Many people are turning to greenhouses and even an indoor greenhouse garden to provide fresh vegetables and greens. With ever-increasing grocery store prices, it’s also a way to save money, especially for families. For those in colder climates with short growing seasons or those with limited space, having a large enough vegetable garden just isn’t practical.
With a proper greenhouse, you can have fresh produce all year round. You can have a greenhouse built or take advantage of a greenhouse kit and put it together yourself. But what if you’ve got a sizeable shed already? Is there a way to use part of the shed space as a greenhouse?
Yes, you can install an indoor greenhouse inside your shed. There are a few important considerations to think about, however. The reason many indoor greenhouses are built with plastic covers or cabinets is that your garden needs to be kept within a certain temperature range to produce, especially if you plan on growing produce year-round.
Another consideration is obviously light. While grow lights are available, and are included in many greenhouse cabinet models, natural sunlight will always be best. You can situate your shed greenhouse near a window, provided that you replace the window glass with acrylic sheets.
Regular window glass usually doesn’t allow enough light to enter the shed to make plants happy. To really provide good light, especially for a larger greenhouse, you may consider replacing some of the shed roofing with plexiglass panels that will let in sunlight. Some people even replace a side of their shed with these panels.
Are There Any Indoor Greenhouses Made for a Shed?
There are several kinds of indoor greenhouses made to be used inside homes or even apartments. Some of these consist of plastic tents formed over shelving units, while others are larger and shaped more like a regular greenhouse. Some are solid enclosed growing cabinets outfitted with lights. They’ll work just fine inside your shed as well. They are fairly easy to set up and can be moved if needed.
There are also greenhouses and greenhouse kits that are made to be added on to the side of your home or shed. These are more solid and look like what you may imagine as a greenhouse. Some kits take advantage of growing produce in a more vertical space rather than spread out as in a traditional garden.
There are other ways to grow produce indoors that utilize hydroponics, meaning that the produce is grown entirely with water infused with nutrients rather than in soil. This type of setup takes a bit of work to set up, but you can build your own hydroponic garden without spending a lot of money.
How to Choose an Indoor Greenhouse Cabinet
You’ll need to decide what plants you wish to grow and how many of each. This will help determine how large a cabinet you need to house the plants you want. Be sure to consider how tall and wide each plant will grow at maturity.
You might investigate any miniature varieties of plants or other forms the plants may take. For instance, some tomatoes grow on climbing vines, so you might have a few vines growing behind or beside your shelving for other plants.
Lighting is another consideration. If you can’t put plexiglass panels into your shed roof, you’ll need some kind of lighting system. Some cabinets come with lights. Others will allow you to add light bulbs or bars. While grow lights are certainly desirable, some sources state that 10-watt LED lights are sufficient as long as they are rated as full spectrum. Check out my article 4 Tips for Choosing a Solar Shed Light for ideas and tips on choosing a solar light for inside your shed.
Humidity is important. If your cabinet doesn’t come with a built-in hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels, they are fairly inexpensive to add. Choose one that you can mount inside the cabinet in a place that’s readily visible from the outside at a glance. Once your plants get too dry, it may be too late to save them, so regular monitoring can help a lot.
Along with the humidity comes the possibility of mold and fungus forming in the soil. Once your plants get root rot, it’s over for them. While some owners will add a fan to keep air circulating, others choose to open the cabinet doors for a certain period of time each day to allow air to circulate. Having a cabinet with perforated or wire shelving will aid in creating airflow.
With sheds especially, keeping the greenhouse warm enough is important, especially if you want green veggies all winter long. This is especially important if you plan to use the cabinet for early seed starting. Many people use heat mats, which are great for generating radiant heat, rather than a regular room heater.
In case you haven’t noticed, all the above-mentioned items take electricity to work. You’ll need to figure out how to run a power source to your shed if it isn’t already wired. You may need to go ahead and run electricity to your shed. Few people have yards that will allow a long power cord strung between the house and shed without it getting in the way.
Another solution may be a solar panel on top of the shed. The right-sized panel can power your lights, heat source and ventilation fan just fine without the hassle of running electrical conduits and getting permits just to power the greenhouse.
Is a DIY Indoor Greenhouse Worth the Work?
Most people who have built one seem to think it’s worth the work. Whether you start from scratch or convert some existing cabinet or shelving unit into a greenhouse, it really doesn’t cost very much.
While you will need some kind of power source and providing that can be a pain, having an indoor greenhouse means that your plants won’t be subject to insect damage or diseases spread by insects. You’ll save both money and work by not having to use pesticides or deterrents. Your plants also won’t be nibbled by rabbits, deer or other creatures.
Your indoor greenhouse setup doesn’t have to be a monumental undertaking. You may start small to test the waters to find out if this sort of thing is for you. You can even start with a small indoor set up inside your house so you can see just how much work you need to put in to care for the plants before wiring up your shed for a greenhouse. This will definitely give you a good idea as to whether it will all be worth your while.
