How to set up a small greenhouse

Contents

Setting up your greenhouse

Setting up your Greenhouse

  • Unless you are restricting yourself to growing greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, you will need a bench down at least one side of the greenhouse.
  • A shelf above the bench is a useful spot for seedlings
  • If you want to sow from seed and overwinter tender plants in the greenhouse you will need a power source for a propagator and possibly a heated bench and fan heater
  • If you are going to grow greenhouse crops you will need at least one bed, or a space for growbags; growbags can be stood on a bed to maintain a flexible space
  • Ventilation is essential both in the roof (autovents are simplest) and in the sides; latched windows or louvres allow cross ventilation which helps keep the greenhouse cool in hot weather
  • A maximum/minimum thermometer will help you keep an eye on the temperature
  • Internal or external blinds allow flexible shading
  • A paved pathway down the centre of the greenhouse provides easy access; watering it in hot weather causes evaporation which rapidly cools the greenhouse air
  • If you choose a greenhouse with gutters you can harvest the rainwater to use in the greenhouse; it also helps to have a tap in the greenhouse or nearby as a back up
  • A gravel soakaway around the base of the greenhouse will drain excess water away from the building
  • A paved area around the greenhouse will make it easy to maintain, this page by Cultivar shows you some popular choices for greenhouse bases.

Secrets to a Successful Greenhouse Business

How deep you should sow your seeds depends on their size. The general rule of thumb is to sow them to a depth of three to four times their diameter. If you’re dealing with small seeds, sprinkle them on the ground surface and press them into place; then, transplant them as soon as they’re large enough to handle. This “hardens” the plant, enabling it to withstand bad weather conditions. Sow seeds in vermiculite, peat moss, sand, or any combination of the three. If you’re working with outdoor seed beds, mix in 1 to 1½ pounds of a 1-1-1 ration complete fertilizer. (A coffee cup holds about ½ pound of a complete fertilizer; a one-pound coffee can holds about two pounds).

The Greenhouse

The purpose of a greenhouse is to get faster plant growth by raising humidity and controlling temperature. Plus, you can create the optimum light intensity and temperature for your particular crop’s growth. This is another reason to concentrate on growing large quantities of one or two types of plants, rather than trying to accommodate the needs of several different types. Don’t be afraid of experimentation. During the first year, start some plants in late winter for spring, summer, and fall sales, and test a few types during the first hard winter (below 0° F). This will allow you to get acquainted with your greenhouse and the amount of heat you’ll need without worrying about losing money.

As for the actual greenhouse, a well-designed, double-poly one uses 50 percent less heating energy than a single-layer, glass-on-fiberglass house for most crops in most areas. While a double-poly greenhouse will last for one to four years, a single-layer one will only last about six months. New greenhouses with low-cost inflated double-poly sheet plastics require a much lower investment than the more expensive glass, acrylic, and polycarbonate structured panel greenhouses.

Maximum Light Transmission

Making sure your plants get plenty of sun requires a fair amount of planning ahead. This includes figuring out a way to obtain maximum light transmission during the dark and cloudy days of winter. Of course, you will have to avoid too much light transmission, which can be detrimental to your plant, during the rest of the year, especially if ventilation isn’t properly maintained.

The highest sunlight transmission, 90 percent to 93 percent, is provided by single glass sheets. However, once the glass is properly framed, the best-designed greenhouse will transmit no more than 70 percent of light; and with wires, heating pipes, and obstacles, light will normally measure no more than 60 percent to 70 percent at the crop level. Your other choice is to use double-poly sheets or structured panels of acrylic and polycarbonate. With well-designed framing, you can achieve the same level of light that single-glass sheets will give.

To determine how much shade your plants will need, buy a light meter, which will help you adjust to the right degree. Most of these instruments come with a numbered guide and are easy-to-read. Just hold it away from direct light, in the darkest area of the greenhouse, and read the meter. (Your readings will vary depending on reflections and the direct point of sun).

Shade cloths, which can be applied over the house or within the house on a trellis system, will help you regulate how much light your plant receives. The cloth costs about 10 cents per square foot and lasts about 10 years. While it comes in degrees ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent blockout, I recommend 65 percent to 73 percent for top-quality foliage plants. Many people use 73 percent in hot summer months, and then switch to 55 percent in cooler months.

If not enough shade cloth is used, plants will get sunburned or dry out; too much shade will keep plants from drying out enough. How much shade you will need depends on the types of plants you’re growing: Many flowers and vegetable plants do better in the summer under a light shade cloth, but don’t need shade during other seasons. Several landscape plants grow well under a light shade cloth. If you have 300 or more hanging plants (hanging two to three feet apart), you can use a 55 percent to 75 percent shading effect. Many people don’t know that shade-grown foliage plants may not require shade over the winter.

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Shading paint is another option. These white shading compounds, most of which are applied to the outside of the poly-greenhouse cover, rum clear during rains and then back to shade during sunny weather. There are several good paints on the market.

