DIY: How to Make an Indoor Greenhouse – The Bohemian Kitchen

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In a previous post, I complained that certain plants weren’t growing well. These were tropical plants grown from grocery store seeds, suffering in my Canadian apartment that receives very little light all winter. Not wanting to stop my experiments, I figured that I should build an indoor greenhouse. It seemed like an easy enough project that could solve my problem, so I put one together.

So far it seems to be helping. I grew another tamarind plant, this time more successfully than the first. Here was my first attempt, which some of you may remember:

Aww, it’s so cute right? Unfortunately, it never grew any bigger than what you see here, and it died for who knows what reason. But now I have another tamarind seedling that’s growing.

And as you can see, it has grown much taller than the first one. I’ve also got seeds started for this summer’s garden and they’re doing well.

My greenhouse is very basic. It is small enough to fit in my one-bedroom apartment, with just enough space to start seedlings for the spring and grow a few grocery store plants. I figure that I can always fix it up later if I want something more elaborate. I’m not sure how large or professional looking anyone else may want their greenhouses to be, since that depends on how much space you have and how much time and money you are willing to put into it. For that reason, consider the following instructions to be a set of guidelines rather than solid rules.



  • ventilated shelving
  • 1 plug-in light fixture with two light tubes (per shelf)
  • plug-in timer
  • plant trays

STEP 1: Choose your shelving

Whatever you choose should allow for air flow because plant leaves are constantly exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. A structure with an open back and sides is good, such as a wooden or plastic storage shelving. I prefer wood because I was able to nail the light fixture into it. If you’re going to use plastic or metal shelves, you may want to look at the lights you are buying first to make sure they can be easily attached to the shelving unit with hooks. Shop lights have hanging hooks but other lights might not. Depending on how big you want to go, it’s also possible to  make a greenhouse from a pallet.

STEP 2: Choose your light source

You’ll need to choose either fluorescent lights or full-spectrum plant lamps. These come in different sizes starting from 24″, and usually they can be linked together. You need two light tubes per shelf. If you can’t find a double tube light fixture, two singles will work. Choose either soft or cool white florescent light tubes. Keep in mind that whatever you choose needs to have a power plug, as opposed to the type of light that gets wired directly into the wall.

Fluorescent vs Full Spectrum:

Fluorescents emit mostly blue light rays, making them a good choice for starting seedlings. They are usually cheap and easy to find in stores. As plants mature, they also need red light to grow and flower properly. Full spectrum lamps have the proper amount of red light, which is why they are recommended. I’ve heard that full spectrum lamps are better, but I’ve also heard that fluorescents are just as good. I won’t tell you which type to go with, since I don’t know which is best. I went with a full-spectrum lamp since it happened to be the same price.

STEP 3: Put it all together

Attach the lights to each shelf. Connect them to each other with plugs if using more than one light unit. There’s only one plug on the timer and we want all of the lights to go on at once.

Plug the lights into the timer and plug the timer into the wall. If necessary, the timer can be plugged into an extension cord which is what I did with mine.

Add plant trays and plants to the shelves. Set up the timer for however long you want (I set mine to start at 9am and shut off around 7pm.)


I’m really happy with how it turned out. I can finally try to grow almonds and maybe some cumin plants without worrying about them dying. I also learned cool things about plants while doing the research for this project. I never used to know that plants are affected by different coloured light waves, although it makes sense now that I think of it.

Has anyone else made their own greenhouse?