Introduction: Ghetto Greenhouse:Seed Starter

Picture of Ghetto Greenhouse:Seed Starter
If you want to start a garden one of the cheapest ways to do so is to start your own plants from seeds. You can go out and buy a mini-greenhouse but why do it when you can make one. All you need is a plastic container (I'll use a soda bottle) some potting soil, and some seeds. The seeds you can buy or collect it doesn't matter. You can watch the video below on how to make a ghetto greenhouse, or you can skip below to the text and images. 

You don't need to use grow lights with this method either as we'll take advantage of the free light the sun provides. It's a really easy and cheap way to start plants for a garden that's either there for your enjoyment or for growing your own food.

After you've grown your seeds you can use it to beautify your home, or do some guerrilla gardening, donate them to charity or sell your plants for raise money for your favorite cause.

Who doesn't love plants?

(that was rhetorical)

You can see more stuff on one of my blogs.

You can also check out this as the seed starterseed starter blog entry. Check out the comments section for a couple of cool links to other people using this method.

Step 1: Get Your Tools Ready.

Picture of Get Your Tools Ready.

In this example I used a soda bottle but you can use anything around your house. It's a good way of recycling plastics. You need scissors, a soda bottle, soil, and seeds. The seeds you can buy or save the seeds from foods you eat and give them a try.

Step 2: Getting Your Ghetto Greenhouse Ready

Picture of Getting Your Ghetto Greenhouse Ready

Once you've cut your soda bottle in half make some holes in the bottom so that water for drainage. I take my scissors and just punch a hole in the bottom. You can use a screw driver or a soldering gun or a heated object that will melt plastic.

Step 3: Assemble Your Ghetto Greenhouse

Picture of Assemble Your Ghetto Greenhouse

After you have made your drainage holes in the bottom of your soda bottle. Cut some slits into the side about an inch long. Then fill with about four inches of soil. If you bought your seeds follow the directions on the seed packet so seed preparation and soil depth planting. Otherwise Google "seed germination database" to find instructions for your particular seeds. Now water your seeds by either gently pouring water in or sitting the container in water.

Once you've done that you can assemble your greenhouse by sliding the top on (hope you remembered the slits) and pushing it down tightly.

Step 4: The End Result

Picture of The End Result

Once you've watered and assembled your Ghetto Greenhouse it's time to put it in the right location. I place them outside in the back yard in a very sunny spot and let them get rained on so I don't have to water as much I just make sure to check that they're not drying out or staying too soggy.

This is how I start all my seeds that require a cold dormant period (called stratification) and when the weather warms up it is how I start my seeds that don't require cold to germinate. You can also place them inside in a sunny window if you don't have yard space or you're trying to grow something like Citrus seeds in the middle of winter.

Once my seedlings have emerged I'll take the top off for about an hour a day for a week to get them used to the outside world. Then I'll plant them in containers or in the ground or I'll pot them up and share with friends and neighbors anything I have extras of.

This method can be used to start off anything from Perennials, to Annuals, to Edibles. You can even use this if you're growing under light indoors. Take your seedlings and grow a beautiful garden or plant up that ugly empty lot down the street for you. If you can't bake to save your life, consider a plant sale to raise money for your charity. You can find seeds really cheap in a lot of places like garden centers and even big box stores, like that place everyone hates. Or save the seeds from the foods you buy from your organic store and grow your own tomatoes, onions etc. And it won't cost you an arm and a leg to buy a seed starter and you'll save money buy growing your own.

Questions, comments, feel free to ask.


Swansong (author)2017-10-06

These would be great to stick in the kitchen window :)

parisusa (author)2016-03-11

So much arguing! Goodness. Great simple idea. Love it. Calm down people.

princessbunnyrooroo (author)2009-03-19

HEIRLOOM SEEDS PEOPLE!!!!!!! Don't use seeds from any store bought fruit- even organic. Most are hybrids, which (can be organic- as it's done by cross-pollination, not gene splicing) will not be the fruit or vegetable you ate. Another reason not to use seed from store bought produce is that certain varieties tend to grow better in certain locales, or different regions. Even an organic tomato you buy may be shipped in from California. So a Kentucky gardener would not have much luck -the produce would be much more voulnerable to insect, viral & bacterial attack. Justinicus was correct - gene altered seed is being forced on American farmers. It is also given away to poor countries (some have laws that say you can't even save your own seed-farmer or not), who will soon have no agricultural plants to save seed from. WHAT YOU CAN DO Purchase, grow and save & share heirloom seeds. These are strains that do come true from seed, so you can save seed from what you've grown. AND / OR find a local seed saver group (know as seed banks)- many are sprouting up daily. On line there are several very good ones. You can even start your own. If we don't protect our heirloom seeds - some very large conglomerate will proffit from, own, and control all seed. It's bad folks - look into it. It's bad.Very Bad

Just want to thank you Lucek for standing up against ignorance. Even 6 years later!