By growing your plants (or at least finishing them off) under a shade house, made of 4 x 4s and 2 x 4s, your plants will be of higher quality. You can use wood slats, log trims, and old lumber as a lathing (narrow strips of wood nailed to rafters, joists, or studs as a groundwork) to make one. Most large buyers seek out local growers who use this operation, and it may be the only advertisement you need. The least expensive one I’ve ever seen was made of 12-foot pressure-treated poles, aircraft cable and clamps, mobile-home anchors, and the appropriate-size shade cloth to cover the top and sides. Poles were set about 20 feet apart at the corners, middle, and anywhere else needed. For strength, the aircraft cable was stretched over the top and fastened to the ground with the mobile home anchors. The whole structure was covered with cloth and stitched at the corners and sides.

Environmental Control

You simply cannot overestimate the importance of a controlled environment in your greenhouse. Fresh, moving air is as necessary to your plants as are light and water. Whether you are growing plants in containers or growing them hydroponically, you must pay attention to the temperature. The temperature should usually remain at 70° to 75°, and the humidity, should remain at about 50 percent. If you maintain these levels consistently, your plants will grow a lot faster, with better color and higher quality.

When climate factors are properly managed (a good climate-control computer can be a great help you when your business gets larger), production in the double-poly greenhouses will usually surpass that of a single-glazed or fiberglass greenhouse.

CO2 Enrichment

As all gardeners know, carbon dioxide is crucial for growing healthy, top-quality plants. During the fall and winter, when greenhouses stay closed with no air circulation from the outside, you can “turbo-charge” plant growth by raising the levels of available CO2 above normal. Atmosphere concentrations are normally between 250 to 350 ppm; bringing the level up between 1200 to 1500 ppm can increase plant growth by as much as 30 percent in most plants. But remember: CO2 enrichment does not replace good growing skills.

Watering Care

Feed your plants a sufficient amount of quality water. If plants become too dry, they’ll stop growing, which can eventually cause stunting. Avoid this by testing your water for contaminants regularly throughout the year. (You can put a water sample in a jar and bring it to your local county extension agent.) Early morning is the best time, and the rule of thumb is to feel a couple of inches into the pot to check for soil moisture. Water your plants so that the soil is drenched throughout the pot; and every 10 days, add a water-soluble fertilizer. Adding peat moss to the soil mixture will create a better water-holding capacity and a more constant moisture level.

Propagation

If you’re planning on growing your plants from seed, be sure to transplant them once the seedlings germinate into either a soil container, the ground, or rock-wool (lava rocks formed into slabs to hold water). This initial stage of propagation has different demands and requirements for temperature and moisture. If you’re growing cuttings, give them a friendly environment that encourages rooting. The preferred propagation method is to purchase or take cuttings from existing plants. Among those plants that grow well from cuttings are: cucumbers, tomatoes, pothos (a climbing plant), all vines, shrubbery, foliage plants, flowers, and herbs. I suggest rooting hormone powder on cuts and using an anti-transpirant spray to eliminate the need of a high-humidity area.

Misting

The rooting of softwood leafy cuttings under spray or mist is now a widely used technique by nurserymen and some beginners. The purpose is to maintain a film of water on the leaves, which reduces transpiration and keeps the cuttings strong until actual rooting can take place. Cuttings can then be fully exposed to light and air without harm, because humidity remains high enough to prevent damage.

Misting also accelerates rooting, promotes hard-to-root varieties, and prevents disease in cuttings by washing all the fungus spores before they can attack the tissues. While the leaves in this process must be kept continuously moist, it’s important to keep the amount of water to a minimum. Excessive water can leach out nutrients from the compost and cause starvation. Moreover, over watering can directly injure a cutting, so use nozzles s that are capable of producing a very fine mist.

There are two ways to control the amount of spray. You can use an electric-time clock mechanism that is set to give a spray burst every three, five, or seven minutes. The problem with this method is that the interval between misting periods remains the same despite changing weather conditions. If the time clock is set to give a spray burst every five minutes, the plant will be flooded during dark weather conditions and undernourished during bright, sunny conditions.

The second method of spray control involves a sensing element called an “electronic leaf.” This is used in conjunction with a solenoid valve and a switching controller installed in the water lines. The artificial leaf is placed among the cuttings, and dries out or loses superficial water at the exact same rate that the cuttings do. At a certain stage of dryness, the sensing element activates and opens the solenoid so that water is supplied to the nozzles. The electronic leaf then causes the valve to close when it’s moistened by the spray.

Selling and Marketing

Now that you’ve got the growing part down, it’s time to move on to business. Start by making a written outline of the steps you plan to take: talking with interested buyers, planting seasonal crops, advertising, purchasing boxes and sleeves, arranging deliveries, etc. Some people are more comfortable letting a broker do the selling while they keep their attention on the technical aspects of growing plants. Others enjoy the excitement of closing a large deal on a regular truckload delivery and knowing that they did everything by themselves. If this sounds more like you, be prepared to deal with a lot of management and problem-solving skills.

