Far too many times, I see unused mini-greenhouses sitting in backyards and farms. These once-promising structures are now home to millions of red imported fire ants, rats, and even the occasional snake. They sit vacant for years until they are torn down and thrown away. The temperature inside mini-greenhouses is extremely difficult to regulate and oftentimes harms transplants. If you are trying to grow transplants, be it vegetables or flowers, then the perfect solution exists at your local hardware store.
I did some internet research on homemade grow lights and decided to give it a try. I purchased a few shop lights, bulbs, timer, chain, “S” hooks, and some 2X4’s and made a really incredible transplant producer. For around $75 bucks and around 15 square feet of space, I created a “transplant producing machine” capable of producing up to 512 transplants at any one given time; that my friends are enough plants for a big garden, small farm, or a neighborhood plant swapping party. I start seed with 128-cell trays and can get up to 4 trays under the lights all at one time. After about 3-5 weeks, depending on the crop, I seed up another 4 trays for my second planting that season.
So, let’s do some quick math. Mini greenhouses range from $250-500, and as mentioned, don’t really work all that well. Transplants purchased from the store are usually $4 per 6-cell pack, and you are limited by the varieties and when you can buy them. If you are only growing a few plants each year, then your best bet may be to purchase store-bought plants. If you plan to buy more than 19 cell packs over a decade or so, then creating a “transplant producing machine” might be a good investment.
For more information on seed starting, see HGIC 1259, Starting Seeds Indoors.