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Greenhouse Hack for Starting Seeds for Your Garden

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Beth is a long-time gardener and former professional who loves to share her rescues and successes in the plant world.


How I Built a Mini Greenhouse With Everyday Items

I love using basic things in my home to accomplish what I need to complete a project. I'm at a time in my life where I am giving no longer needed items to my grown kids to declutter and simplify my home.

For the purpose of starting seeds to plant in my garden or in decorative pots, I was looking around for ideas to create a repurposed or reusable container. I've found it and would like to share with you how I'm using a underbed or gift wrap roll storage container, regular gardening items, and basic household and kitchen accessories to create my mini-greenhouse setup.

Seed Starting for My Flower Garden: Zinnias, Marigolds, and Petunias, Oh My!

Seed Starting for My Flower Garden: Zinnias, Marigolds, and Petunias, Oh My!

Supplies Needed

  • Lidded storage container
  • Plant trays
  • Seed starting ~or~ potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Water & watering can
  • Outside thermometer with an optional moisture meter
  • Optional: Heating pad for what I call "quick sprouting" (explained below) and regulating indoor overnight temperatures

Green Reusable Tools I Use

  • Spray bottle (formerly contained hairspray)
  • Plastic fork, perfectly size for digging in a small cell seeding tray
  • A plastic knife for tamping new plantings; Plastic knives are also good for labeling rows
  • Outside thermometer for checking temperature, and humidity if available
  • Tweezers or forceps
  • Plastic smooth-bottom bowl for selecting seeds for sowing
  • Small funnel for pouring seeds and returning unused seeds to the packet.
Suggested Tools You May Already Have for Tending Your Garden Transplants

Suggested Tools You May Already Have for Tending Your Garden Transplants

How to Set Up a DIY Tabletop Greenhouse

  1. Open storage container upside down or place the separated top on the surface.
  2. Try arranging trays to fit. Cut and remove some cells to fit if needed.
  3. Fill cells with soil. Tamp down and water until wet. Top off with more soil if needed and repeat watering. If soil or seed starter seems to float, I may leave until the next day and re-dampen the medium.
  4. Plant seeds according to packets. Mark rows or individual cells if more than one type of seed is planted. A few marking ideas are shown below.
  5. Add water to the tray so that it is at least 1/8" deep. It's important for seeds to stay wet instead of just damp for the first 24 hours to kick-start the rooting process. This also helps with many coated seeds.
  6. Cover, and proceed to "Quick Sprouting" below.

How to "Quick Sprout" Seeds

Supplies needed:

  • Heating pad
  • 2 Towels
  • and your covered mini greenhouse

Simple Instructions:

  • Place towel on tabletop or other desired location
  • Place greenhouse on top
  • Place heating pad on top greenhouse
  • Place other towel over heating pad entirely covering greenhouse
  • Set heating pad on lowest setting.
  • Leave covered and heating for 3 days.
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Read More From Dengarden

It really doesn't make sense that this supercharges seeds, but it does work for many plants.

This process does take a little follow-up to acclimate. For the first day, I suggest removing cover and heating pad to allow your new seedlings to adjust to the light. The second day, check for moisture and add water if needed. Then open the cover during daylight hours. Return to the regular schedule.

Watering Maintenance for Your New Greenhouse Plants

Test the moisture in the tray cells. If a finger pressed on the soil is:

  • Slightly damp, it's good.
  • Dry, water it.
  • Wet, drain tray if needed, and leave the top off to dry a bit ~or~ place outdoors in temperate weather.

Nighttime Schedule for Maintaining Greenhouse Seedlings

  • Indoors: At night, if indoor temperatures are expected to be less than 65-70 degrees, place heating pad set on the lowest temperature and cover with a towel. If temperatures are expected to between 65-70 just close cover and skip heating pad, but cover with a towel. Real plants appreciate evening darkness, too.
  • Outdoors: If you expect the temperature to be at least 65 degrees, your plants will love having a night out, but won't appreciate the stress of heavy due or rain yet due to immature fraility.

How to Maintain a Mini Greenhouse During Daytime Hours

During the day, if outdoor temperatures are expected to be above 60 and partly sunny, feel free to take your greenhouse outside, flip off the top, and let your little garden seedlings enjoy the natural sunshine. They will also appreciate windy breezes which makes their stalks stronger. If all day sun or higher temperatures are expected, try to find a place that will give some shade in the afternoon. New little plants will overcome heat wilting and sunburn, but those incidents will delay the process since recovery does make the plants work harder to fix themselves instead of growing.

Return to the house in the evening for temperatures below 65, and follow the nighttime process.

Have You Ever Tried Seed Starting Before the Growing Season?

More Garden Hacks Using Eco-friendly Green Tips

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 BWDuerr

Any Suggestions or Questions about this DIY Greenhouse Instruction? Please Post Here. Thanks for Stopping By!

RTalloni on May 20, 2016:

Thanks for sharing your ideas and method to quick sprout seeds. I've waited too long to try starting some gloriosa lily seeds and this may get me some blooms this summer. :)

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