Picking the Right Market

The days of sending your plants to a traditional wholesaler and hoping for the best are gone. It’s up to you to look carefully at the market segment and choose your outlet. Possibilities include: florists, discount chains, grocery chains, or garden centers. Each has a personality of its own:

Retail florists: Most florist sales will come by phone, and plants move out on the delivery truck. Florists control 90 percent of what goes out their door, and consumers have little say in which plants will be sold. (If florist owners don’t like red flowers, don’t expect any in their shop.)

Discount chains: Walmart/K-Mart types of stores are looking for low prices and reasonable quality. To meet the intense price competition, you’ll have to go to high-density production, and be prepared to close your eyes to plant quality and prompt payment.

Garden centers: A special breed, these centers are similar to retail florists, but do a lot more cash and carry. They are also one of the fastest-growing outlets for foliage plants (few centers grow their own).

Grocery chains: Grocery-chain buyers are interested in diverse pot sizes. They sell greens that range in size from four inches to four feet, and the type of quality sought is good to excellent. Many markets today have full-service floral shops ranging in size from 500 to 1500 square feet. Many even operate like florists, offering full service for weddings and funerals. Plant quality is good to excellent. Their biggest asset is that customers pop into the supermarket an average of two times per week so there’s plenty of traffic.

Tricks of the Trade

The most important rule in the plant business is: Never sell anything you aren’t completely satisfied with. Sell only those items which are healthy, top quality, and balanced with the cost. Be proud of what you grow and grow proud—you’re not just making a living for yourself, you’re doing a service for Mother Earth.

One of your most important tools as a wholesaler is the telephone. It’s the next best thing to being there. Actually, talking on the phone is sometimes better than being there in person. For one thing, you can project the image you want without worrying about what you look like. You can wear torn or grass-stained jeans without seeming less professional to your customer. Also, research shows that difficult customers are often better handled over the phone. It’s easier to ask frank questions that you might hesitate to ask in person, and it’s easier to ask for a large orders and simple yes-or-no answers. I also find that many potential buyers are less likely to second-guess you over the phone than they would in a sit-down meeting.

Even if you’re on the phone, it’s important as a salesperson to make your appeal stand out from the rest of the plant-selling pack. Use the same casual language that you use when you speak, even if it’s not necessarily grammatically correct. You’ll sound more genuine and spontaneous, and your clients will feel more comfortable. “How ya doin’?” doesn’t sound as polished as “How are you?” but the informality will put your client at ease. Remember that the ideal phone call should be about four minutes long; be snappy and graphic.

Also, bring a few samples to leave wherever you go. Do so even when contact was not made with the appropriate buyer. Sometimes a buyer will have a change of plans at the last minute and he/she will have to rechedule the appointment. If you’ve traveled a considerable distance, let the secretary know this and ask if there’s another buyer who can inspect your samples and pass on the information. If the size of one group of plants varies significantly, take one of the largest and one of the smallest as samples, and discuss the sizes in between.

Packing and Labeling

First of all, before you ship your plants, move them to a place where the amount of shade is 50 percent more than it was in its growing location. Leave them there for two days, in order to help them adjust to boxes and artificially-lighted stores. Then wash the sold plants thoroughly with water two or three days before shipment. Place the boxes in a cool, dry place after packaging and experiment with the life of the plants while in closed boxes. Although most plants will last a week, it’s a bad idea to box them for more than three or four days. Always check for final appearance before packing up your plants. Clean off any dirt left on the plant (especially its leaves), wipe excess dirt from the pots with a wet cloth, and trim any leaves which have turned brown. Be sure that all the plants will support themselves if they get separated from other plants.

All of your plants should also have individual tags that label the plant and include easy-to-read care instructions. It’s a good idea to include a letter that tells the store owner or employee how to care for the plants until they’re sold. The buyer will usually require you to label the outside of the box with your name, address, and phone number. (You can purchase rubber stamps or adhesive shipping labels). Identify the contents of the box in the upper, right-hand corner of the box.

Box Construction

Plants to be sent out in large volume should be packed in cardboard boxes, preferably “live plant” boxes, which can be bought through any large box company. The 23″ x 18″ x 24″ size is suitable for 6″ to 8″ hanging baskets, and for 4½” or 6½” pots. For 4½” pots or 5″ hanging baskets, the 23″ x 18″ x 16″ box is best. This will hold twenty 4½” pots or twelve 5″ hanging baskets. Plants should also be sleeved before packing them in boxes. The length is determined by the box’s size as well as the pot’s size. You will need 8″ x 24″ sleeves for 8″ hanging baskets and 6″ x 24″ sleeves for 6″ or 6½” pots.

Plants will do fine in boxes for a day or two before shipping if you keep the tops open—they need the light and air circulation. When you close your boxes, fasten them with a staple gun, which can be purchased from your local box company. Place the bottom of the box on a homemade wooden-frame, staple at each flap, and then staple the top down. You can also use a strong-quality tape or glue on the top and bottom of the box.

