Whether you garden for fun or farm a crop commercially for profit, greenhouses offer a host of benefits. First and foremost, they extend your growing season if you live in a cooler climate. With a greenhouse, you can sow your seeds or plant your seedlings earlier in the spring and extend your harvests later into the fall. Besides lengthening your growing season, a greenhouse shelters your plants from insects, birds, squirrels and other critters that want to take a bite out of them.
Of course, greenhouses do require a baseline investment of time and money. You will have to shell out some cash for one, whether you have it installed by a professional, buy a greenhouse kit and assemble it yourself or make your own greenhouse from parts you buy or scrounge up.
So, how much does it cost to build a greenhouse? That depends on size, extras, location, labor costs and other individual factors. Several experts estimate the cost at $90 to $128 per square foot. That could work out to anywhere from $3,500 to $35,000, with an average around $17,000 or $18,000.
For most folks, that's a pretty hefty price tag. If you are willing to do the work yourself, you can save a significant sum.
DIY Greenhouse Kit Tips
A good basic greenhouse kit you assemble yourself on your property can cost as little as around $1,000 or $2,000. These kits come complete with frames, panels or poly tarps, hardware and instructions you need to put together your own growing house easily and quickly. Generally, these smaller greenhouses are most appropriate for garden hobbyists or small growers.
Large commercial growers may want to consider going with a high tunnel. High-tunnel greenhouses are essentially greenhouses without the works. They provide passive rather than active protection from the elements. In other words, they don't have the heating, cooling and ventilation systems typically found in commercial greenhouses.
Instead, these structures are placed in such a way as to maximize sun for heat and to allow enough of a breeze to provide just the right amount of ventilation and cooling. Depending on their size, high tunnels can range from a couple of thousand dollars to $7,000 or more.
Is that still too much for your budget? No worries. There are workarounds available for those who are a bit handy and willing to invest more time than money. For as little as around $20, you can build your own greenhouse if you're willing to put some sweat equity into it.
How to Build Your Own Greenhouse
Building a small 5' x 5' greenhouse for less than 25 bucks requires just a few basic parts: four sections of PVC pipe; four corner elbows with adapters to connect them; primer and PVC cement. You'll also need plastic sheeting to cover your greenhouse and zip ties to keep everything connected.
For this project, you'll only need simple tools you probably already have, like scissors and a hacksaw. Put everything together and you have a hoop-shaped greenhouse.
For a bigger, sturdier greenhouse, consider working with materials like wood and glass. With about $300 worth of scavenged materials, including old windows for warm light, wood for the frame and pea gravel for the floor, you can build a sturdy, long-lasting greenhouse if you have some basic carpentry and construction skills.
There are many other ways to use a variety of recycled, used or new materials to build your own affordable greenhouse. If you can't afford to have someone build a greenhouse for you, don't let money stand in the way of growing the best plants possible in your garden or on your farm.