How to Create Temporary and Easy Greenhouses with Storage Totes

How to Create Temporary and Easy Greenhouses with Storage Totes

If you haven’t started your seeds yet, now may be the time to do it! In just a few short weeks, it’ll be time to plant our starters in our gardens and start nurturing some beautiful plants that will provide us with delicious goodies! Unlike our last house, I actually have plenty of space to start our seeds – just not inside. And up until, well, pretty much today, it’s been too cold at night still to leave my seeds outside. So I had to get inventive!

Ikea Hack Greenhouse

To be completely honest here, I had every intention to start with a full-size greenhouse this year. Check out this beauty I was given! I set it up, posted the picture on Instagram and Facebook, and was met with Oooh’s and Ahhh’s of all of my friends. She’s beautiful, she’s roomy and step inside and it’s warm and wonderful. But she’s also a giant kite. I wondered about the anchors when I put it up, it’s less than our camping tent has, and well.. within a few hours of putting it up, she had flown away three times and was taken down and shoved in the shed… Not very productive for gardening, and had I started my seeds and put the pots in there – they would have been flung all over the lawn.  We could find a way to anchor it in, but for a temporary greenhouse to start plants – we didn’t want to create a huge project. So we toyed with building small pods to start seeds that could be stored between uses. Ideas are still being drawn up, and the ground is almost ready to be worked!

So I got impatient, I wanted my seeds started. I went into my office and grabbed two of my large Ikea totes that are clear plastic and dumped the items on the floor. I grabbed the seed starting pots I bought on clearance last year and sat out and filled them up with my organic seed starting soil. What’s the worst that could happen? The lid of each Ikea bin held 40 of the seed starting pots and I split up the seeds I wanted to grow into two different bins. I recently found another bin in the basement, so round 2 may have more seeds starting!

Once all of my seeds were in the soil, I watered the seeds and placed the bottom (now the top) of the tote over the lid. With a clay pot set on top for weight, just in case we had windy days I closed them up and walked away. I hoped this would work, I walked away and thought “well the worst that could happen is we wasted some heirloom seeds”. Then we had that last cold snap, I didn’t open the totes – I refused to. You see, these bad boys are sitting outside 24/7. I could start some seeds in the house – but with a kitten who loves playing in dirt and eating plants – I thought I’d take a chance with this outside.

And wouldn’t you know it – a few days later I checked on the totes, hoping to see something inside. I didn’t see any sprouts (remember some seeds take 21+ days to germinate), but I saw something that made me smile – condensation! Inside each bin you could see the heat and moisture building up – even when it was only 40 degrees outside. The bins turned into small greenhouses and used the sun each morning to warm up and created a false rain inside.

A week and a half later – it’s warm enough outside that I’m taking the lid off during the day while I’m at home. I place it on at night, but water it in between. And the early germinators? They’ve started sprouting! The totes take up a small spot on the edge of our patio, and I have left them out even when it was freezing temperature overnight. The plants are growing and so far have survived frost in Michigan – and soon we’ll have our plants started for the garden and ready to go in the ground we’re tilling this coming weekend!

These totes are a great way to start plants in a tight space, or if you don’t have a place to start them outside! It’s super easy to do too. And it’s actually, easy to forget they’re outside and they’ll still be fine (for a certain amount of time).

What you need to get started:

How to start your own:

  1. Place the starting pots in the inside of the lid of your storage tote. Fill your starting pots with your starting soil.
  2. Plants your seeds according to the package instructions.
  3. Water liberally. Place the bottom portion of the tote on top and place your heavy item on top.
  4. Wait – check on your totes every few days and add water as needed.
  5. After your plants are a couple inches tall, separate them into additional pots as needed and remove the top of your greenhouse as needed to begin hardening them off to the weather.
  6. Plant in the ground and enjoy!

This article originally appeared on Please consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Map and find your growing zones and approximate date for starting seeds. This will be 6 weeks before your last frost.

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