To the OP thank you for sharing this awesome design. I have raised many successful seedlings this way and hope everyone else can enjoy quality results as well.

you can claim so but what do you really know. this is like how people freaked out about trans fats when they are chemically identical to saturated fats. or claims that corn sugar isn't broken down the same way in the body as cane sugar.

well-it's been 2 years now, have you looked up this topic yet?
or is your head still buried in the sand?
notice that no one shares your view?

OK. Do you want to review what you said there?
"well-it's been 2 years now, have you looked up this topic yet? "
Begging the question.
"or is your head still buried in the sand?"
Ad hominym"
"notice that no one shares your view?"
Argumentum ad populum.

Heirloom seeds are just hype same with organic farming. Neither are safer. Neither are better for you, and in many cases they're actually worse for you, IE carrots (many heirloom varieties have much less betakaroten). And in blind taste tests there is no noticeable pattern between heirloom, organic, and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

In other words you are the one who needs to open you're mind.

generator (author)lucek2012-03-24

i disagree, i've found organic produce to taste waaaay better. and ive even seen studies that organic produce contains more nutrients (which would explain the better flavor). heres a summary of one study finding:

aside from taste or quality, its important to protect the diversity of our produce, its a better idea to grow unique vegetables, like herlooms, just to keep the strains going. monopolizing produce strains could be detrimental to our food source (potato famine)

at any rate, sweet instructable, i'm gonna use this idea. thanks!

lucek (author)generator2012-03-24

The subjective experience is worthless. Organic produce in blind taste test don't fare any better then conventional grow, and Multiple scientific studies find that conventional grow produce have more not less nutrients.

ihvpave (author)lucek2012-03-30


There is validity to what princessbunnyrooroo is saying: hybrids often don't reproduce, due to shifts in the genetic code. Further, many companies hold patents on their hybrids making it illegal to attempt to harvest seed, regardless. My local nursery has many, many plants whose hang-tags specify home propagation is illegal, for example, and Monsanto has been suing people for saving seed.

Beyond those bits, there are zones for which growing seasons and climates vary wildly, making some seed-starting projects doomed to failure before beginning, and others that might be considered invasive or foreign to your particular area (example: I grew up a few hours from my current location - and one of my favourite plants from home (lantana, if you're interested) was a perennial there and struggles where I am now, because the climate is not right).

Plants are very strong-willed! *laugh*

lucek (author)ihvpave2012-03-30

Crossing 2 hybrids results in a random assortment of their parents genes. Not all will be good not all will be bad. Crossing 2 hybrid plants will result in a random assortment of their parents genes, not all will be good not all will be bad. I understand genetics. What princessbunnyrooroo is talking is mysticism.

Now companies can patent what they do, a strain of plants, a posses, they can't however patent a gene that exists in nature. Again we're talking hype. It's not illegal to plant a store bought fruit's seed.

I have Luffa seeds from plants that I grew myself. How do I share them with a seed bank? I also have home-grown Job's Tears seeds that I'm willing to share, but can't seem to find a seed bank in my area thanks, robyn

ReneeH9 (author)2015-08-23

Mr.Brown thumb, I was saying this morning how I wanted to save seeds and do starts. But if you can't find a simple greenhouse for you circumstances you will not follow through. Then I watched you , you gave me happiness to the next spring to be able to get green growing results. Right x right place thanks

charlessenf-gm (author)2015-03-22

Thank you for sharing another good idea

Akin Yildiz (author)2014-07-09

very nice stuff.. although not everyone may have the luxury of direct sunlight. i live in an apartment but that shouldn't stop us..! check out the life seeder, for fast and steady early sprouting.

R0UNDEYEZ (author)2009-10-30

Great idea!! that is one big thing I love about this site, the way people will reuse the things they have around their house (trailer park? GHETTO?! haha) in incredibly clever ways.

DIY-Guy (author)R0UNDEYEZ2013-02-04

"Ghetto-_______" in this context begins to assume the good and hard working connotations of the phrases "Pioneer spirit", "Yankee ingenuity", and other phrases used by the generations previous to ours. I'm rethinking the term ghetto-ANYTHING now. Except for the phrase ghetto-blaster which still rubs me the wrong way. Thanks RoundEyez.

chanara (author)2011-10-10

The reason I clicked on this link over other links is because it used the word 'ghetto' I thought, ah, someone young who'll probably talk my lingo. Offended? not I.

jholcomb-1 (author)2011-05-15

What a way to change the world. Make a greenhouse out of 2 liter. Start a community debate. My grandmother used to make these so birds would not eat the seeds.

pinkie131 (author)2009-10-11

i use soldering iron. switch the soldering iron tip to exacto knife to cut bottles clean.

kwoodham (author)pinkie1312011-04-01

That's a genius idea, I've got the perfect project to put that to use on. Thanks for the tip!

