Start This Year's Garden in a Sunny Patio Greenhouse

by dustytoes

Last year I bought a small, affordable, greenhouse to use on my deck to start plants for the garden, and it turned out to be more useful than I thought.

I live in the northeastern United States where sunlight can be elusive even in early springtime. After a long, cold and snowy winter, gardeners are chomping at the bit to get digging and planting. The growing season is very short where I live, starting seeds early is a must. By the time the ground warms up enough it will be close to June 1st.

Starting seeds inside on a windowsill is not an option for me. My house is surrounded by very tall trees. I used to attempt to start vegetables indoors by moving my trays of little pots around all day to catch any rays of light I could find. That was ridiculous and time consuming, and then most of the seeds wouldn't do all that well anyway.

When I discovered this inexpensive, mini patio greenhouse I had to give it a try. I am so happy with it that I am sharing my success (with pictures) on this page.

Start Seedlings in an Inexpensive Mini Greenhouse

When sun and warmth are a problem in Spring, set the pots in a sheltered greenhouse in the yard.

seed tray with name stakesAs is true for many of us living in the northern climate, finding enough sun and warmth for starting seedlings can be a problem. They simply won't grow in front of a window when the temperature indoors is still chilly, and no sunlight reaches inside.

Another problem with starting seeds indoors is the lack of space. Those seed trays can end up on every available table, and they can be messy.

In 2012 I came across this affordable, patio greenhouse which was advertised online.  With four shelves and a plastic cover, it seemed like the perfect solution to my plant growing problems.   And I liked the fact that it was lightweight and portable.  If it didn't work out, I had little to lose, as it was inexpensive.

Gardman 4-Tier Mini Patio Greenhouse

This is the one I bought. Scroll down to see the newer version with a reinforced cover.
Gardman R687 4-Tier Mini Greenhouse
$59.99  $26.77

Assemble and Cover and It's Ready to Fill

This is similar to the greenhouse I purchased from the Amazon site.  This one includes a "fleece cover" for very cold weather, which I didn't get.

Once it arrived, I left it in the box until Spring and then assembled it to use on my small deck.  The bars just all slide into each other and I did it by myself.  I tapped on the ends with a hammer to secure the shelves to the sides.  The plastic is all one piece that sets over the frame.  The "door" zips closed and is held open with a tie once you roll it up.

The plastic covering keeps the inside nice and warm, even on cold days with sun - as any greenhouse would do.  It could be used indoors, but there is no bottom, so be aware that water must be caught somehow.

Starting Seedlings in my mini greenhouse

The flap is held open with a tie, and can be closed with zippers on the sides.

greenhouse flap tied up to openI placed the mini-greenhouse on the corner of my small deck in the backyard. It was the perfect sunny spot and the plastic kept the inside warm enough in the cold Spring temperatures.

I ended up moving it to the corner near the house, until I got it filled, because strong winds can knock it over. Either attach it somehow to the railing, or move it when storm comes because it can tip over. The plastic catches the wind and without a lot of weight inside, it will make a mess of all your hard work.

As I filled it with plants from the nursery, I kept my heaviest pots at the bottom, with seed trays on top. During the day, I would unload the pots and set them around my deck so all the plants could get plenty of sun.

My plants could get more sun out of the greenhouse during the day.

Marigolds, tomatoes and basil sunning on the deck.
Marigolds, tomatoes and basil sunning on the deck.
Author's photo

Tall Plants on Top, Heavy on Bottom

Everything I bought for my garden stayed in this greenhouse until June when I put them in the ground.

tall cosmos on top shelfIf you are wise with the placement of everything you grow, you shouldn't have problems with the shelves collapsing, or the unit tipping over.  The tallest plants can end up on the top shelf.  In my photo here, I have cosmos up there, and I loved the fact that there was plenty of room.  The top shelf is also a good place for starting seeds as it gets the most sun.  With the protection from the wind, and the greenhouse warming effect, I did manage to actually start my crops from seed!

I combined nursery started seedlings with my own planted seeds and the greenhouse was a great place to store them until the ground warmed up and planting time had come.

I never brought any of these plants inside and they all survived the cold nights.  June 1st is our last frost date, so temps can get pretty low overnight in Spring.