After you’ve closed the boxes, keep them well shaded. Direct sunlight on the outside of the box can create heat build-up inside, and if the plants are subjected to such heat for three to four hours, there may develop severe leaf damage. Boxes should also be at least four inches higher than the plants to allow for adequate air circulation. Lastly, when you handle the boxes, be careful not to knock a lot of soil out of the pots.

Making the Delivery

Remember to discuss transportation when you’re making your sales. At first, you might want to make deliveries personally, which can easily be done with a U-Haul truck or a rented large, tractor-trailer rig. (Prices vary greatly so take the time to shop around for the best deal.) Get a refrigerated-type trailer if you expect to haul more than a few hundred miles and if you have the quantity to warrant it.

You are responsible for your plants until they are signed off at delivery. (Always get an official signature of acceptance.) Try to arrange for payment upon delivery when you’re making your deal—”cash on delivery” is a good way to start out until you’ve established your business and covered your initial investment in the plants. It can also save you costly delays in collection time. Most buyers will agree to this arrangement without hesitation.

Once you’re more established and scheduling deliveries regularly, you can have a local motor line carry your plants to different parts of the country. By shipping F.O.B. (Freight On Board), the buyer pays for all handling expenses. The shipper (the motor line carrying the plants) is responsible as soon as he picks up the plants at your greenhouse, and he/she should pay the grower promptly for any damage that occurs in shipping. Inspect the plants again when you deliver them—they will react differently to long periods of darkness. If you’re delivering yourself, stack boxes on pallets inside the truck, which will make unloading large orders easier. (Most warehouses have forklift operators to unload; otherwise, the boxes will have to be unloaded by hand.)

Presenting the Bill

A bill of lading should be filled out completely before the shipment leaves your nursery. Write down the number of boxes, the sizes, and destination. Sometimes a federal plant inspection stamp is required on the bill; your county agent can tell you when, where, and if you need it. The bill is then carried along with the plants to the buyer and shown at weigh stations.

The bill should be signed when the plants are delivered. One copy is left with the buyer, one with the shipper, and one with the grower. Be organized with these bills—they are proof of delivery when billing by mail. Send an invoice as soon as the delivery is confirmed. If you don’t receive payment within 21 days, send a follow-up invoice. After 30 days, telephone the buyer to check on payment. Keep your copy of the bill of lading.

Collecting Your Pay

Large grocery-store chains usually pay within 21 to 30 days. Smaller chains and locally-owned stores often pay within 10 to 15 days. You might want to offer a one to two percent discount if your invoice is paid within 10 days. This is almost always to your advantage, and your buyers will feel they are getting a good bargain.

If you’re thinking about extending credit, check out your buyer beforehand. See if you can find someone else that they have done business with and inquire about their credit standing and what limits they were allowed. Ask if they have ever had any payment problems. If they have, insist on C.O.C., which is always the best system when you’re first starting out. If payment is not received promptly, call your buyer and verify the invoice to be sure an error was not made. In some cases, a simple error on an invoice can delay payment. The larger grocery chains and department stores sometimes send your invoice to a central office or accounts-payable department. Track your bill down to the person responsible for paying and inquire about their payment schedule. This way you will know exactly when to expect payment. If there’s a problem, have them run it down and return your call that day.

The best way to avoid delay is to double-check the address and amount of invoice before you send it out. Also, when you have your invoices printed, include a statement saying that “all claims against damage must be made within 48 hours of receipt of shipment.” Your invoices might also reference the two percent discount if paid in ten days and 18 percent annual interest on unpaid balances over 30 days, which inspires fast payment. You can now sit back and enjoy the green.

Editor’s Note: T.M. Taylor’s book, Secrets to a Successful Greenhouse Business, offers complete instructions for building a backyard greenhouse and step-by-step instructions for growing, promoting, and marketing your plants. It is available from GreenEarth Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 243, Melbourne, FL 32902.

How to set up a greenhouse

There are a lot of greenhouses available; it can be pretty tough trying to decide which version will suit you best. Here are some of the major decisions you need to take into account.

Location, location
The only downside of the greenhouse versatility listed above is that they can be a bit fussy about where they actually go. You’ll need to pick an area of your garden that gets plenty of light, but still has a little bit of protection from the wind. The greenhouse will also need to be kept away from any trees, as falling leaves will dirty the frame.

If you’re planning on heating the greenhouse electrically, then you’ll want to get it as close to the house as possible, as it will be cheaper to have the electricity installed. At least 2ft of access space around the greenhouse is usually necessary for cleaning and making repairs.

Finally, the greenhouse will of course require a tough, durable flat base – no putting it straight onto the soil! Paving slabs are the perfect choice, and they can be wetted in the summer in order to keep the air humid.

Heating
The most efficient heating solution for a greenhouse is an electric fan heater combined with a propagator and a thermostat. Bubble insulation also provides additional warmth at a lower cost. Whilst you don’t have to have additional heating, it’s nearly always useful, and it makes sense to plan for it in advance.

