Year-Round Gardening: Our Best Plans for Greenhouses, Hoop Houses, Cold Frames and More

Easy Cold FrameShorter days and tumbling temperatures needn’t put a halt to your supply of homegrown food. When the growing gets tough courtesy of Jack Frost and company, take action by outfitting your garden with a homemade selection of season-stretching gear. The icing on the cake? Many of the devices you make can also get things growing sooner come spring!

Here, you’ll find our best ideas and plans for DIY cold frames, greenhouses, hoop houses, low tunnels, cloches and other tools that can keep the harvests coming throughout fall and beyond. The dozens of projects range from elaborate and permanent to quick and simple, and many can be made from recycled materials. Have some juice or milk jugs? Turn them into fast cloches. How about some used windows? Fashion an easy cold frame (see photo, right).

No matter the size or style of your plot, you’ll find an effective garden-protection strategy that fits your budget.

General Season-Extension Information

Garden Know-How: Extend Your Growing Season
February/March 2007
MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributing Editor Barbara Pleasant shares how to craft an amazing array of season-stretching devices on a shoestring budget, including cloches, tunnels, a classic cold frame and more.

14 Ways to Extend Your Gardening Season
June/July 1994
Savor produce straight-from-the-garden, no matter the season, by using raised beds, trellises, crop rotations and other growing strategies that encourage year-round harvests.

Extending the Season
September/October 1985 


Undercover Device: The Cloche
September/October 1984 

How to Make Mini-Greenhouses
March/April 1977
Turn familiar “throwaway” items — peanut butter jars, plastic milk containers, 1-gallon glass jugs — into easy cloches to combat the chill of early spring and late fall.

Cold Frames

Use Cold Frames to Grow More Food
December 2007/January 2008 

Cold Frame Gardening Success
February/March 1992 

Build a Cold Frame for All Seasons
November/December 1989 

How to Make an Inexpensive Cold Frame
March/April 1982 

Build a Ventilated Cold Frame for Winter Vegetables
January/February 1982
Exercise your right to homegrown salads year-round! This sturdy, thrifty twist on the homemade cold frame is ideal for growing winter lettuce, carrots, beets, chard and more.

Building a Cold Frame
March/April 1981

How to Build a Cold Frame and Hotbed
March/April 1976 

Hoop Houses

Build This Easy Hoop House to Grow More Food
October/November 2011
Extend your season like never before for less than $1,000.

Low-Cost, Versatile Hoop Houses
February/March 2003 

Low Tunnels

Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter: Quick Hoops
October/November 2009 


DIY, Low-Cost and Multipurpose Greenhouses
October/November 2009
This collection of greenhouse ideas will inspire you to design and build your own greenhouse from recycled or inexpensive materials.

The Amazing, Low-Cost, Multipurpose, Solar-Heated Greenhouse/Guesthouse
October 2009 

A Small Greenhouse From a Bus Stop Shelter
July 2009

Build a Greenhouse From Used Windows or Storm Doors
March 2009 

Earth-Sheltered Greenhouse
February/March 2004

Triple the length of your growing season with this simple, energy-efficient design.

Choosing a Greenhouse
February/March 2003 

Will’s Mini-Greenhouse
October/November 1997 

MOTHER’s Portable Garden Room
June/July 1997

Designing and Building a Recycled Greenhouse
December/January 1996 

How to Build a Window Greenhouse
November/December 1987 

You Can Build Your Own Add-On Greenhouse
January/February 1987 

Cut on a Hot Tin Roof
November/December 1985

How to Build a Low-Cost Greenhouse With Pine Poles
January/February 1985 

Greenhouse Growing: Tips for Basic Greenhouse Cultivation
November/December 1980 

MOTHER’s Backyard Greenhouse
September/October 1980 

Build a Solar Window Greenhouse
September/October 1980 

How to Greenhouse Garden
November/December 1976 

Build an Ecosystem: The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse
July/August 1974 

How to Build a Pit Greenhouse
July/August 1972 

Readers’ Season Extension Tips

Use Hog Panels for a Greenhouse Frame
April/May 2012
Heavy-duty wire fencing — also known as hog panels — can be arched over an existing garden bed to create a simple, cheap greenhouse frame in a jiffy.

Raise Seedlings With a Greenhouse on Wheels
April/May 2012
Your vehicle can provide a warm, nourishing environment for seeds.

Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse
February/March 2012
This raised garden bed mini-greenhouse has railroad ties for its base and some scrap wood and sheet plastic as its cover.

Lightweight Plant Protector
October/November 2011
Use a lightweight fleece blanket to protect your plants from early frosts.

A Frost-Free Garden Greenhouse
August/September 2011
This simple greenhouse design will let you get a big head start on spring planting.

Simple, Heated Cold Frame
February/March 2011
Use a birdbath heater or a crock pot to warm up a small cold frame, extending your growing season even further.

Freezer Cold Frame
February/March 2006
Transform and old chest freezer into a cold frame.

Build a Free-Standing Greenhouse
February/March 2004
Reader Clara Coleman of Woody Creek, Colo., designed and built this 200-square-foot greenhouse.