Posted by on Mar 4, 2012 in Garden

Garden DIY: A hot house for late winter seeds

Its a great time to get cold weather crops in the ground. Today I’m going to show you how to cover your garden bed for less than $15. If you can build with legos, you can make this. No tools required!

I’ve used a hot house for 3 years now, and have managed to avoid ‘most’ frosts with a few simple tricks. All you need is the ability to block out the elements, while retaining moisture. Plants will easily grow in the winter time in a humid and frost free-environment. I’ve had success with this type of hot house from about 20 degrees to 65 degrees, anything colder will likely frost without supplemental heat- and anything warmer will smother due to excess heat.

I’m going to show you how to build a hot house using PVC and heavy plastic. (Please forgive me for multitasking in advance. I was attempting to potty train Jude and build this hot house at the same time……thus the reason for a boy in underwear playing in most of these pictures. Just be happy he’s wearing anything at all!)

What you’ll need:

  1. Scissors
  2. Zip ties
  3. Clear Heavy Plastic Sheeting (3-5mil thickness, about $8 at Lowe’s, see picture below)
  4. 10ft. PVC poles (1/2 inch size) x3
  5. 8ft. PVC pole (1/2 inch size) x1
  6. PVC “T” connector (1/2 inch on the short end and 3/4 on the long end, see picture below) x2
  7. scrap wood or bricks


  1. PVC glue
  2. extra PVC poles (see extra support)
  3. bungee cords

Okay lets get started! My garden is 4ft. x 8ft, which is fairly standard. If your bed is larger, you will need longer PVC poles, and likewise for smaller beds. Really this is just a ‘covered wagon’ concept, so use whatever material you have.

Begin by placing the long poles at each end of the raised bed, and the third in the middle. Shove the PVC as far down into the dirt as they will go, hopefully at least 1 foot deep.

Next take your 8ft. pole and place the T connectors on both ends (connect to the T’s short side, which should be 1/2 inch) You see, 1/2 inch poles fit onto 1/2 inch connections. Just like a 1 inch pole would fit onto any 1 inch connection piece. I chose a “T” connector that has a 3/4 inch long side so that it would easily glide over the 1/2 inch PVC.  b,

If you want the connector pieces to stay permanently, you can glue them with PVC glue. Just coat the end of the pole with a thin layer, connect the pieces and allow to dry for a couple minutes. If you don’t use glue, just know that you’ll have to use your muscles to fit the pieces together tightly (and that you can re-arrange them later if you decide).

Next fit the 3/4 long end over the 10 ft. poles on each end.

Once the 8ft. pole is connected to both end pieces, its time to make arches with the 10ft. poles. Just Start with the middle one. Bend it down and stuff the end in the opposing side, making an arch over your garden bed.

PVC is surprisingly bendy, but it will break if bent too much……and that may cause a fat lip if it smacks you in the face. (Not that I would know anything about that!)

Next make arches with both end pieces. (you can see I hodge-podged a couple small pieces together to make my top support pole)

I also secured the top pole to the center arch with wire ties.

Can you picture the covered wagon yet?

Now its time to get the plastic out. Here is what I used. Whatever plastic you choose, just make sure that its transparent enough to allow plenty of sunlight in. We would want a dark greenhouse, now would we?

First cover the ‘wagon’ with the plastic, and cut off the extreme excess. We’ll trim again once its secured. This is one of those times where you really don’t want to cut off too much.

Then wrap the ends like a present. I like to tuck it in neatly to make sure its tight.

Secure your wrap job with cable ties. I just poke the scissors through the plastic and then ‘sew’ with the cable ties.

Now you can cut off the excess.

Secure the parameter with something heavy. I like to use a couple logs, a big rock or scrap bricks.

If you want to make it extra support against wind and drafty cold air, I’ve had success with this trick too: Cut the arch poles shorter (yes, this may require some tools…..maybe cut them to be 8-9ft. long) so that the top of the wagon is closer to the ground. Less square footage + more support = less tarp that will be whipped by the wind.  

Then build a rectangular PVC support to go around the parameter of the bed. I used 8 ft. poles (x3, one cut in half) and four 1/2 inch “L” connectors like this:

Then fit the rectangle over the plastic to keep it down. Bungee cords come in handy here when you are expecting high winds. I live in tornado alley, and bungee cords are essential.

And there you have it, an inexpensive and completely amazing hot house for your winter seeds.

Tomorrow we’ll plant something!




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