Glazing
Whilst greenhouses are typically thought of as being just glass, modern models are actually now available in other materials, such as plastics and polycarbonates. There are pros and cons to all three. Glass is the clearest, and lets in the most light overall. It also lasts the longest and is the most easily replaceable in terms of single panels. Of course, the main downside is that it’s also the most breakable by some distance. Plastics and polycarbonates are far less likely to break, but don’t let light in as effectively as the glass. They’re often the more expensive options.

The other key thing to consider is that glazing will have different insulation properties, so some may be more suitable for some climates than others. Polycarbonate sheeting tends to insulate better so less heat will be lost from your greenhouse. This will be beneficial if your garden is in a particularly cool area.

Don’t have room in your yard for your own greenhouse? Never fear – Swedish retailer IKEA has a solution. Their adorable SOCKER mini greenhouse is the perfect place to raise your favorite plants, indoors or out. The planter looks just like a life-size greenhouse, and it easily opens via a hatch set into the peaked roof.

The roof hatch is set onto a triangular frame, which lets in ample fresh air to give the plants inside plenty of breathing room and circulation. Should the interior get too hot, the adjustable roof vents can be left open to lower the interior temperature. Plants can also be easily watered using the movable hatches.

The greenhouse can be used for standard houseplants or for raising seedlings, as it provides an insulated environment for the plants inside to thrive. The rest is up to you. Fill the mini greenhouse with potted greens for a window sill, or with flowering buds for a living center piece. Or, put the greenhouse in the kitchen, and create an edible garden of fresh herbs for cooking.

Terrariums are a great way to grow plants indoors, and they’re perfect for city dwellers with smaller houses or apartments. If a yard or outside gardening plot is out of the question, that doesn’t mean growing your own plants is impossible – at $19.99, this IKEA mini greenhouse can give any home a garden.

+ IKEA

Via Not Cot

If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own greenhouse but couldn’t make that a possibility, you’ll be pleased to learn that DIY mini greenhouses are becoming a popular alternative. In this case, “mini” actually describes a large range of sizes: your mini greenhouse can be a 12”x12” tabletop unit or a 2’x5’ freestanding cart on wheels. It can even be covered milk jug.

While you can buy pre-fabricated mini greenhouses, you can also create your own, personalized mini greenhouse designed specifically for your needs. Materials don’t need to be expensive, either.

Just as with raised beds, there are dozens of different ways to build a mini greenhouse. This article won’t go through all of the various designs, but it will describe the basic principles to consider when building your own. Remember, the larger your greenhouse, the more planning and construction components are required.

Location, Location, Location

Your greenhouse may well be portable, but before you determine its dimensions, decide where you will place it. Greenhouses need tons of sunlight, especially in the morning; a perfect place would be the south or southeast side of your building. If your greenhouse will only be used during the summer, don’t worry if you have a few trees that provide shade in the afternoon as long as they don’t block the morning sun. If you will also use it during the winter months, afternoon sun is critical, too.

Types of mini greenhouses

Next, determine what you want your greenhouse to look like. Will it be a free-standing greenhouse? A tabletop unit? Window-mounted? The type of mini greenhouse you choose may be based largely on its sun exposure.

You’ll also need to consider how much interior space is needed based on plant type and how you plan on accessing the plants. Removing a lid? Unlatching a small hinged door? Lifting up plastic covering? Keep in mind that the smaller your greenhouse, the harder it is to regulate its temperature due to the air volume and exposed surface area.

Covering materials

An essential part of your mini greenhouse is the covering that provides insulation, access to sunlight, and elemental protection. While glass is a traditional covering, it is a harder DIY material to work with. Although it is sturdier than other coverings and inexpensive to maintain, it is expensive to install and repair. Fiberglass is lighter and stronger than glass and will last years. Only clear fiberglass should be used for optimal sun exposure over time.

You’ve certainly seen mini greenhouses constructed with a plastic cover. Opaque or translucent plastic will filter sunlight differently, so take your greenhouse location under consideration. Plastic is an inexpensive option, but remember that it will degrade over time and need replacing. Plastic also provides excellent heat retention and is great for small projects.

Heating system

You may need a heating system depending on the plants you are growing, location/construction of your mini greenhouse, and its sun exposure level. If nights in your region get cold, you will want to invest in a 220-volt electric heater or small gas/oil heater.

Air circulation and ventilation

Depending on its size, a mini greenhouse may or may not need air circulation. If you have a tabletop greenhouse, you are likely circulating its small volume of air sufficiently every time you open its door. Otherwise, consider having a small circulating fan in your greenhouse, lest the warm air rise to where you don’t want it to be.

For larger mini greenhouses, an exhaust fan serves the purpose of ventilation, which is essential for exchanging inside air for outside air to control temperature, replenish carbon dioxide, or remove moisture. Smaller mini greenhouses won’t need artificial ventilation methods for the same reason they won’t need artificial air circulation devices.

