does well in this environment. You may need to adjust growing conditions for the cool weather vegetables. This means you may need to grow the plants according to their natural seasons. You can change the temperature settings in your greenhouse according to the crops you decide to cultivate.

PVC Hydroponic System Growing Plants

Bush-style green beans will adjust quite well with the typical conditions set up in a hydroponic system. You will be able to have plenty for your table and some to can or freeze. The size of these is easier to deal with than the pole beans, even though with the right support, as mentioned earlier, you can also grow pole beans.

 Grow What You Will Eat

You also need to think of which vegetables you and your family will eat when growing them hydroponically. Remember, your harvests are liable to be larger using this method and therefore, you will not want to concentrate on crops you do not like to eat. Now, there are some things you should not or would have a hard time growing in a hydroponic setup.


 What not to Grow in a Hydroponic Greenhouse

Plants that take up a great deal of space to grow are impractical to grow in this type of greenhouse. Watermelon and other melons, squash, and corn are some of these vegetables. They all take a huge amount of space to grow.

Some pumpkin varieties are geared to grow huge. Allow pumpkins all the space they need by planting them outside where they can spread and increase in size all they want. After all, you do not want to wind up with the pumpkin that ate your hydroponic greenhouse do you?

Many plants need the bees to pollinate them, because they have both male and female flowers on them. These plants are a bit labor intensive to grown hydroponically, since you have no bees inside the structure. However, if you are willing to learn the painstaking task of pollinating these plants yourself, some of them will still do well in this setting.

Exotic Commercial Colorful Blooming Flowers

Flowers have varied growing conditions, so you can’t just grow any of them with success. You will need to research into each kind to see if any will work for you. Until you are sure of what varieties to grow, stay away from flowers for this type setup.

This information is just to help you decide what you want to grow hydroponically. Of course, you can try to grow anything you want, as long as you realize not all things may come out as ideally as you would like. If you are new to hydroponic gardening though, set yourself up for success and start with vegetables and plants that have worked well for others. Then you can experiment, as you learn more information. This way, you get some pleasing results your first go around.


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Why Does a Greenhouse Trap in Heat?

Greenhouse EffectGreenhouses trap in heat in the same way that the Earth’s atmosphere does. Sunlight passes through the glass of the greenhouse and gets absorbed by the plants therein and the greenhouse’s floor, where it gets converted to heat.

The heat is unable to escape the glass, so instead it stays inside the greenhouse, thus keeping it warm. A process called convection also assists in keeping greenhouses warm: since warm air rises, the air on the bottom of the greenhouse that has been heated by sunlight absorption then rises to the top, where it pushes the cooler air there to the bottom.

This cooler air is then heated by continuing absorption of sunlight, and the process repeats itself. This is why greenhouses are warmer then the outside during the day – even in wintertime – and also why then retain their heat throughout the night.


The Greenhouse Effect and Convection in Action

Polycarbonate Greenhouse PanelsTransparent greenhouse glass as opposed to colored glass works best because it lets in all three of the basic components of sunlight: infrared light, visible light and ultraviolet, or UV, light.

Plants prefer to receive all three of these different types of light, which combined are known as full spectrum sunlight.

These types of sunlight can get in, but heat, which is a type of energy somewhat different from light, can not get out.

This is a process known as the greenhouse effect, and this is also what keeps the Earth as warm as it is as compared to the coldness of space.

Greenhouse glass is true glass, but a special type of plastic called polycarbonate plastic is also used in greenhouse construction for the same purpose because it also exhibits the greenhouse effect and it does not interfere with convection. Again, this plastic must be transparent for this process to work properly.


Glass Greenhouses vs. Plastic Greenhouses

Greenhouse materialsSome greenhouses use plastic and some use glass. Plastic greenhouses are lighter and thus easier to transport and they are also less expensive, but glass greenhouses tend to last longer because they are more durable when it comes to age and weathering.

Glass greenhouses are thus more permanent and more expensive investments than plastic greenhouses that are harder to move but can end up paying off over time as they generally do not need to be replaced as often. Glass used in greenhouses is also often tempered for safety reasons.

Tempering is laminate that causes glass to crumble into smaller pieces with smoother edges if it breaks as opposed to large, jagged shards with untempered glass.

You may be familiar with tempered glass from its use in other applications such as car windshields. Greenhouse glass should always be tempered because it is exposed to breakage risks such as potential moving but also weathering such as high winds, hail and heavy snow.


Greenhouses with Low-E Glazing

Low-E GlazingSometimes greenhouse glass is also coated in a material known as low-E glazing.

This is a thin layer of metal that is thin and semi-transparent so as to still let light in and to not be too heavy or expensive.

It reflects most of the UV light and also some of the infrared light that hits the greenhouse without affecting visible light input.

The purpose of low-E glazing is to prevent excessive amounts of potentially damaging UV radiation from hitting tender seedlings while still providing enough UV for plants to properly photosynthesize and for the greenhouse effect to still work.

The blocking of some infrared radiation also helps in maintaining a more constant internal temperature in the greenhouse, especially when combined with proper ventilation.


Gardening in a Greenhouse

Greenhouse GardeningAdditionally, low-E glazing reduces some of the UV radiation that can damage your skin when you are gardening in your greenhouse, especially when you are doing so for long hours or during the midday in summertime.

Even with low-E glazing, however, it is still a good idea to wear sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing if you are gardening under these conditions.




Think of gardening in a greenhouse as being just like gardening outdoors in terms of UV radiation, and often in terms of temperature as well: be sure to stay hydrated during intensive greenhouse gardening work.

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