Doe it stand the test of time?

I've had my patio greenhouse for 4 years now.  I bring it out in Spring and put it on the deck.  It stays outside until I need it in late summer to dry my garlic bulbs.  After that I move it to the basement for the winter months.

Recently I wanted to take it apart and pack it for a move, but I noticed that the plastic at the top along the black bars was ripping as I tried to remove it.  After searching Amazon I found that replacement tops / plastic can be ordered.  I also came across the same greenhouse with a reinforced top.

Perhaps the newer type cover will hold up longer?

I ended up leaving my unit set up, and will either leave it here when I move, or give it away.  Disassembling will only tear the plastic more.

A Gardman Greenhouse with Reinforced cover

A better cover? Maybe.
Gardman 7610 4-Tier Greenhouse with Reinforced Cover, 18" Long x 27...

Starting Plants From Seed

What I grew in my patio greenhouse.

tomatoes, lettuce in potsMy yard is not very large, so my vegetable garden is small, but there are a few plants I grow every year.  Because I had a warm greenhouse to start seeds, I bought dirt and little grow trays and planted cucumber and zucchini squash seeds.  I also grew lettuce in a larger pot (it's on the bottom shelf).   

The cosmos and aster seeds also grew.  I believe you could grown just about anything, and gardeners with large garden plots may need more than one of these units.

The tomatoes, basil and marigolds I had purchased locally, and they thrived.  I found that even if I didn't want to grow from seeds, I could buy local veggie plants, before they were all picked over, and keep them healthy and growing as I waited for planting time.


More Uses for the Greenhouse

Dry garlic bulbs on the airy wire shelves, or use the empty structure to store pots and gardening tools over winter.

garlic drying in the greenhouseThanks to the fact that my plants were sheltered for the month or so leading up to planting time, I had a successful vegetable garden, and loads of flowering plants as well, but I wasn't finished using the greenhouse.

I moved it off the deck once everything was planted in the ground, but kept it outside, near the back of the house.  I even used the greenhouse shelves to hang and dry my garlic bulbs. This sheltered spot helped the garlic bulbs to dry, while remaining out of the rain.

The greenhouse can be moved without taking it apart and it's wire shelves make a great place to store empty pots and other items out of season.  

Updated: 03/15/2016, dustytoes
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Share your gardening experiences here.

dustytoes on 05/27/2015

Mushroom growing has always interested me, but soon I will be moving to a place where there are no basements.
Your allotment is quite lovely, and I enjoy your gardening articles.

frankbeswick on 05/27/2015

I enjoyed this article. Where our houses are concerned, Dustytoes, we are in a similar position. At home I have only a yard [though I have an allotment]. In my yard I have a small greenhouse similar to yours. What I find is that my yard is well placed against wind and is a sun trap, so it is good for the greenhouse and my potted plants. Sadly I don't have a basement. If I did it would be used for mushrooms.

dustytoes on 05/26/2015

My garlic is growing in my fabric raised beds and is doing great. I will use this greenhouse again to let it dry. In Fall I carry the whole greenhouse down into the basement, so I never have to disassemble it.

Marie on 05/26/2015

I've been looking at this exact product as I'm just getting into gardening. A small greenhouse like this looks ideal for a newbie like me as well as for more experienced growers. I love how you use it to dry garlic bulbs too. Very versatile.

sheilamarie on 02/10/2015

I really need to set up a greenhouse this year. This sounds like a good idea.

dustytoes on 01/09/2014

Thank you for reading it!

Guest on 01/09/2014

This is such a great idea for anyone; doesn't matter where they live....I love flowers and my Mom had a green thumb. I am not as good as she was but love the look of fresh flowers blooming from the earth that God made.
Thank you for the post.

dustytoes on 01/08/2014

Thanks for reading MonisMas.

MonisMas on 01/08/2014

That's so cool! And creative!

dustytoes on 01/03/2014

@Ologsinquito thanks for the pin!
@Mike - I planted little bulbs of garlic in Fall. They never get very large, but I do use them. I will be trying to grow more of a variety from seed this year, but I didn't know you could grown garlic from seeds.
@Kathleen - thanks, I love my little deck too.
@ Abby, you don't sound like a gung-ho gardener! ;)

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