A mini greenhouse built over a raised bed:

A compilation of mini greenhouse designs:

Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Cy-V

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Do you have a green thumb? If so, this DIY is really going to make you smile. We’ve got 40 fun and terrific indoor greenhouse projects, just for you. So no matter what type of weather is outdoors, everything can be in bloom inside your home.

What will really please you is just how easy so many of these DIY projects are. They are also quite budget friendly. We even have indoor greenhouses that you can make for less than $10! So really, nothing stands in your way of getting started with having one of these. Its now time for you to start planning what you’d like to see blooming quite soon.

Some of the most popular things to grow include veggies, fruits, herbs and then plants simply to make your home look lovely. If you grow veggies, fruits or herbs then you can add them to the meals that you serve your family. Or even make gifts to give others with them featured in them! What a lovely and thoughtful gift to give someone.

A lot of gardeners especially like to have an indoor greenhouse so they can start seeds or even seedlings indoors to put in their gardens. This really protects the seeds and tiny tender plants from animals or birds who might eat them, and gives them a chance to grow.

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So let’s get started and make an indoor greenhouse. Happy DIY-ing!

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Want a small greenhouse? Try this one to fit on your counter.

From Instructables

Mini Greenhouse

You can make a mini greenhouse out of simple, inexpensive materials. Look at this one.

From FiveGallonIdeas

DIY Indoor Organic Greenhouse

Want to grow herbs and veggies indoors? Here is a great DIY greenhouse.

From GreenMoxie

Seed Starting 102 Homemade Mini Greenhouses

One of the best reasons to have your own greenhouse indoors, is for seed starting. It really gives tiny plants a chance.

From OurHappyAcres

CD Case Greenhouse

Have old CD cases? Why not make a DIY greenhouse?

From MegaCrafty

Growing Sunflower Sprouts Indoors

Want to grow sunflower sprouts? Here’s how to do so indoors.

From GardenTherapy

Egg Carton Greenhouse

Greenhouses don’t have to be big. You actually can make one out of an egg carton.

From HazelAndCompany

How to Propagate Herbs

Want to grow herbs indoors? Try this.

From GardenTherapy

Are you looking to create a mini greenhouse so that you can enjoy an extended growing season? Here’s how we built ours for free and how you can too!

How to Build a Mini Greenhouse for Free

—This post is a collaboration between both my husband and me as I am not so handy with the drill. Enjoy!

We moved into our last home at the beginning of October after living in an RV for 6 months. I so missed having a garden this summer and had the urge to plant some seeds and get my hands back in the dirt!

Of course, we were headed into the winter months and that means traditional planting methods are out, but there are plenty of unique gardening methods that would help me get my fix! And yes, I already planted a little lettuce garden in my Aerogarden and I planted an Herb Garden in the kitchen the other day too!

— Learn more about Growing your own Herb Garden!

We didn’t want to spend money on this project though since we have a few more things that we need to focus our extra money on in the house still so we wanted to see if we could build some kind of mini greenhouse for free.

So we dug around our new home and we found scrap wood that the previous owners had left. They also left a few used windows that they were given to make a small greenhouse (but they never got around to it so they left them for us!). So everything we needed to make this cold frame mini greenhouse with only the things we found around our home.

If this is something that you’d like to make, I would encourage you to find things around your own home to use instead of buying something from the store. Or ask a friend if they have any scraps of wood or old windows that they won’t be using. These mini homemade greenhouses take very little for supplies to make them so if you are creative you can find a way to do it with just a few scraps!

–If you are looking to build a little bit bigger greenhouse, you might want to check out this post on Building a Small Greenhouse.

Here is the wood that we gathered. It doesn’t look like much! It was mostly 2x4s with a few 2x8s thrown in. Just enough to put this mini greenhouse DIY project together.

My husband started by measuring the size of the window and made some simple frames by cutting the wood down to size and screwing it together. We made two 2×4 frames and one 2×8 frame because of the wood we had. That made the height of our box about 15 inches.

Then we stacked the frames on top of each other and put together the base of the mini greenhouse.

When you put the frames on top of each other make sure to alternate the boards, this will make it stronger.

Then we cut boards at an angle so that the window on top would be at an angle. This will help to get sunlight to all of the plants and so that we could plant taller plants in the back. Both of these boards need to be cut at the same angle so that the window will sit on top of the frame securely. We screwed these to the two sides of the mini greenhouse and put one more board across the back to finish off the base.

Then we put 2×4 for uprights in each of the 4 corners to better secure the frame and screwed all of the frames together.

We had a few hinges and a handle leftover from old projects so we attached those to the window top to be able to easily access the mini greenhouse. We then moved the mini greenhouse to the location we wanted it for the winter. Getting a full southern sun is very important, as is access to the house and to the water.

We filled the inside up (but left about a foot of space) with dirt that was in a large dirt pile in our tree belt. We put this right on top of the ground without digging into the ground beneath the mini greenhouse because we only plan on planting things here with shallow root systems.

