It’s early spring, and you’re aching to plant some early vegetables. Or you’re on the cusp of winter, and you’d like to keep that kale going just a little bit longer. Whatever your reason, your vegetables need some additional warmth. Do you need to buy or build a big, fancy greenhouse? Not necessarily! Greenhouses can be quite expensive, but you can certainly keep your vegetables warm on a budget.
Recycle a Greenhouse
Do you know someone who’s purchased some land with an old greenhouse on it, or do you walk by a neighbor’s yard that features a rundown, unused greenhouse? Perhaps you can have it and solve your problem and theirs.
Pros: You get a genuine greenhouse, and you solve your neighbor’s greenhouse quandary
Cons: You’ll need a truck and a volunteer work crew to do the dismantling and rebuilding, and you may need to add more plastic or glass to make sure that your greenhouse is functional.
Greenhouses don’t need to come from a box or a store. They’re traditionally made out of glass or plastic that keeps the heat in, and if you have another source of glass or plastic you can certainly try that out. Greenhouses made out of old windows are quite popular: just make sure that your windows don’t have any lead paint in them and that they’re sturdy enough to handle the elements.
Pros: You get a funky-looking and inexpensive greenhouse that’s made out of materials that would have been thrown out.
Cons: It can be hard to find windows that go together, and you need to spend time putting them together. You’ll need construction skills for this one.
Use a Miniature Greenhouse
If you’d like a greenhouse so that you can start seeds, how about a small row of miniature greenhouses instead? Yes, you can’t walk into them, but they do just as well when it comes to starting seeds. These greenhouses are common on free and used sites like Craigslist.
Pros: These greenhouses are compact and can be tucked into an available corner. You can also add more when you need them.
Cons: They’re short! Miniature greenhouses are best for growing short plants or seedlings.
Keep Veggies Snug Under Cold Frames and Row Covers
If your vegetables need a blanket, they might do well under a cold frame or a row cover. A cold frame is a permanent low frame over your vegetables. Some move, some don’t. Row covers are pieces of fabric that you place over your rows of vegetables to increase the temperature ever so slightly.
Pros: While these cover a small space, they can cover large sections of a small vegetable garden or go on top of a row of vegetables. Many are removable, so when the summer comes you can easily transition your plants into the heat.
Cons: Row covers don’t tend to warm your plants as much as greenhouses do. Cold frames are often relatively small, and they do require that you open them to water the plants.
If you have a few special plants to save during the winter, you probably don’t need an entire greenhouse. In this case, the medieval-looking cloche might work well. Add a jar or a cut-open, upside down milk jug over the top of the plant. This creates a small greenhouse and raises the air temperature around the plant.
Pros: You don’t need to build a greenhouse.
Cons: You may end up with a fleet of overturned milk jugs in your vegetable garden.
What budget-friendly greenhouses or other means have you used to keep your plants snug in the fall, winter, and early spring?