Nebraska Prairie Girl Builds a Cattle Panel Greenhouse

My blog on my redneck swimming pool was a hit, so I thought I would share my redneck greenhouse.  I have had several people come out the our farm and take a closer look at the construction of my greenhouse to copy for their own garden.   Hopefully, this will help you get and idea how easy it is to construct your own  redneck  greenhouse.

I learned early on that growing tomatoes on the prairie of Nebraska was not very successful unless the tomatoes were protected.  The wind here can be brutal and then there are the occasional hail storms that can ruin a garden in just a few minutes.   I decided about 4 years ago that if I was going to continue to grow tomatoes I needed something better to protect them.  So, I did some research on the internet about building a greenhouse or some might call it a high tunnel.    I took ideas from a few internet sites and made  some changes and came up with the Nebraska Prairie Girl Greenhouse. 

I was able to construct this greenhouse for under a hundred dollars.   Of course, many of the supplies I had here on the farm otherwise it would have been a bit more expensive.    I used 4 cattle panels, making my greenhouse 12 feet long, plastic sheeting,  PVC pipe, PVC coupling,  2X4's, 1X2's, re-bar, galvanized hanger tape, railroad ties, zip ties, screws, and black plastic tubing.  The photo's below are the green house without all the plastic.  Last year we had a terrible hailstorm that did a lot of damage to the entire farm.  Though the plastic on the greenhouse was destroyed, the tomato plants were spared. 
green house without plastic

The PVC is the frame of the green house.  We used 3/4  inch PVC. It took two lengths glued together with a coupling and then cut to to 16 feet, the same length as the cattle panel. There are PVC supports between every section to connect the cattle panels. The re-bar is pounded into the ground  as a stake  for the PVC.   The PVC will slip right over the re-bar.   As you can see the cattle panels and PVC are bent to create the frame.   We used zip ties to attach the cattle panels together to the PVC.  

Hanger tape used to attach wood to PVC
The front and the back of the green house is where you use the 2X4's and the galvanized hanger tape.   To attach the 2X4's to the PVC you loop the hanger tape around the PVC and screw it onto the wood.

Back of Green house
It is really up to you how you design the front and back of your greenhouse.    In the center with the yellow duct tape is my door. The door of my green house is facing east.  During the hottest part of the summer I leave it open for more ventilation. 

The 2X4 framing of the front and back really helped stabilize the green house against the wind.   As you can tell from the shape of the back corner of the green house, the wind hits this side the most.

putting the plastic on

Now for the plastic.  The first couple of years I used plastic that can be purchased at any of the farm and ranch stores.   This plastic was okay.  I found that two layers lasted better than one.   But after two years of being on the green house the plastic got brittle and started to split.   I would then have to replace the plastic every two years.  This year I actually purchased green house plastic to try out.    I am hoping that it will be more durable and not need replaced as often. 

Railroad ties along inside bottom
In years past I only made the plastic as long as the green house.  This year, I actually  got the plastic long enough that I could wrap the front and back  in on big piece.  In years past, I did the front and back in separate sections. 

Next, the railroad ties come in.   I have them on the inside of the greenhouse all along the bottom.  You could use any wood for this, even 2X4's.   Once, I have the plastic placed over the green house I use a staple gun to staple the bottom of the plastic to the railroad ties.   I usually leave an extra 6-12 inches at the bottom of the sides Then go to the next side and pull the plastic taut, then staple on the other side.  On the outside of the greenhouse I also place railroad ties along the wall, being sure that I cover the extra plastic to help hold it in place.  (once again even 2X4's would work for this.  We just had a lot of railroad ties around the farm.)
With this photo you can see how I just wrapped the plastic around the front.   I use the 1X2's  and screws to anchor the plastic to the wood frame.  You can just use staples to hold the plastic but I have found in the Nebraska wind,  the plastic tears away from the staples.  

This is the front of the greenhouse all covered.  During the hot summer months I leave the top portion of the back and front uncovered.  This allows ventilation and does not restrict the natural pollinators access to my plants.   Come fall when I am trying to extend the tomato season I cover the top sections with plastic.

On the top of the green house you can see the plastic tubing I use to hold the plastic in place around the PVC tubing.  You just cut the tubing into 3inch sections and cut it down the middle length wise.  Just pull the tubing open and slip it over the plastic and PVC. 
Close up of plastic tubing holding the plastic to the PVC frame

This is the side view of the green house.  As you can see I have also put cattle panels on top of the plastic on the outside, this is not necessary.  However,  my greenhouse is exposed to a lot of wind,  I have found that the layer of cattle panels on top of the plastic helps keep the amount of movement down, making the plastic last longer.   

I was going to just make this a simple Blog about my greenhouse and it seems it turn out to be a bit more extensive.   I really do not think that there are any right or wrong ways to build this greenhouse.   I have made changes here and there over the years to suit our needs.   You could make one much shorter or even make it longer.   I would eventually like to add to this one to make it a bit longer.    Greenhouses are expensive to purchase,  and this one fit into our budget perfectly.  It was also nice to re-purpose some of the materials around the farm into something else.


  1. Hey guys,

    Very good site you have created. Plastic sheeting used in home and garden projects is usually a thin layer of acrylic or polyethylene film, which is a multitude of uses in home repair, gardening, and disaster preparedness. Thanks for the layering ideas!

    PVC Plastic Sheets

    1. I enjoy all the different animals. It can be challenging for anyone to evacuate animals. chicken coops Many of mine tolerate each other because they live in different parts of the farm, but if evacuated to a much smaller space, good fences are essential.

  2. Love this idea! My trellises are all getting old and worn out, so I've been on the hunt for new ideas. I'm getting some cattle panels this weekend - thanks


Post a Comment

Popular Posts