Right now—at the time of updating this article—it’s winter. January 13, 2019, to be exact. Once again, probably like you, we’re
drooling over pouring through all the seed catalogs to see what vegetables we might grow this coming growing season in our indoor greenhouse.
We’re in zone 7a, and it’s getting close to time to start setting up our seed flats indoors, so we’ve also rigged up an extra LED light system in our—rarely used—bathtub. #PlantLovers!
When it comes to choosing what vegetables to grow, it’s not always as simple as growing what you like to eat. Of course, that’s where you start, but there’s more than that to consider. For more on how to pick the right things to grow, this article explains the process.
The four level indoor greenhouse Santa delivered last year performed quite well.
3 Improvements Added to our Indoor Greenhouse
- We put two full spectrum fluorescents in the top two tiers and two full spectrum LED’s in the lower.
- The upper lights tend to put out more heat and, coupled with a heat mat, they’re great for germinating.
- The lower tiers with the cooler LED’s work well for plants as they grow taller, so as not to scorch them.
Contrary to many of the poor online reviews, our indoor greenhouse has held up quite well.
The clear plastic cover is a little hazed but the frame remains sturdy. After the spring starter season, the unit was placed out back on our “catch all” screened-in porch for several months.
We started using it again in November to grow cuttings of the longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens). Now it’s in the dining room. ?
That’s the update, as we head into 2019 with starting seeds in flats. The following write-up is a combination review and general how-to.
I’ve included a few other products we’re using that will enhance the seed starting and indoor propagation for the new season. After the review, we present a few creative ways to grow indoors without an indoor greenhouse as well.
4 Tier Indoor Greenhouse Review
So we got this U.S. Garden 4 Tier Greenhouse
I decided on this one particular indoor growing rack because:
- The reviews were decent.
- It had 4 shelves with room for lights above each shelf.
- It fit the space we had and could easily manage 10″ X 20″ seed trays on each tier.
- It looked sturdy.
The assembly was fast and easy, in part because I had the right tool: a plastic (non marring) mallet. But if you don’t have one, there are workarounds.
The fittings were quite tight, which is good, but I can see where some online reviewers got frustrated during the assembly if they didn’t have something to pound the tubes into the socket.
If you don’t have a plastic mallet, you could improvise with some other non metal objects such as a:
- short piece of 2 X 4
- regular hammer wrapped in cloth material secured by a rubber band
My Review of this Indoor Greenhouse
The Shelves, are flimsy but serviceable when seated on the sturdy tubing. I used small zip ties to keep them from shifting. Tape, string, or twist-ties could do the same trick.
The cover, as reviewed on-line, is “meh”. It’s seamed and has a two-zipper door. Tying the bottom to the frame caused a minor rip. No big deal but indicative of the general quality and care needed not to cause more damage.
The frame sockets are designed so that another tube (not included) could be run over the middle of each shelf. This would be quite handy for hanging grow-lights. I’d already engineered a system using small carabiners and wire for the bottom three shelves. However, the top shelf needed an extra overhead tube that could suspend a light. A rigid piece of 1/2 PEX PVC was slid into either end of a slightly wider diameter, shorter length metal tube and once extended into the sockets the joints were taped.
Our first resident in the new plant house was another gift from Green Santa whom we dubbed “Gnomeo”.
Hey, what’s a garden without a gnome..? Gnomeless..? ?
After adding two kinds of lights – a blue spectrum double and a 2ft 4-lamp T5 light-weight grow light – we set in four pots of longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) cuttings, to grow them, with plans to grow more. Loving that one!
Once we work up the seed flats we’ll add heating mats to give them a warm start.
Mobility: This little greenhouse is small enough to move around. I’d love it if it was on casters, but since it’s not, I placed stick-on furniture pads under each foot to make it easier to slide around without marring smooth floors.
Indoors use is best: When it comes to outdoor use, the flimsy covering probably won’t hold up.
This wonderful gift is one that shall keep on giving into this growing season and beyond. Here are some of our previously rigged setups for starting seeds indoors. They were fun to engineer but not nearly as practical or easy to manage.
Other Spaces to Grow Indoor Garden Plants
We are huge fans of longevity spinach (aka Gynura procombens), for it’s incredible health benefits.
Gynura is a semi-tropical vine that’s perennial in warmer zones where temps never drop below 50 degrees (F). Hence, we plant ours in grow bags or large containers for setting out during the warm season and bring them indoors when temps decline. We also rooted cuttings that did quite well. So well indeed that we had to make new spaces for them.
LED Grow Lights in our Bathtub!
One solution was to place the larger original plants in our corner bath tub. It gets a lot of light, is easily accessible, and we hardly ever use it in favor of our wonderful shower.
The natural light is supplemented by a full spectrum light system clamped to a tripod. The three four-inch round LED panels put out a lot of light. The plants seem to love it!
Another handy nook was discovered in our office. The “kneehole” under a desk that’s hardly ever sat at, offered a prime out of the way space and proximity to being monitored. A 2 foot full spectrum LED just fits and throws plenty of light to keep two flats growing.
These are just two instances of an indoor spot to get your plants started. Lighting can be turned on manually or run on a timer. It’s best to find a spot where it’s easy to check up on your green buddies. You know how it is…
?Gardeners are always looking for places to place a few more plants! ?
If you have anything to share about these or other indoor type greenhouses you are most welcome to post on our Facebook page or send us a message. We’d be glad to publish your experience and photos on this or other garden related topics.
Let’s keep on growing!
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson