What Is A Mini Greenhouse: Information And Plants For Mini Greenhouses
By: Kristi Waterworth
Gardeners are always looking for new ways to extend the growing season and make their plant experiments that much more successful. Many turn to mini greenhouse gardening when they need to create a specific microclimate or lack the space required for a larger, more permanent greenhouse structure. You can purchase mini greenhouse kits from nurseries and catalogs, or build your own mini greenhouse from basic materials, depending on your specific needs and budget.
What is a Mini Greenhouse?
A mini greenhouse is a generic term that encompasses a wide variety of professional and homemade designs. Mini greenhouses can be tall or short, but generally take up less than about 10 square feet (3 m.) of ground or floor space. Many gardeners use them in place of cold frames to start seedlings earlier than normal for their area, or indoors to propagate plants that need high humidity.
Commercial mini greenhouses are usually constructed of metal or plastic pipe, with between one and three shelves stacked one atop the other. The pipe frame is fitted with a plastic cover containing a door that unzips to allow the grower access to their plants. Homemade mini greenhouses may be as simple as a greenhouse flat fitted with a makeshift wire frame, pushed into a turkey bag and sealed tightly.
How to Use a Mini Greenhouse
Mini greenhouses aren’t designed for every type of gardening task, but for those things they’re good at, they’re very handy indeed. Seed starting is one of the greatest strengths of mini greenhouses, especially if you use one with a single shelf. Multiple shelf units must be placed in an ideal location in order to prevent shading the seedlings you’re trying to grow. They’re also extremely useful when you want to clone plants that are already in your landscape – the plastic covers will trap humidity, making it more likely that a cutting or graft takes successfully.
These small structures require a great deal more care than a standard greenhouse though, since heat and high levels of humidity can build rapidly. Monitor temperatures closely, especially if your mini greenhouse is outdoors and watch the humidity levels. Humidity is great for many plants, but it can lead to fungal disease and root rots as well.
Plants for mini greenhouses aren’t limited to full sun annuals or easy to start veggies. If you create the right microclimate inside your mini greenhouse, you can grow nearly anything. Annuals, vegetables and fruits are only the beginning – as you get better at controlling conditions, try adding mini greenhouses for orchids, cacti or even carnivorous plants. Your efforts will be rewarded with gorgeous blooms that few growers ever get to experience.
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How to Propagate Seeds With a Mini Greenhouse & Heating Mat
An afternoon or two of puttering among the clutter of seed-starting -- plastic flats and pots, bags of seed-starting mix and brightly colored envelopes of seed -- is one of the joys of late winter when you're eager to get your hands back in the soil. All that effort and potential can be wasted though if the seeds don't have the conditions they need to germinate. A heating mat, often called a propagation mat, is a thin, waterproof plastic mat set with electric warming cables and usually the same size as a standard garden flat. When combined with a mini greenhouse to help the seeding medium retain moisture, you vastly improve your success germinating seeds that require warm, moist soil to sprout.
Fill sterile flats or pots with moist seed-starting mix.
Research your seed varieties to determine which types require heat to germinate. Some perennials and shrubs, like hardy geraniums or daphnes for example, germinate best in soil that is only 50 degrees Fahrenheit and wouldn't need the help of a propagation mat to sprout. Sun-loving vegetables and annual flowers, like peppers, melons and zinnias, need a soil temperature of about 85 F for best germination. Start seeds with similar temperature requirements and time to germinate in the same flat, according to their individual seed-depth requirements at the appropriate time.
Place a waterproof propagation mat directly under a containerized mini greenhouse, like a flat with a domed lid or a storage tote. The mat can go inside a frame-style mini greenhouse, like a simple box topped with a pane of glass or plastic sheeting or a small structure with a glass or plastic hinged lid that allows easy access to the seedlings. Allow for a notch at the edge of the frame so the cord for the propagation mat does not keep the lid ajar.
Water the seed trays well and put the greenhouse lid in place.
Set the thermostat on the propagation mat to the appropriate temperature. For propagation mats with no thermostat, lay a thermometer on the top of the flat to gauge temperature.
Turn off the propagation mat for six to eight hours overnight or plug the mat into a timer. Allowing the seedlings to cool slightly overnight mimics outdoor conditions.
Remove domes, plastic or glass lids or open greenhouse ventilation doors as soon as seeds sprout.
Remove propagation mats as well. Seedlings generally prefer to grow at cooler temperatures than that at which they germinate.
Why a Mini Greenhouse?
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Obviously, a full-scale greenhouse isn’t very practical for hobby gardeners. It’s way out of my budget, and I don’t have the space for it.
Your local garden center probably offers portable greenhouses. But these can be quite pricey, and they’re one-size-fits-all. It might not fit on your balcony or your little bit of lawn.
But what about a DIY mini greenhouse?
There are many ideas on the Web to pick from. Don’t worry if you’re not a carpenter or handyperson: many of these are simple enough to build with your kids.
That way, you can use whatever materials you have on hand for a solution that’s perfect for your needs, budget, space, and plants.
Below are a few genius ideas for you to try. Remember that these are just a few guidelines: let your imagination inspire you.
A Wooden mini greenhouse can be adapted to any size and need. For building this, measure the space where you are going to place your greenhouse. Once the measurement is taken, cut the wooden boards according to measured length and make the frame of your greenhouse by fixing wooden boards on right place using nails. After you have made the frame, paint it and let it dry. In the step cover and arrange the plastic sheets over the structure. Also, make sure you make the top area operable by fixing it with hinges so that you can take plants in and out easily.
These Mini Greenhouses Are Perfect for Even the Tiniest Backyards
Take your garden to the next level year-round.
Greenhouses are an avid gardener's dream. They allow you to tend to your beloved garden year-round and ensure that your plant babies are growing at the right temperature and humidity level. However, aside from being costly, greenhouses typically take up a lot of room—which requires that a homeowner have a generous amount of yard space.
Not having a massive backyard shouldn't keep you from having a space to care for your plants year-round, though, which is why mini greenhouses are a gardening trend we can totally get behind. As you can imagine, a mini greenhouse is less costly than a full-size one and is much more conducive for smaller yards. A smaller greenhouse feels more manageable, too, for beginning gardeners. The product description for one mini greenhouse from Target notes that the freestanding design allows for easy placement and assembly, which means you'd also be saving on professional installation.
Retro Upcycled Tabletop Greenhouse
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Give a thrift store find from the 90s a total upgrade with this Retro Upcycled Tabletop Greenhouse. This DIY mini greenhouse is made from an old floppy disk holder and uses small jiffy pots to hold your seedlings. You can decorate your greenhouse by spray painting it the color of your choice and adding charming floral designs with stencils. This mini garden project is ideal for small spaces like apartments and is an excellent seed starting option for spring. Add some greenery to your living space with this easy greenhouse idea!
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