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Using livestock paneling, we constructed a large, inexpensive cattle panel greenhouse to use as a cold frame for our winter garden and to sow seedlings in the spring.

diy greenhouse sitting in the grass next to some trees

How We Built a Greenhouse Using Cattle Panels

It is finally complete!

My parents homestead officially has a greenhouse! A cattle panel greenhouse to be exact. It has been a dream, several years in the making, to build a greenhouse to extend our growing season year-around.

Why did it take awhile to get the greenhouse up and running? The answer to that question would be research, cost and time. Just google greenhouse and you can spend hours researching through a surplus of search results.When building a greenhouse there are so many factors to consider, let alone the variety of options you can choose from. Sizing. Insulation. Position. Venting. Do you build it yourself, hire a contractor, purchase a used one or grab a kit online?

Talk about analysis paralysis.

The next item to consider was the expense of building a greenhouse. Did you know that the average cost of building a greenhouse is nearly $14,000? Wowee! Guess it’s time to break the piggy bank. Or start a bake sale to raise funds.

Lastly, time played an important roll in considering which route to select when building the greenhouse. If we decided to build it ourselves, we’d need to find the time to do so. And I don’t know about you but an average day on the homestead is already booked with many duties — gardening, tending to the livestock, harvesting, preserving, cooking, cleaning … so the thought of another task tacked onto the list was a little daunting.

After much consideration and watching an encouraging video from Homestead Heart, my family decided to build a greenhouse using cattle panels. This was a significantly cheaper alternative to many store bought greenhouses plus it checked off all the boxes on our greenhouse wishlist.

homemade greenhouse sitting in the sunshine on a patch of green grass

Why Build a Cattle Panel Greenhouse?

The biggest draw to building a greenhouse using cattle panels is the low cost. But we also chose to build this type because:

  • Cattle panels are strong, sturdy and durable.
  • If we ever disassemble the greenhouse we could easily use the panels in another project such as a trellis in the garden.
  • Since we are novice greenhouse builders, using cattle panels made the construction simple.
  • The small size of the greenhouse is perfect for our winter and spring garden. It would not be ideal if we wanted to be market gardeners or needed to grow an enormous amount of food for a large family.
  • Many greenhouses are large and permanent. The cattle panel greenhouse we created is a manageable size that can easily be pulled around by a lawn mower, should the need to move it ever arise.

man on a tractor pulling a moveable greenhouse

What Can You Use a Cattle Panel Greenhouse For?

A cattle panel greenhouse can be used for year-around gardening. You can either plant your seeds into the ground or add shelving units to the inside of the facility to grow seedlings. This fall we plan to use the greenhouse as a cold frame. We planted seeds directly into the ground so that we can enjoy fresh greens throughout the frigid winter months.

Come spring time, we will set shelving and place containers full of seedlings to get a head start on the growing season.

If you plan to use your cattle panel greenhouse as a cold frame during the winter, here are some great cold hardy plants you can grow.

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Claytonia
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Some onion varieties (such as leeks or green onions)
  • Parsley
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Tatsoi

Watch Video Tutorial

How to Build a DIY Greenhouse

My Dad, a very talented carpenter, drew up the plans for the greenhouse build. The project was to be 8.5 feet by 20 feet with a budget of $500. After grabbing several cattle panels at our local Tractor Supply store, we headed to the hardware shop to get supplies to build the frame. 

inside a barn a man bends a cattle panel to create the frame for a diy greenhouse

Using some 2’ by 6’ and 2’ by 4’ pine boards, we secured the bottom of the frame together. Next, we bent 5 cattle panels into the ledge that we created, attaching them to the wood frame with cable staples. To make the panels secure and uniform, we zip tied them together.

the wireframe for a cattle panel greenhouse sits in the lawn of a small farm

For ventilation, we used a vintage door in the front and installed a free window we got from a friend in the back of the greenhouse. Pipe insulation was added to the top of the panels to prevent the greenhouse plastic from tearing.

Lastly, we pulled the plastic the panels and secured them to the wood framework. The total cost of building the cattle panel greenhouse was less than $500.

Overall, we are thrilled with the way the project turned out. If you are looking for a budget friendly build, consider creating a greenhouse with cattle panels.

cattle panel greenhouse is being draped in plastic to give it a covering


How Do You Attach Plastic to a Cattle Panel Greenhouse?

To attach greenhouse plastic to a cattle panel greenhouse, we used plastic round cap nails. These fasteners worked well to hold the plastic in place without it tearing when strong winds or storms pass through our area.

man uses a hammer to tap in plastic nail cap into greenhouse siding

What is the Standard Size for Cattle Panel?

Constructed of 4 gauge wire, galvanized and welded into one piece of steel, standard cattle panels are built to be 16 feet long and 50 inches (about 4 feet) wide. We bent the large paneling in half to create the roof of the greenhouse but you can always use a pair of cutters to shorten the paneling if you plan to create a smaller hoop house.

What Else Can You Build With Cattle Panels?

There are plenty of uses for cattle panels, other than keeping your livestock contained. I’ve heard of people using them to build dog houses, chicken coops and compost bins. This past summer, my parents used the panels as a giant garden trellis for their cucumbers. It was quite fun walking through a tunnel of cukes in the middle of the garden.

huge backyard garden uses a cattle panel to create a trellis for growing cucumbers

What is a Cheap Alternative to a Greenhouse?

A cold frame! Not ready to build an entire greenhouse just yet? Try building a cold frame using a wooden or metal frame or even recycled materials. Learn how we built a 19th century style cold frame here.

Growing Food Year Round in a Greenhouse

With food costs and shortages on the rise, there is a growing need to increase food security for you and your family. Discover how to grow your own food and improve food security by adding a small greenhouse to your property.

More Gardening Tutorials

How to Start a Garden for Beginners

8 Best Seed Starting Trays

How to Build a Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed

Vertical Gardening for Small Spaces

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small greenhouse sitting on farmland in Ohio

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