Can A PVC Pipe Greenhouse Survive A Canadian Winter?

It’s December 12 in Central Alberta. Last week brought a lovely little blizzard with high winds and a whole pile of snow and this weekend we are looking forward to -35°C. Yup, must be winter. So, I figured it would be a great time to check on my little greenhouse. You know the one – the hoopframe greenhouse I made out of PVC pipes and covered with woven poly. Some people weren’t sure it would stand up the the wind and the snow and the cold temperatures, but I was confident. Mostly. So I ventured out in the -29.9°C weather this morning to see how well things were standing up. Here’s what it looked like:

Greenhouse in December Not bad so far. How about the inside? One of the biggest concerns is that the pvc pipes would snap or would bend under the weight of the snow. One nice thing is that Alberta snow tends to be pretty dry, so it’s not usually as heavy as the snow in other parts of the country. Regardless, it can still be pretty heavy when piled up. Well, here’s the inside.

Greenhouse in December Things are holding up well. Nothing has snapped, there is no major bending going on – all is bright and well. And, for an added bonus (for what it’s worth), it was -18.7°C inside while -29.9°C outside. Still really cold – but certainly a wide spread (and this only at 10am – by 2pm it should be significantly warmer from the sun).

So I must say I am pleased. I think this greenhouse is my best to date and I am excited to get some plants started out there earlier than I ever have before! I’ll keep you updated!

Update at 1:00pm later that day:

Ok, now it’s just -27°C outside, but a scorching -10°C inside! That’s 17 degrees people! Does that not impress you? I does me. I’ll have tomatoes in February!… Well, that might be a little wishful thinking…

18 replies on “Can A PVC Pipe Greenhouse Survive A Canadian Winter?”

winter was a major concern when i was considering building this earlier in the year. this post definitely inspires me to try it next season.

Love your greenhouse. Wish we had space for one like this here or that they’d let us build one on our little orchard.

The book Four Season Harvest that Claire mentions is great. I think you’d find lots of inspiration in there about growing year round. I certainly did. Now just need to get a roof on our greenhouse again. Doh!

BTW, I thought it was cold here in Germany at -13°C. I can barely fathom -35. Brrr!

We live in NW Montana, 60 miles from the Canadian Border at 4200 feet. Gardening in April/May would be impossible without our hoop house which we built last year. It is 11’x42′. We just used 6mil poly and it worked great. By then end of the season it smelled dank and we had some slugs on the squash. The tomatoes still didn’t ripen, they often needed double cover. Our summer day and night temps can vary up to 50 degrees (30-80) so we are dealing with severity here. Our salad garden is being picked now, end of May and we are thinking of keeping this hoop house up thru June in order to protect those plants (greens, lettuces and cabbages) because we inevitably get a winter storm of snow or hail sometime in June which devasts the garden. Planting this weekend in the garden (June 5th) and creating another (same size) hoop down the other end of garden, this time with clear green house plastic (6mil) which we will keep up all summer on that bed which will house our eggplants, tomatoes anc cucumbers and some squash. We plan to keep the hoop up in one area only 1 yr at a time, do crop rotation and air out the earth that had been covered. The clear greenhouse plastic should be a much prettier site this year!
Good luck gardening,everyonel

Love your greenhouse. Wish we had space for one like this here or that they’d let us build one on our little orchard. The book Four Season Harvest that Claire mentions is great. I think you’d find lots of inspiration in there about growing year round. I certainly did. Now just need to get a roof on our greenhouse again. Doh! BTW, I thought it was cold here in Germany at -13°C. I can barely fathom -35. Brrr!

Well i saw on some youtube videos that you can grow in about 40 degrees F in the winter put a small heater in it and there you go lettuce i think im going to do that but not sure if the heat will leave the greenhouse or do a double thick poly greenhouse

I’ve waited a while to see a post like this! I live in your area, Central Alberta, 2 hours east of Edmonton and me and my family are building a huge 28wide, 80long,and around 18feet high green house on our land. We are using strong double-galvanized 1-inch thick poles so I don’t think there will be a problem with it holding up. But as for how much production you can pull out of what months in our climate- I am deeply interested! Living with the exact same circumstances, we should share stories and ideas and benefit from each other quite a bit! I am just now ordering some of that super-strong woven poly from Northern greenhouse sales- Is that where you got yours? I ordered from them before for a small project and it was great. Am thinking about trying the double layer for next spring, and have looked quite before into a technique where you use an air-transfer unit to take the hottest air that collects in the top and recycle it down in tubes deep under your growing space to heat the ground. We have also acquired a ton of parabolic dishes to experiment with using thermal mass on the North wall and blasting heat into it all day to see what we can do to improve temps again. [email protected] – contact us just to say hi even- The best of luck to your endeavors.

Jason: That sounds great! Yes, I did get my poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales – it’s fantastic stuff! I’d love to see some of your pictures when you get everything up and running!

HiDave. I am in the process of buying the materials to build a hoop greenhouse. I live in AB, north of Edmonton and have been unable to buy the one inch white PVC pipe. I have checked with Peavey Mart, UFA, Home Hardware and other local retailers but have had no luck. Can you tell me if what you bought is still available in 2014 and what the specific name is for what you bought. ie – is it actually called PVC pipe or goes by another name? Thanks very much and thanks for your website on how to build this greenhouse!

Kaye: I bought 3/4 inch pvc pipe (not one inch)- and I’m sure it’s still available. I don’t know of any other names….

how did it hold up long term? like what was its lifespan seeing as its a few years later? (i am thinking of using pvc pipe to fence out bunnies from veggy garden, but also would like to make a small hoop cover for part of my garden to give some an early spring boost… or protect them from the +15 to -10 we have been getting all in a week). So i was wondering how the pvs handles sun and cold like does it become super brittle or does it stay workable.

Shelley: It does tend to grow brittle with time – but it still stands up relatively well! After about 4 years, I had one of my pvc pipes snap near the base (as the snow load pushed in on the side). I ended up moving in 2015 and that was still the only things that had broken. I did drive by the old place last summer and the hoophouse was still standing. So that’s a pretty good run!

Thank you for the artical, some great reading, and inspiration for me to attempt possibly this fall, or when I re-shape my sloped yard and double the size of the garden. I live in Calgary, and have a 10’x20′ garden that we grow a large variety of veg in.

This is our 3rd year in our house and 4th year gardening, so we are still learning what we can and cant grow in our short season. I think a setup like this would be great for planting early, as I usually have 60 plants in my kitchen window until June and would love to have that space even a month earlier.

When is your garden ready for planting?

Do you keep it up year round and take off the doors, or remove the plastic in the summer?

I like the idea of the double layer, not only for holding warmth but also to hold up better against the snowfalls. I would build them within an inch or two to have a small outer layer, and off-set so the inside tubes hold the weight of the outside snow.

We have had great yields from such a small garden, but just too short a season for most things… Cant wait to plant early.

Bud: I usually plant my garden in the middle of May. (My greenhouse by end of April – depending on the year) I leave my greenhouse up all year – this was the first winter where the snow load caused a bit of damage. (Broke two of the hoops, but those were easily repaired.) The double poly certainly would hold in the heat better than the single layer.

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