Greenhouses are helpful for protecting frost tender plants in winter and for starting new plants before the final spring frost. They needn't be elaborate, large or expensive. After your new plants are ready to put in the ground, raised beds are a method of growing anything from roses to fruit trees that provides a controlled environment of rich soil in places where the native soil is poor.
Build a Lean-to Greenhouse
With a minimal expenditure for 2-by-4 boards, some nails and some clear plastic, you can easily build a small greenhouse off the side of your home or garage. A protected space that is only 4 feet wide, 6 or 7 feet tall and 10 feet long will give you enough room for a number of shelves on which you can place flats of potting soil in which you can start seeds for the coming summer's vegetable garden.
Heating Your Greenhouse
Fill 1-gallon milk jugs with water and place them along one side of your greenhouse floor, against the wall. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website reports that containers such as milk jugs will warm up during the day and retain some of their heat through the night, keeping the temperature of your greenhouse warmer than the temperature outside of it. You can also hang one or more 300-watt incandescent light bulbs from your greenhouse roof. Turn them on when the sun goes down and make sure they do not touch the tops of any plants.
Create a No-Till Raised Bed
The book "Lasagna Gardening," by Patricia Lanza, explains an old permaculture method of creating a rich environment for plants to grow. Called sheet composting or "lasagna gardening," this method allows you to use plant materials such as grass clippings, compost, fallen leaves and other plant parts you have available for free in your yard. You can cover old, ugly lawn and areas with poor or rocky soil with cardboard first and then stack layers of organic materials on top to create a raised bed. You can also add topsoil, peat moss, sawdust, wood chips and other organic materials.
Keep Your Raised Bed Narrow
The ideal size for a raised bed is no larger than about 4 feet wide. This will allow you to reach into the center of the bed without ever needing to step on the soil. Stepping on the soil where your plants grow will cause it to become compacted, which reduces the amount of oxygen it contains. Stepping on your garden bed can also damage the roots of your plants. Raised beds can be as long as you want, but you might want to build a pathway to the other side of the bed every 10 feet or so, to improve your access to all parts of your garden.