What is the Best Indoor Greenhouse with Lights?
Almost everyone has heard of grow lights. Unless you can provide sufficient natural light to your indoor greenhouse, you’ll need some type of supplemental light, especially in winter. If you grow only greens in your setup, you may get away with using less light.
Foliage-only plants such as lettuce and kale need less light than those that produce seeds and fruits. In any case, grow lights provide a wider light spectrum than typical household bulbs. They come in different types nowadays.
The cheapest is the incandescent grow bulb. They don’t last more than around 1,000 hours, however. They also can get quite hot, and so must be kept away from the plants so that the plants near them don’t get burned or dry out.
Fluorescent bulbs are more expensive, but they can last ten times as long as an incandescent bulb. They also give off less heat. You may have heard of HID, or high-intensity discharge bulbs, which can last up to 24,000 hours. However, these need large fixtures and give off a lot of heat. They probably are not practical for a small greenhouse inside a shed.
Full-spectrum LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are the most expensive option, but they will provide the type of light your plants need and are the most energy-efficient choice. They also don’t produce so much heat. Since you want to optimize space usage inside your greenhouse, it would be a shame to waste space just to keep your hot bulbs far enough away from your plants.
How Much Can You Grow in a Small Indoor Greenhouse?
Much depends on what you want to grow. If you only want to grow an herb garden, you can grow a nice assortment in a small greenhouse. However, if your heart is set on having peppers and tomatoes, you’ll need at least a tall greenhouse to provide height for those vine tomatoes and some of those beans. In addition, you’ll need several plants of each kind of green you want so you always have sufficient leaves to pick for the daily salad.
Some greenhouses produce as much as 2.5 pounds of food per square foot per year. Of course, much depends on the kinds of plants you raise and how much space each needs. You can produce a lot more herbs and microgreens fit into a greenhouse than you can tomatoes or berries.
Does an Indoor Greenhouse Need Ventilation?
While most people are concerned about lighting, and that is an important consideration, adequate ventilation may be just as important. Ventilation will help regulate the temperature, distributing warm air from your heating source all around and keeping the plants from getting too hot. Your plants also need fresh air to produce their own food and nutrients.
Moving air also helps in pollination. If you’re growing anything besides greens, the plants will need pollination, and ventilation helps keep air moving to move the pollen around. The breeze will also encourage the plants to grow hardier stems and root systems that will support their produce better. Moving air also discourages mold and fungus formation.
Do I Need a Fan in an Indoor Greenhouse?
If your greenhouse has a vent system that allows hot air to escape on top and cooler, fresh air to get in, you may not need a fan, especially in the smaller greenhouses. However, you need to remember that the air in your closed shed will not circulate naturally as much as the outdoor air would. This means that natural circulation from a vent-only system will probably not provide sufficient circulation.
Your shed greenhouse will most likely need a fan. In addition, leaving your shed open for a while each day is necessary. Your plants need fresh air from outside, not stale air that’s been sitting in the closed shed for a week. Get more information on solar powered fans in my article Best Solar Powered Fan for Cooling a Shed.
How Do I Stop Condensation in My Indoor Greenhouse?
Condensation is a common problem in any greenhouse setup. If you see dew on the leaves of your plants, it means that your humidity is not being controlled properly. This will happen more often in warm weather, especially if your shed heats up during the summer and your air is humid. Too much humidity in the greenhouse will lead to mildew and blight diseases.
Once a fungal disease hits one plant, the fungus produces spores which are borne up in the humid air. Once this air hits the ceiling and the temperature cools, droplets will form, spilling fungal spores onto other plants. There are several ways to prevent or reduce condensation in your greenhouse, however.
Air circulation, as discussed before, is very important. Another method is to make sure your plants have adequate space between them. Plants crammed together allow air to be trapped between them and can stunt the growth of the plants as they cannot spread naturally.
Make sure your plant pots all drain adequately. A plant that has outgrown its pot often will have so many roots bound up in the pot that moisture won’t drain as it used to. Getting rid of moisture that gathers on the floor is important as well.
Water your plants early in the day, so that the moisture dries out during the day. Make sure you don’t use so much water that the drainage from the pots doesn’t cause large puddles on the floor. Water the soil, not the plant leaves.
Water on the leaves won’t help the plant, but evaporation will raise the humidity level. This means watering the plants on an individual basis rather than just spraying everything in the greenhouse. It may be a little more work, but it will pay off in the end.
Caring for an indoor greenhouse in your shed will mean more work, but so does an outside garden. At least your greenhouse won’t be subject to as many insect pests or animals sampling your produce before you can get to it. If you’re brand new to the concept, trying a small greenhouse inside your house first will tell you whether a shed greenhouse is really something you want to pursue.
Your in-home greenhouse can easily be moved to the shed later. There are plenty of lights, fans, and heaters just right for a greenhouse. Any good garden store can help you choose what you need for the size greenhouse you plan. Look into the options and see what’s available.