Finally, we attached a seal to the bottom of the window frame to seal in between the window and the top of the wooden frame. This will help to trap the warm air inside as the days grow colder. We didn’t have anything to seal the window with but thankfully we knew someone that had some extra door “foam”. Perfect!

At this time, we are just using a stick to prop open the window when we need access to water the seeds. We planted 4 different types of seeds that work well in cold weather (Tatsoi, Butter King Lettuce, Chard, and Sugar Snap Bush Peas) and we will see how they do!

The nice thing about this mini greenhouse is that is has a built-in “vent” feature. If the inside is getting too warm, we can simply open the window and let it vent without letting any creatures (or children!) in there by having the door propped open.

We are hoping this mini greenhouse will work well at least into December. With any greenhouse, you still have to remember your limitations for seasonal weather. Since January, February, and March are usually the worst here for cold, we will hope to have this mini greenhouse running until December. Then start it back up sometime in March to capture some early greens if the ground inside is not frozen.

Just 4 days after planting, the greens were already up! Here’s a picture at day 5. By day 7, one week after they were planted, everything has germinated and sprouted. The nights are below freezing but the little greenhouse seems to be doing it’s job! As time goes on, I will post more updated pictures here and on my Instagram page.

Here is the growth after just 2 weeks. We’ve had some very cold temps (last night was a hard freeze again with temps in the teens) but the plants look great! We are now working on building an off-grid solar heater for the colder days and nights. And yes, I realize I need to thin these out! If you’ve ever planted a row of anything with little ones, you understand. 😉

I also wanted to share a picture of our previous mini greenhouse which was a hoop house style. We used this greenhouse into December and through many snows and then started our garden in it in March. Overall it worked extremely well BUT it ended up being destroyed by the South Dakota winds. I would gladly build this style of mini greenhouse again if I had some similar raised beds to what we had previously.

If you are gardening or planning on doing any preserving this
year, you NEED this wonderful spiral bound journal! Get your
copy of The Gardening and Preserving Journal here.

Do you have any kind of mini greenhouse? What do you grow in it?

This post on Building a Mini Greenhouse was originally published on Little House Living in October 2018. It has been updated as of October 2019.

Ask Gardenerd: How to Build a Mini Greenhouse

A fun question came in to Ask Gardenerd this week:

” I have a big south facing back porch. I would love to make a small
greenhouse where I could start seeds and, maybe, even let herbs winter.
Do you have ideas for making my own greenhouse?”

There are many options, from a mini-greenhouse to the full-fledged, brick and mortar English greenhouse. I used to create my own mini-greenhouses by taking tomato cages, laying them on their sides and tarping the outside with plastic sheeting. Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is to have adequate ventilation, or else your plants will wilt and die. (In the case of the make-shift tomato cage greenhouse, leaving the sides open helps a lot.)

Here are a few sites that can help you build your own:

Instructables: This is a great website where people offer their own step by step instructional tutorials for building just about anything. Here’s a 5×5 mini greenhouse that could easily be adapted to any size – just change the dimensions of the PVC: Build an Easy 5×5 Home Greenhouse

How to Build a PVC Greenhouse – here is another, more detailed set of instruction

Got a Bookshelf?

I saw a pre-fab greenhouse that made me think of an idea. Take an existing storage bookshelf – the kind that are open air on all sides, like the wire garage storage shelves. Then wrap the whole thing with plastic, using clamps or clothespins to secure the plastic. You can arc a few lengths of PVC or wire across the top to create a dome over the top shelf. Just a thought.

Cold Frame

Another option is to build a cold frame, which is more solidly constructed than PVC and plastic. If you have an old window lying around, all you need to do is build a raised bed frame that fits the size of the window. Most people prefer to build the frame so that the window lays on top at an angle. Like this one on Instructables. You get get fancy with this one from This Old House.

Or Buy One

Of course you can leave the tools in the garage and use your mouse to order a simple greenhouse online. Here are some of my recommendations:

Patio Grow House

There is also a Compact Patio Grow House that is less expensive. Or this elevated one:

Whatever you choose, you should be able to start seeds in these protected environments, and over-winter your herbs in cold climates. Good luck!

A small greenhouse allows just the right amount of sun and moisture to come in while keeping insects and bad weather out. And the easy access panels or sliding doors make tending to your tomatoes or lettuce easy labor.

If you’re a hobby gardener who likes to grow a few veggies on your patio, or you’re a more serious gardener who likes to start seeds in the dead of winter, there is a small greenhouse option for you. Take a look at our list of some of the best small greenhouse options available.

Mini Plastic Greenhouse

Measuring only 4′ x 2′, this mini greenhouse is an ideal solution for apartment or condo- living or for anyone looking to get just a small amount of plants started early.

Find it at Wayfair

Mini Starter-House Greenhouse

Garden year-round! This mini starter greenhouse holds 16 flats and protects plants and flowers from weather and animals while still providing you with easy access.

Find it at Wayfair

Sunbubble Greenhouse

This small greenhouse is packed with possibilities. Create your own plant conservatory, grow veggies year-round, or hide out inside of it. It’s just large enough to stand up inside and just small enough to keep things simple and low maintenance.

