How To Create A Temporary Greenhouse For $12

Last fall I decided to do what I could to extend our growing season here in North East Florida. It really came about by accident, because I had a few tomato plants, which had seeded themselves from compost in a pot with orange tree seedlings, and I did not want to have to keep on covering and uncovering them as I do with the banana trees, whenever there is a chance of frost. 



I would love to create a true greenhouse, and it is in my plans dreams for The Land, but for now I had to make do with the very little space, which we have at the side of the house. This is why I decided to take some of the plastic that I use to cover up our banana trees and create a temporary greenhouse by our back stairs. 


homemade greenhouse


It does not look fancy, but I can move around inside, if need be, and most of all it serves as protection for our very expansive tomato garden. In the past we may have had one or two tomato plants left over from summer, but this year we truly have a winter tomato garden. 



temporary greenhouse

Tomato plants can survive over the winter here in zone 9b, especially if placed closed to the house, but they rarely give any tomatoes until the temps warm up in February, and if they do it is very little. We do have one stray plant, which seeded itself in our old tomato garden, and it still has not been killed off by frost.

We had one night, where the temperatures dipped close to 28 degrees, and we have had several nights, where our neighbors have had frost on their lawns and roofs, as well as many nights below 40 degrees. One night the wind blew off the top plastic, and the tops of some of the tomato plants did get frost burn. 

Still, the temporary greenhouse has been a great success. The kids and I have been salvaging old planting pots from the wetlands and bushes in our neighborhood, and filled with compost we've got a great combination for success. Besides the myriad of tomato plants, we also have some small papaya plants plus some small orange trees in there, and we just planted out two containers full of mystery pepper plants. 

The plastic we used was some high density drop cloths purchased on Amazon two years ago for $12. Not only has it saved our banana trees from dying down over the winter, but it made it possible for us to have 2 crops of bananas last year, and we are now having January tomatoes. 

Next year our temporary greenhouse will become a little more permanent, and if you would like to create your own temporary greenhouse here are a few tips.

How To Create A Temporary Greenhouse:

  • Use good quality clear plastic
  • If possible, create a secure base for your plastic.
  • If you can make it big enough for you to stand upright inside, it makes care taking easier. 
  • Place it as close your house as possible as this will help keep it warm.
  • Make sure the plastic cannot blow off on windy days and nights
  • If possible create your greenhouse somewhere shielded from the cold wind such as near a fence or another structure.
  • Make sure your temporary greenhouse is close to a water source.

On cold mornings, we can see the plastic fog up, which is a good sign that the greenhouse is retaining heat. We were originally looking at purchasing one of those small greenhouses for our starter plants, but using the clear plastic drop cloths and some free wood and bamboo sticks was a much more affordable solution, which has provided us with more room to grow. We have been quite impressed with the plastic, because it is much stronger than we expected, and from two years of use we only have two rips.

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