Monday, September 12, 2011

Frugal Gardener: My $13.67 Greenhouseperhaps

My $13.67 greenhouseperhaps

Finally one of my dreams has come true: I have a greenhouseperhaps.  I bought it for $13.67 at Wal-Mart Saturday night.  I prepared it for installation in less than an hour using one tool, a carpet knife.  Installation in our garden took five minutes.

I’ve oohed and aahed at greenhouses through the years as I’ve leafed through gardening catalogs.  Greenhouse kits for “serious home gardeners” range upward from about $700.  But, really, I’ve told myself, a greenhouse doesn’t fit well on our hillside lot.  And, Frugal Me, I’ve often thought that buying a greenhouse just isn’t too practical for someone who probably won’t be doing “a lot” of gardening 10 years from now.  But, yes, I still pause and fantasize when I see a greenhouse in a catalog. 

Recently I thought that maybe I should “think small.” Why not “build” a very small greenhouse to see how long I can get lettuce to grow in our garden as winter approaches.  I’d call it my greenhouseperhaps until I see if it really works.

I decided to buy a large, translucent, plastic storage container to serve as my greenhouseperhaps.  I’d cut out the bottom, and I could use the top to protect plants growing inside from downpours or even light frosts or snow flurries. 

I cut out the bottom
At Wal-Mart I surveyed available clear or translucent storage containers of varying sizes.  I paid particular attention to heights (so the plants have room to grow) and bottoms (to be cut out so I can plant directly into the garden soil).  I chose a Sterilite 105-quart box that is 13 ¾” high by 19 ¾” wide by 83 1/8” long.  Price: $13.67.

I bought the Sterilite box because I thought the bottom was more soft than rigid so would surrender quickly to my knife.  When I began to cut I discovered the going slow because the sides are molded thicker where they meet, though the center rectangle of the bottom is thinner than its edges.  I used the carpet knife to cut along the line where the thicker edges met the center of the bottom.  This “five-minute job” took nearly 45.  The bottom edges that remain will help anchor the greenhouseperhaps.

My new greenhouseperhaps is now installed in the garden.  I’ve planted three-week young Simpsons Curled and Red Sails lettuce seedlings in one row and Red Sails seeds in another.  About six hours after I planted the lettuce, dark clouds ushered in a 20-minute downpour and I rushed to put on the lid to protect the transplants.  I think the “click handles” will keep the lid in place during fairly strong wind gusts.

Ready for frosty weather?
Will my greenhouseperhaps work?  I’ll let you know in a month or two.  If it works this fall, I think it should work next spring to grow an extra-early crop of lettuce.

I hope my greenhouseperhaps turns into just a plain greenhouse.

And to think it cost only $13.67.


  1. Bob,
    I've got a great design for a cold frame (4'x4') made from a half sheet of plywood, some 1" x 3"s and a green house panel. The design is from the Crockett's Victory Garden (1977). If you want a bigger space to protect lettuce and spinach, let me know and I'll send you the design. My cold frames do double duty, fall is season extension and spring when I use them to harden off transplants.

    1. If you pick this up - I know it's been a few years since you posted- I would love a copy of your greenhouse design you mentioned here. Thank you.

  2. Bob, check out this blog about sowing hardy seeds outdoors in the winter - I love the concept! How to sow winter seeds outdoors by Trudi Davidoff (

  3. I will definitely give this a try. A great way to have fresh vegetables during the Winter. Thank you!

  4. I'm having a "Why didn't I think of that moment". What I did think of is a carport/greenhouse because of the wind in Oklahoma. Around here they sell these $595 carports everywhere. We took a couple of the panels off the top and replaced them with clear panels. The panels that we took off the top, we put on the bottom and put another clear panel on each side. When I get more time and money, I will finish off the ends. For now, my lettuce, tomatoes, squash, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts and broccoli are growing big with the extra protection from the wind. I will be trying a few of Bob's greenhouseperhaps in another garden. Great Idea. Diana from Oklahoma