Colorado Transition Network


Heilsa, Fellow Transitioners,

I was reading a great article in _Colorado_Gardener_ for thier harvest edition on school gardens which in and of itself is a great transition idea. They had some nice pictures of raised beds with framing, which I assume is used for either plant protection and/or climbing, which were made of pvc (yes, I know, not transition material, but is durable and fine for outside use). These inspired me to build a set as an experiment for our raised bed, which still has tomatoes ripening. I documented the procedure and decided to post it here and see if folks would be interested in doing a transition workshop on this.

Originally we were going to do an A frame style cold frame with a small flat ridge line, but due to the size of our largest tomato plant, we needed to make some modifications to the design and decided to build it more like a true house with stick framing and a gable roof. The bed is made of 2 4x4x8 posts stacked on top of each other for the long sides and 2 4x4x4 posts stacked for the short ends.

Here is a detailed listing of the parts used to build the frame:

12 10' 1/2-inch pvc pipes

8 1/2-inch 90-degree sleeve elbows

8 1/2-inch 45-degree sleeve elbows

4 1/2-inch sleeve crosses

2 1/2-inch sleeve tees

32 3/4x3/4x1/2-inch T sleeve reducers, (3/4 inch allows for ease of movement)

1 PVC cutter

1 bag of 1/2-inch pipe clamps for attaching the frame to the bed

Below is a drawing and cutting diagram of the pieces to be cut from the 1/2-inch pipe.

The steps for building the frame are as follows:

1. Using the diagram above, cut the pieces as follows;

A: 4 8-foot (red)

B: 4 4-foot (green)

C: 8 32-inch (yellow)

D: 10 of 1 3/4-inch (purple)

E: 3 29-inch (orange)

F: 12 2-foot (blue)

G: 2 5-foot (pink)

2. Gather 2 A pieces, 2 B pieces, 4 right angle elbows, and 20 reducer Ts.

3. Slide 2 Ts onto each B piece; slide 8 Ts onto each A piece (it helps if you attach an elbow to the end of each A and B pipe).

4. Attach A to B pieces, using elbows, forming a 4' x 8' rectangle.

5. Take 8 C pieces, 8 Ds, and 8 45-deg elbows; attach an elbow to the end of each C piece. Insert D piece into each elbow.

6. Connect one pair of C/D pieces with a 1/2-inch tee; repeat with one more pair of C/D pieces.

7. Connect one pair of C/D pieces with a 1/2-inch cross; repeat with one more pair of C/D pieces.

8. Insert one set of ribs created in step 6 into the tees at one end of the rectangular frame from step 4; repeat with the other set.

9. Insert ribs from step 7 into the tees in the middle of the frame.

10. Insert one E piece between ribs along top, to form the spine.

You should have some thing that looks similar to this;

The following steps are for making the bottom part which the top sits on (duh).

11. Gather remaining 2 A pieces, 2 B pieces, 4 right angle elbows, and the reamining 12 reducer Ts.

12. Slide 2 1/2-inch tees onto each B piece, attach elbows to each side.

13. Slide 4 Ts onto each A piece; attach to the 2 elbows on the B pieces, forming a rectangle.

14. Insert an F piece into each T in the rectangle. It should look like this;

15. Now the hard part, which takes two people. Have one person hold the top over the bottom; the other person goes around and inserts the F pieces into the Ts on the top piece.

16. Take a rubber mallet and tap all the connections until they are sold.

We added two more crosses in the middle of the spine (connected with two additional D pieces) and attached two 5-foot pipes (G) to the cross connections facing down, driving the "posts" into the bed about 6 inches. This really helped the stability and also allows for deep watering.

Here is a picture of the finished frame minus the two additional posts.

If anyone has questions, comments, etc. feel free to contact me through TC or at coultraguy at gmail dot com.

In Frith,


Views: 833

Tags: DIY, extension, farming, gardening, season


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Comment by Devin Quince on March 21, 2011 at 12:52pm


Thanks for bringing this back to life! I had not touched on "winterizing" this, as I had not put a ton of thought into it other than yes, using heavy poly. We recently found a good deal on a 8x6.5x12 ft hoop/greenhouse that we are putting in our community garden plot, so I will let you all know how that fairs.

In Frith,


Comment by Karl Hanzel on March 14, 2011 at 3:44pm

Devin -


i especially appreciate you spec'ing out all the lengths of PVC & such.


You don't address "glazing" this thing.  'Might assume you'd just use some heavy-guage plastic sheeting.  That's all fine & dandy, but to be sure, and as with many / most greenhouses, folks are apt to glaze not just the south side, but east, west, and most notably, north faces.  The latter is a mistake, IMO.


I think it's important to insulate on the north side... there's so little light _gain_ there, ... tends to just be a heat _sink_, and is thus, defeating.


Perhaps in the interest of economy, you could still use plastic sheeting, but use a couple of layers, and stuff the cavity in-between with loose straw or sumthin insulating.


Another option might be to use the reflective bubble-wrap stuff... "AstroFoil" by one name.  Mcguckin's carries it in 50 or 100' x 4' rolls.  'Bonus, in that it reflects light back into the framed space.


For actual glazing itself, i'm really sold on the double or triple wall polycarbonate.  'Can be acquired locally (tho i assume produced elsewhere), is light-weight, and fairly easy to work with.  If anyone is interested in pooling-together to order some polycarbonate, there's a definite economy of scale when buying in bulk.  Please connect with me, and we can discuss it further.


I'd really like to have a full-on greenhouse by next Winter ('11).  My idea on that, is to have it be partially & easily dis-assemble-able, such that in warmer months, it can be left open to the elements.


'Built a coldframe out of double-wall polycarbonate.  You can see it at  'Could almost just scale it up such that one can walk into it... call that a "greenhouse".







Comment by Lorance A. Romero on January 5, 2011 at 10:22am
Hey Devin would you please friend me so we can talk about a class?
Comment by Devin Quince on January 4, 2011 at 11:01am


Yes, I made the frame match existing beds. As for windows, my only concern would be the weight of the windows and whether or not the pvc frames could handle it. I would go with wood if I was going to use windows. One thing I found at Home Depot are some lightweight plastic panels designed for roofing, but I think they could be made to work on this. Thanks for the kind words.

In Frith,


Comment by Lorance A. Romero on January 4, 2011 at 10:55am
Devin this is sweet! I like the top -- since i have a couple of windows that are 4x4 I was thinking of using that for the top. Any thoughts on using those? Also, Do you have any ideas for the bottom portion? Did you just adapt your tops to existing raised beds? Thanks for your help.
Comment by Devin Quince on October 20, 2010 at 6:34am
I was a carpenter for 10 years and work in computers now, so I guess my mind does work in that sort of way.
Comment by Teresa Foster on October 19, 2010 at 9:29pm
were you an engineer in your previous lifetime?

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