Find it at Wayfair

Mini Row Greenhouse

Perfect for growing rows of veggies, start seeds early in the spring and keep enjoying fresh-grown veggies even after the first fall frost.

Find it at Wayfair

Mini Shrub Greenhouse

Protect the roots of shrubs and trees with this greenhouse measuring at just 2′ x 2′. Take the worry out of losing some of your favorite plants to harsh weather.

Find it at Wayfair

Small Cold Frame Aluminum Greenhouse

Fancy your own home-grown lettuce year-round? This small, cold-frame greenhouse made of aluminum is sturdy enough to protect your leafy greens from the cold, while allowing sun and moisture in.

Find it at Wayfair

Portable Mini Walk-in Greenhouse

With four tiers, this sturdy greenhouse can handle the task of housing plants throughout the winter, as well as protecting veggies from critters and harsh weather. Its portable feature makes it easy to move to another location in your yard or pack up and bring with you if you relocate to a new home.

Find it at Amazon

Small Greenhouse With Shelves

Another great option for small spaces, this mini greenhouse is just the right size to house a few plants or flowers or start seeds in the winter.

Find it at Amazon

Wood Raised Greenhouse

Crafted of eucalyptus wood making it resistant to mold and insects, this raised greenhouse offers easy access while standing, and its top panels easily prop open.

Find it at Hayneedle

Wood Greenhouse Box

This small wood greenhouse box isn’t just a way to get a jump start on spring planting, it’s also an attractive addition to your outdoor space.

Find it at Hayneedle

Small, Round Raised Bed Greenhouse

This small, raised bed greenhouse is ideal for when you only need to start a small amount of seeds early.

Find it at Hayneedle

Wooden Shelved Greenhouse

A small greenhouse like this sits comfortably on a back porch or patio or behind a garage. Its sturdy frame and polycarbonate glazing will keep your plants warm, and its multiple panels give you easy access to care for them.

Find it at Hayneedle

Lean-to Greenhouse

If you’re looking for an upright greenhouse option and have limited yard or garden space, consider a lean-to design. This fits nicely against your house, shed, or garage, and sliding door gives you easy access.

Find it at Wayfair

Small Corrugated Metal Greenhouse

Add a rustic, farmhouse element to your greenhouse with this small corrugated metal option. Just the right size for a patio or porch.

Find it at Hayneedle

Austrian Cold-frame Greenhouse

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Engineered to give your garden as much light as it needs, with panels that are easy to raise or lower, this small greenhouse means not having to give up your hobby in the winter months.

Find it at Hayneedle

Small Cold-frame Greenhouse

Just the right size if you need to start a few seeds or are limited when it comes to space for planting.

Find it at Hayneedle

Small Pine Greenhouse

This type of greenhouse is an excellent option if you’re looking to extend your growing season. These line up nicely in your existing garden spaces.

Find it at yardnbarn on Etsy

Mini Tomato Greenhouse

Is there anything better than a fresh summer tomato? Pamper yours with a special greenhouse designed to protect them and speed up harvest time.

Find it at Wayfair

Pop-up Greenhouse

Having a greenhouse couldn’t be simpler than one that sets up easily on this pop-up frame.

Find it at Wayfair

Garden Starter Greenhouse

This simple garden starter greenhouse can be used both indoors and out, making it a breeze to start plants and vegetables during the winter months and have them ready for planting in the spring.

Find it at Wayfair

Seedhouse Mini-Greenhouse

Even the smallest of spaces shouldn’t deter you from getting your seeds started or growing a few plants and vegetables. This seedhouse mini-greenhouse is just the ticket.

Find it at Wayfair

Hemispherical Dome Greenhouse

The hemispherical dome of this greenhouse means that your plants, veggies, and flowers are always getting the best the sun has to offer.

Find it at Wayfair

Mini Stand-Up Greenhouse

Easy to assemble, this mini stand up greenhouse has a sturdy, steel frame, and eliminates stooping as you tend to your seeds.

Find it at Wayfair

Small Lean-to Greenhouse

Don’t let this small frame fool you. The height of this lean-to greenhouse is tall enough to grow tomatoes or protect your hibiscus.

Find it at Amazon

Greenhouse Shed Project Plans

If you’re ambitious enough to build your own greenhouse, these are plans for a greenhouse that mirrors a charming cottage.

Find it at Etsy

There’s no question that growing your own plants and vegetables can be rewarding. For anyone living in a climate that prevents us from growing our favorite leafy greens year-round, greenhouses are a perfect alternative.

Admittedly, having an entire greenhouse isn’t necessarily feasible for many of us, as yard space is limited. This is where a small greenhouse can be an ideal solution. Even apartment and condo dwellers don’t need to miss out on the opportunity to get their tomatoes started before the last frost of spring. If you like to keep your garden growing all year, regardless of what the winter has in store, there is a way to do that without investing in a large greenhouse.

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