Build a Mini Glass Greenhouse on a Budget
The backyard greenhouse trend is here to stay, and gardeners are getting more creative than ever. Take a look at this family's mini greenhouse made from antique glass windows that they built for $500.
“I had always wanted a greenhouse made from windows,” Jennifer Oswald says. “but my husband, Chris, didn’t seem interested. That is, until our daughter became interested in gardening.” So in spring 2017—as seedlings blanketed surfaces in the dining room and kitchen—Chris got on board. The couple decided to locate the mini greenhouse toward the back of their Pennsylvania property beneath a honeysuckle tree.
Jennifer took to Facebook and Craigslist searching for materials. Her first callout was answered by a woman who was replacing the woodframe windows in her historic home. The seller sent a list of window sizes, which the couple used to determine the greenhouse layout. They bought $180 worth of windows and supplemented them with found windows, including a modern unit of three used as the back wall and two 4-foot windows that became part of the roof. All in all, they gathered 22 windows and an antiques-shop door, spending a total of $500 for supplies and furnishings.
The couple laid the windows on the ground around the building site to double-check placement before erecting a custom framework from 2×4s and plywood panels. Inside, they added stylish storage, work spaces, and meaningful collections to amplify the shed’s purpose and welcoming character.
“The greenhouse works great,” Jennifer says. “The kids adore playing out there. The best thing about the project is that Chris and I did it together—he helped me figure it out, and I helped him build it!”
The kids also helped make this mini greenhouse a welcoming and fun place to work on gardening. Jennifer and the kids updated a Craigslist-found potting bench with durable semigloss interior paint and antique knobs. The turquoise bench can be seen through windowed walls.
Jennifer and Chris assembled the 6x10-foot mini greenhouse made from their own version of greenhouse glass (upcycled windows) and landscaped with hostas, flagstone, and shapely solar lanterns to highlight the entry. Dry-brushed white exterior paint unites dark-stained windows with the newly painted pine and plywood framework.
Turquoise paint was chosen to complement spring and fall landscape colors. The couple connected a PVC hand pump designed for camping to a mobile home faucet that now directs water pulled from a 5-gallon bucket set below the table into a $5 wooden bowl. Finish nails framing the pump keep it from wobbling, while a wall-mounted bracket secures the pump handle. Drain holes drilled into the bowl and tabletop allow water to flow back into the bucket to fashion a recirculating water system. Jennifer turned the faucet into an artistic focal point with hot-glue vine patterns and verdigris-hue spray paint. Deep window ledges that display terra-cotta pots were made by doubling up 2x4s. Jennifer creates the verdant rocks by brushing stones with a buttermilk-and-moss mixture that grows into velvety, living carpets.
Strategically set shelves, stacked 2x4s, and a pair of up-high plumbing pipes help support the window-paneled roof while enhancing the shed’s storage and display capacity. If you build your own small glass greenhouse, keep it from overheating by including a few operable windows. You can also follow the Oswalds’ approach and add vent panels (available in the heating and cooling section of most hardware stores) to your shed’s gables.
The family greenhouse has become the perfect place for Jennifer's grandfather’s wooden ladder, which now holds plants and tools. Holes created with a 2-inch drill bit turn two inexpensive 1x4 boards into a seedling-holding worktable.