Introducing The Portable
Pallet-and-Hoop Greenhouse
(my latest bright idea)

Dateline: 6 May 2014

Don't laugh. This is a better idea than it might first appear. I "invented" this portable pallet greenhouse because I bought some of These Deep Cell Plug Trays, and the trays are too big to fit under my amazing solar pyramids (as I've shown with tomato seedlings in This Past Blog Post). 

The portable pallet greenhouse consists of one pallet (measuring 40" x 48") placed on top of my now-old-and-well-worn (but still perfectly functional) Whizbang Garden Cart. The three hoops that support the plastic cover are 5' lengths of 1/2" pvc water pipe. The cover is 6' wide perforated row cover plastic. Recycled cardboard is nailed down over the bottom of the pallet to keep out bottom drafts. A length of Twine is tied tightly around the perimeter of the hooped enclosure. Clothespins hold the plastic to the twine all around. The interior dimensions of the greenhouse are 32" x 45."

If you have my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, you will recognize this set-up as a variation of Mark Albert's remarkable caterpillar cloche sysyem. 

Being portable I can wheel the greenhouse anywhere I want. When located right outside the door to my house (as the picture above shows it) I can easily transport young seedlings into the greenhouse in the morning for a day of sunlight, and bring them back in the house at night (because early spring nights can be too cold for the young plants).

Being raised up makes it very easy to work in the greenhouse. Simply unclip the plastic on one side and the contents are conveniently accessible at waist height.

Being made of an old pallet, recycled cardboard, twine, and other basic materials means this greenhouse is cheap to make. And it is surprisingly sturdy. It has been buffeted by some strong spring winds and, though the plastic flaps around, all is peaceful inside the structure; the plastic cover holds tight.

Another advantage to a portable pallet greenhouse is that you can make it in a few minutes. This is not a complicated, time consuming project. The following pictures provide more details.

click picture for enlarged view

The end of the pvc hoops slip over a short piece of 1/2" wood dowel. I drilled a 5/8" hole through the top board of the pallet and just enough into the bottom board of the pallet to create a pocket for the end of the dowel. Then I cut it off at 1.5" above the top surface. Slide the pvc pipe over the projecting 1.5."

If you space these dowel pins 32" apart, the 5' length of pvc will bend and fit to make a nice hoop that is 21" high.

The above picture shows how the clothespins clip the plastic to the twine all around the bottom of the hoops. This arrangement is much stronger than you might think. 

The above picture, taken through one of the holes in the plastic cover, provides a peek inside the greenhouse (click the picture to see a larger view).

This little portable greenhouse will hold a lot of plants, and we will make use of it through the season. It amounts to a lot of practical functionality without a lot of fuss and expense. The parts can be reused again next year.

This greenhouse is part of my "off-grid" approach to starting plants for the garden. I never use heat mats, or electric lights. They are not necessary for a family-size garden. Plants can be started on a windowsill. They will get a bit "leggy" on the windowsill, but if you re-pot them into a bigger container after the first leaves have formed, then get them outdoors, under plastic, into full sun, as much as possible after that, they will grow just fine. That has been my experience.  


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I used pallets to make my stationary small green house and it has worked very well. The size is large enough to hold all my planters and I like how when watering the excess flows through the pallet floor. The big improvement over what I did is that you can move your model around so even though I haven't used your design, I can see that it is good design based on my experiment.

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

I like it! We need to start some tomato seedlings and the husband needs another building project now that our meat bird chicken tractor is completed.

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing practical genius. I have learned so many practical, useful ideas from your book and this blog.
I along with many others look forward to you daily posting.

A new suburban farmer

Anonymous said...

I have wanted a greenhouse for a long while. Your pallet greenhouse must have put a seed into my brain because yesterday when I walked by our unused(for 10 years) dog pen it just became my new greenhouse( with a hoop roof ) in my minds eye in a moment!!! It was there right in front of me all this while, just needed a bit of a mind shift , thanks! Karen

Anonymous said...

I have this apparatus on tap for the fall garden transplants. The thought has come to use it for some winter gardening. The issue is that we have winds that have torn previous hoop covers apart. Do you think with this being anchored in the pallet that it could sustain winds of 30-35 mph.

Herrick Kimball said...

The arrangement of plastic hoops over dowels, covered with perforated, light-gauge plastic, held in place with a perimeter bottom string and clothespins, is remarkably durable. I have had such hoop structures over young tomatoes in my garden and watched a powerful spring storm, with wind far in excess of 30-35 mph, hammer the tunnels. I fully expected to see the plastic blow away, but everything held. I was amazed.