Rain Rain, go away…
Here’s an easy and inexpensive way to protect those precious tomatoes from our rainy West Coast weather. In just over an hour, you can make this simple structure with my PolyTunnel tutorial.
Why build a tomato fort?
Because tomatoes hate the rain…they just do. Make’s them miserable. They get all sickly with blight, the result of fungal spores on wet leaves.
Avoid overhead watering at all costs and the first sign of sick leaves, remove and discard into the trash, do not compost. Unfortunately, once the plant get’s it, removing leaves will only slow it down not stop it.
So, prevention is the key….and this cool little micro climate will help.
This isn’t a kit, these materials are avail at your local home hardware store for about $50.
6- PVC pipes, 1/2″, 10′ long (aka Schedule 40)
2- 2″x 6″ x 8′ wood boards
1- 2″ x 6″ x 6′ wood board
1- 2″ x 2″ wood strip
4- metal corner braces
3 ml clear plastic roll
Pipe Clamps with matching screws, 1 1/2″ galvanized nails, hammer and staple gun
My location for the most sun is right in front of my potting shed, my veggie garden is to the left in front of the former Pigeon coop (previous owners hobby). That building is the future home of a real greenhouse. But in the mean time, this $50 DIY Greenhouse will do.
I cut the 6′ board in half to create 2 boards 3′ long, these are the end pieces and then I nailed the 8′ boards together in a long rectangle using the corner braces. I placed this on top of heavy duty black plastic. I know it will kill the grass, which is a bonus since I plan to create a nice bed here in the future.
So many plants, not enough space.
The pipes have a lot of flex in them but bend them carefully as you place them inside the frame. ( You don’t want to take out an eye if one of these ends pops out ). Use your clamps to hold securely in place.
Measure out evenly across your base to place 5 pipes in. I originally thought 4 pipes spaced every 2 feet would do, but my husband was right to suggest putting in 5 to make the structure a little more stable.
Since I only bought 5 pipes and not 6 like I recommended in the materials list, I tied a couple of 3′ dowels across the top to support the frame….you will use the 6th pipe for this.
Put your plastic over the frame and staple the back to the bottom boards leaving the front unattached. Depending on what length of plastic you get, you may be long enough to hang over each end and just clamp them shut. I had an 8′ roll so I covered each end with a separate piece that I will remove on the hottest days.
Since you’ll have the 6th 10′ pipe for the top support, you’ll have approx. 2 feet left over that you can cut into 2″ pieces and then slice down the middle like I did with the old hose to use as clamps for your plastic.
Desperation breeds inspiration
as is the case with my shortage of pipe. This hose seems to be doing the job for now. ( Keep your old split and kinked hoses, they come in handy for all sorts of things in the garden, I’ll share another tip for them on a future post)
The 2″ x 2″ wood strip is used on the opening side of the tunnel. I simply stapled the plastic to it and will roll it up to get to the plants and for venting on hot days.
You can see that the rolled up side will sit on top of the tunnel, but I’ll clamp it when I want it to stay open to the top support pole.
Just look at that awesome tomato fort!
A little word on planting up these tomatoes, ( check out my You Say Tomato post on the unique varieties I chose this year). It is a good practice to pinch off the bottom branches and plant the tomato a little deeper, burying some of the stem. New roots will form along the buried part and create an even more stable base for the plant.
You can grow in anything as long as it’s big enough. No less than a 5 gallon bucket, pot or grow bag is recommended. I’m using these grow bags I got from a hydroponic greenhouse supplier.
The rims are rolled down making it easy for me to roll them up and add more soil as the plants grow. I’ve heard of people using the cloth grocery bags they get for $1 from the super market…a good idea to keep costs down.
Lastly, it’s best to stake the supports right away when you plant your tomatoes. It doesn’t take long for them to put on size and it’s difficult to add support with out some damage later on when there is a lot of branches to work with.
Hope you found this little $50 DIY Greenhouse tutorial helpful…. me and my plants love it!
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