YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

A FAMILY PROJECT : Build a Mini-Greenhouse for Kids

February 14, 1993|MARIA ROCK | Special To The Times

The Magical world of greenhouse growing is a wonderful way to introduce a child to the plant kingdom. There is nothing like the look on children's faces when they see the first seed they planted germinate.

When you use plants that eventually mature to fruit or flower for children's first garden experience, their curiosity opens a whole new world to them.

This mini-greenhouse design is an easy and fun garden project for children to build with an adult. There are no difficult angles to cut, no hinges and no glass to install.

The materials are relatively inexpensive (I even found ways to use some recycled materials), and the mini-greenhouse can be built with simple hand tools.

The greenhouse is small enough to fit anywhere -- the patio, front porch, kitchen or garage.

If adequate light is a problem, install a fluorescent light in the mini-greenhouse's top panel and you could even put it in the closet.

Despite its size, the mini-greenhouse does a mighty job of producing lots of plants.

You can start all kinds of vegetables and flowers for your outdoor garden and there are plenty of indoor plants that you and your little gardener can grow with great success.

Lots of houseplants can be snipped off and rooted with a liquid and/or dry rooting medium. Violets, pothos, creeping Charlie, coleus, geraniums, succulents, cacti, herbs, just to mention a few, are easy to find and to start in your mini-greenhouse.

Once they are rooted and new growth appears, you can transplant them to a larger pot or pretty container to place around the house.


Here's what you'll need:

* Five plywood panels: two for ends, two for side panels and one for the top. See dimensions on drawing.

* Frames: three sets 21-1/2-inches by 10-1/2-inches.

* Handle: two 8-inch strips, one 16-1/2-inch strip.

* Doors: eight 18-inch strips; two 19-inch strips.

Pre-cut lumber before you begin. Use a square to mark straight cuts and angles. There are five panels out of 3/4-inch plywood; the rest of the greenhouse is built from lengths of 1-by 2-inch strips.


1/4 sheet of 3/4-inch plywood

Side Panel: 19" x 5 1/2"

1/4 sheet of plywood: 24" x 48"

End panel:

Cut out from 19-1/2" x 16" panel

Side panel:

19" x 5 1/2"

End panel:

40 feet of 1-inch by 2-inch redwood or pine

2 sheet of 2-foot square clear 4 mil plastic

1 1/4-inch drywall screws. You will need 14.

1/4 pound of 3 penny galvanized nails

1/2 pound of 5 penny galvanized nails


Hand saw


Phillip screw driver

X-ACTO knife or scissors


1) First step is to build the floor. Lay the eight 18-inch strips on top of the two 19-inch strips, spacing the eight strips about one inch apart and making sure both ends are flush on the 19-inch strips. Check the floor to make sure it is not off kilter by using your square. Nail the strips together with 5-penny nails.


2) Nail the side panels on both sides of the floor and attach both end panels. Insert top and nail into the end panels.


3) Build your three frames toenail with 3-penny nails at an angle into the frame.

Build three sets: one for front, two for back and sandwich plastic between.

4) Assemble your handle on the top with the opening in the center of the two 8-inch strips and nail them to the top with about a 3/4-inch overlap on the end panel. Screw the 16-1/2-inch trip down onto the two 8-inch strips with two screws on each side of the handle. Note: This is a good time to paint or stain your unassembled mini-greenhouse.


5) Now construct the stationary back side of the mini-greenhouse roof. The top has a 3/4-inch overlap due to the handle that will line up with the 3/4-inch frame overlap. Nail the first frame to either of the greenhouse openings. Stretch and tack the plastic on this frame. Place another frame on top of this frame, secure this with four screws centered on each strip to hold the plastic in place. The screws will allow easy removal of the frame if the plastic tears and needs to be replaced.


6) Nail remaining frame to the front. Tack the plastic ONLY on the top rail of the front frame to create the flap door. Check that the plastic covers the opening and drapes down to your work table (you will have to trim the excess off). Use two or three screws to secure the 21 1/2-inch strips on top of the plastic, which is secured to the top rail of your front frame.

Carefully, space the two remaining 21 1/2-inch strips and sandwich the plastic between them and drive three screws into the top side of the strips. Position them on the plastic flap so they hang off the front frame to the middle of the side panel to close the flap door. Trim any excess plastic with your Exacto knife. The door can be rolled up or placed over the other side of the roof.

Your mini-greenhouse is finished.

* However, most children like to decorate things with their artwork. If your building crew would like to paint decorations on the finished mini-greenhouse, I suggest using the bottles of craft puffy paints. You squeeze the paint directly from the bottle on to the mini-greenhouse. They are easy to use and if you pencil the design on first the children can personalize their mini-greenhouse. If they make a mistake the paint can be wiped off easily before it dries.

Los Angeles Times Articles