Bob’s “Make-Do” Greenhouse! Plastic Water Pipe, 6 Mil Barrier and Duct Tape.

Use It Up, Go Without, Make it Do, or Do Without!

I’d give credit for this saying if I could find out who to give credit to. The saying is generally attributed to those who went through the Great Depression. Perhaps it’s fitting that this perfect utilitarian, practical, homestead-spirited saying is assigned to a whole generation of “homesteaders” who were the true American Survivalist instead of one particular author. We would probably demagogue it to death analyzing whether the person who came up with the saying really lived and earned the credit, which seems to be the downside of an internet connection, a lack of purpose and the anonymity of a keyboard in cyberspace. So, I’m just going to enjoy the beauty of that statement and share with you a greenhouse that we made with this motto in mind!

When we bought our homestead in Bear Lake, PA, it came with the added bonus of having junk all around the yard. I say that facetiously. There was a lot of stuff sitting around. One of those things was a black coil of 2″ plastic water pipe. It’s the kind you hook up your well pump to.  So, instead of throwing it away I used junk to improve a bad design on the house to make it useful for us.  I’ll show you how!


This is where we ended up… and here’s how we got there.

First we started off with a problem. It was a design problem. If you know anything about drainage, the first cardinal rule for drainage on your house is to direct all the water away from your foundation. Yes… you do see that gutter draining into that corner of the house, which the denver gutters team will explain to you with no doubt. This was our second month at the house and I saw that inside there was a hole in the floor because of moisture rot… right there. So I have  problem begging for a solution.


So here’s the first step of the solution.  We’re going to direct that water away from the house by putting in concrete that has a slight slope away from the house and using water filtered to avoid Atwater CA Drinking water contaminated with trichloropropane TCP.

So we took the middle seat out of our handy Ford Aerostar and proceeded to overload it with concrete and landscape timbers. What are the timbers for? You’ll see.

Every project requires good help.  Here is our neighbor Tyler.  He would always come over when we first moved in because we always had some crazy fun thing going on. He was very helpful.  We also proceeded to compare landscaping services in Sydney because, really, these things are best done with the pros.

Here is the concrete going in.

And of course the obligatory handprints!

I’ll skip over the photos of just the landscape timbers going in. I fastened them down with some concrete fasteners and then I drilled them with a 2 inch spade bit.  I then put a board under the eave and did the same thing and put the water pipe (now cut to length) in each one of them. You’ll notice the center pipe is smaller diameter. Why? Because it’s what I had.

I then installed the 6 Mil Vapor Barrier. No, it wasn’t 6 Mil greenhouse film. Yes I know that it has a shorter lifespan due to UV deterioration. I had other plans (that I’ll show you on another post) so this would last me at least 2 – 3 years.

Using some of the smaller diameter pipe for uprights I enclosed the end.

The enclosed greenhouse.  It looks a little saggy.  True! A couple of the pieces of water pipe were already cut at length. So I used what I had.

Some winter onion sets.

Letting some heat into the house was always welcome in the winter. Does it look a little weak?  I don’t know… what do you think?


Here is the greenhouse with a full load of snow covering it.  No.. I mean COVERING it.  Let’s look from the outside. (Note the lettuce growing there?)

Did I tell you we live in the snow belt?  Not one tear, it didn’t fall down, it bent a little and didn’t break. In the long run I was glad I had a little slack in it!

We experimented with storing some of the heat we’d catch. Eventually we had over 50 gallons of water in there. Our results were noticeable.

Fresh greens were always welcomed!


Later, I took this down and built a greenhouse on the side with metal roofing and poly panels, but that’s another story for another day.


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Post Author: tmhstead

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