I'm wanting to experiment with a quick-and-dirty Polytunnel (6m x 3m). I expect this experiment to last for 1-2 seasons only (and then I expect to build a properly constructed hothouse)

I've managed to more-or-less clear a space for it, however the ground is very loose. I'm wondering if anyone has a low-cost way to compress the ground - Is it worth buying a second hand Lawn Compactor (ie is it heavy enough when filled with water), do I need to hire a plate compactor [ which is stupidly expensive relative to its value - about US$80 for a day ] or some other equipment, or is there an obvious way to do this without purchasing any machinery which I've not thought of.

1 Answer 1


Ok...where is it that you live, what is the USDA zone? Have you ever used a greenhouse? Will it be heated and if so how?

I had a polytunnel greenhouse until this last winter when we got tons of snow. Completely collapsed the greenhouse. Had a couple of mild winters so got lulled into complacency, sigh. We are doing a better and more permanent greenhouse now. I have lots of perennials and most seem to have made the winter being squished under a ton of snow and expensive plastic cover.

I don't do pots, the greenhouse would have to be heated and plants constantly being transplanted up...I use the soil the greenhouse is built over. Just like a garden out of doors. I have used lots of decomposed compost and keep the beds mulched with fresh decomposed compost. I've got raised beds (without borders) walks and I can grow a heck of a lot. I use a few pots for tomatoes and starts but I can keep blueberry shrubs, bosenberry vines, kiwi vines, asparagus, strawberries, herbs alive season to season. I would simply double dig 3' wide rows/penninsulas with deep trenches to allow for better drainage. Or even 6' wide beds with a narrow walkway on both sides A main path that supports my beloved cart width and tiny little foot paths between the big fluffy penninsulas/sections. Growing stuff in pots wastes so much resources and labor. My opinion. Do you have snow? You do know that we aren't in global warming, yes? Grins!! More like global cooling...

And do you really want such a small greenhouse? A tad bigger wouldn't cost much more!
my first polytunnel using floor as garden

  • I live in rural Auckland, New Zealand - I'm not convinced of my hardiness zone, but apparently its 9a. No snow here - Wind would be more of an issue, but I'm really only trying to work out how to very cheaply make a decent foundation. I've only used a commercial size, semi-heated hothouse [ which I've rented out ] - so I want to compare results to a much smaller, cheap-as-chips setup before I spend thousands on my "dream" hothouse.
    – davidgo
    Apr 5, 2016 at 19:10
  • Ah, you are a lucky 'KIWI' yes? I am trying to send a picture of greenhouse. Foundation would be the perimeter not your floor unless you've got other ideas and uses. Using the soil beneath your greenhouse is the best way to maximize space. I am going to be using cinderblocks for my perimeter in the BETTER greenhouse, that with rebar. This means a change in the pH of the soil that you'd have to correct for acid loving plants, such as my blueberries. Wind is a big deal. Polytunnels can work well with wind but you need some modifications. I'll try to get you a link I've found.
    – stormy
    Apr 5, 2016 at 19:28
  • youtube.com/watch?v=WsZjd0HNgBE I am so sorry I wasn't able to find the site I was thinking about...but this one is cool, very 'earthy' and new ideas...So many sites on this stuff.
    – stormy
    Apr 5, 2016 at 20:06
  • homefarmer.co.uk/how-to-winterproof-greenhouses-and-polytunnels Another site for polytunnels.
    – stormy
    Apr 5, 2016 at 20:21
  • Otherwise, your cheapie water filled roller should do the trick...for a gravel floor. If you are going to install a concrete floor definitely go with the gas powered compactor. To do just the perimeter with cinder block, concrete...I would also get a gas powered compactor. Worth their weight in gold, sweetie!
    – stormy
    Apr 5, 2016 at 20:25

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