Hiram College

Most of us have an excess of stuff. Maybe your parents have a basement full of old containers and pet cages or a tool shed full of unused garden supplies. Even in a dorm room, you can usually find that drawer of odds and ends. What can we do with our mugs, old aquariums, or old plastic containers?

Over the winter break, I started turning them into tiny greenhouses for my townhouse. I worked as a gardener over the summer and I wanted to get an infusion of that summer cheer that you get from nurturing plants and eating fresh food.

As seen in the picture below, a greenhouse traps the sunlight coming in so that the plants have a warmer place to live. A greenhouse protects your plants from the draft of a windowsill , and keeps water cycling in the closed system. This means that   it can help plants survive on the cold windowsill of a room.

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Check out these simple mini  greenhouses made from junk I found in my mother’s basement and garage.

Pet Cage Greenhouses

I don’t know about your family, but mine has gone through a lot of pets over the years. It has left us with a pile of old cages in a corner of the basement. They just sit collecting dust, but my mom cannot bring herself to throw them away for fear of my brother coming home one day with a hamster named ‘Peanut III’.

Since we are currently a rodent-free household, I decided to put our unused cages to good use.  Pet cages are great materials to turn into greenhouses. Aquariums and gerbil cages are essentially ready-made, but even the bottom of a hamster cage can be used as a drip pan under a pot.

Aquarium Planter

Using an aquarium as a large planter is an easy way to start growing plants. You don’t need to purchase pots – just fill the aquarium with soil and cover the top with plastic wrap as detailed below.

*Note. Gerbil cages, although they look like aquariums, are not always waterproof or the glue can become toxic when it comes in contact with water (R.I.P. Pinchy the Crayfish). Please look at the inverted aquarium for gerbil cages.

Inverted Aquarium

Turning you aquarium or gerbil cage upside down is another easy way to make a windowsill greenhouse. You will need to grow your plants in a pot or other container. If you have a cover to your cage, place it on the windowsill. Put you plant pots on the cover as a guide to ensure that your plants will fit into your little greenhouse. Then put the aquarium upside down over your plants. This makes a great seal so don’t be surprised if you see condensation on the inside of the greenhouse or if your soil is warmer than the rest of your windowsill. This method also works with other containers, like an old pitcher (see pictures below).

Plastic containers

As much as we try, plastic seems to be everywhere so why not put it to good use? These greenhouse ideas are so simple anyone could do it!

Disposable plastic containers

For this method, I used an empty water bottle and an old tub of kitty litter, but you can use any old plastic container You will also need a knife, soil, and seed.Cut your plastic container in half, fill the bottom with soil, plant your seed, and replace the top. Put your little greenhouse in a sunny spot and water the plants regularly without flooding the soil.

Even though my vegetables are still growing, I did sample some beans (pictured above) that were pretty tasty!These greenhouses and planters in your dorm room can provide you with food, a great hobby,and a sense of satisfaction. They are a great addition to your small space.

To bring more vegetables healthy eating, and knowledge to the Hiram College campus about gardening, healthy eating, and community gardens, SEED Scholars had a build your own greenhouse workshop a few weeks ago and also helped lots of people make their own at the Earth Day Fair.  And now you can do it too!