Ronyon (author)2011-02-22

Love the Instructible, I will be using some of the principles when I do my dearth box style planters this year.
As a side note, I grew using the term jerry rigged,to describe ingenious use of minimal materials to create a needed item.
I picked it up from Tom Swift Jr. novels that where dated when I read them.
It was not used pejoratively, in fact the ability to do much with little was presented as a skill to be admired.
Much later in life I became an industrial electrician, and became acquainted with the terms Afro-Engineering and N!gger-Rigging.
Being born into the 70's and Black, I was not unaware of racial slurs, but,hadn't heard these particular ones.
The Afro -Engineering term was used pointedly, repeatedly,with intent to harm. The N!gger Rigging term was used in an off handed manner, the user was immediately ashamed and apologetic and embarrassed.
One of these men I was able to trust to have my back, despite the differences in our back ground.Guess which one?

I say this to suggest that we not look for offense when none is intended.For example, It was only after decades of use that I became aware of one possible etomology of the term Jerry-Rigged entered my awareness.
Wiki says it better than I:
"The folk etymology is that "Jerry-rigged" was employed by World War II British troops to refer to the German use of scavenged parts to keep vehicles and weapons functional, from the use of "Jerry" as a pejorative term for German soldier"

Huh.Mind you I have been born and raised in a city that claimes to have the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany, but of even so Germans in Cincinnati don't think about their German heritage everyday.
After all, their forefathers had the German crushed out of them.
Again Wiki says it better, but just a link this time:

Do I still use Jerry Rigged?
Yeah.No one seems to mind, and frankly, I feel a kinship with this idea of a minority population struggling to do more with less.
That is a skill to be proud of.So even though I didn't grow up in ghetto of any kind, I cherish this one positive connotation of the word, and practice it every chance I get.

MrBrownThumb (author)Ronyon2011-03-27

Thanks for your comment. It landed in my inbox a while ago but I forgot to longin and reply. Anyway, I appreciate the thought that went into it. I had no idea about the history of jerr rigged.

It is fascinating how words can shift and have different meanings. For example, one uncle visiting from California kept using "Mickey Mouse Job" as a way to describe shoddy construction/ home remodeling attempts. I didn't think much of it, just figured it was a verbal tick. Then I went to visit family in California last summer and learned that just about all of them refer to cheap/poor construction as a "Mickey Mouse Jobs." How did the name of a cartoon character become a description for bad craftsmanship? Who know.

ibuddah (author)2010-09-22

It is just a word Ghettover it!.

Keep on posting and remember your right to freedom of speech.

Good job!

xhellabentx (author)2010-05-29

i didn't think  it was cute or funny i thought it was right on in fact you dont let anyone tell you how to speak if they have a problem its THEIR problem. I'm not African American but sure grew up without a lot especially without people who took the time to help others so keep on posting and THANKS

Anna Boone (author)2010-05-11

I'm so called trailer trash myself. Seems to me that calling a thrifty & cool recyclable idea "Ghetto"couldn't remotely be viewed as any kind of put down.

Justinicus (author)2007-06-21

Just a note for anyone considering saving seeds from their purchased food -- many commercial farms use seeds bred for a number of nice features such as disease resistance, good stability so it doesn't rot in shipping, etc. And a common feature is very valuable to the seed-manufacturers... sterility. That makes sure the farmers/farm corporations have to come back every year and buy a whole new load of seed. It also means that there's a good chance you can't plant the seeds from your apple and expect them to grow. If the thought of putting all that time and energy into dead, sterile seeds just breaks your heart, you might want to play it safe and buy your seeds in a seed packet.

stalkingcoco (author)Justinicus2008-03-12

Lots of plants do grow from food seeds, whether or not they are exactly the same as the parent plant is another matter. I'm currently growing several fruit trees from food seeds, but I have been informed that my chances of the trees growing and fruiting as their mothers did is slight. These were probably f1 hybrids, maybe being cross polinated with other trees, crab apples for apples, etc. So although I have some healthy plants, I'm possibly not going to get the best fruit, time will tell. If you want a specific variety buy the seeds or plants. A note on buying fruit trees; some of the big multiples sell good trees further on than you'll get at a garden centre for the same price (therefore closer to fruiting), nothing too rare but some good fruiters. Check that you can see buds as they are often not watered sufficiently and don't plant them out until the hard frosts are over.

Grey_Wolfe (author)stalkingcoco2008-05-22

You are correct on the "not nessecarily the same as the parent" note. Golden delicious apples are a good point, they will, if successful in germination, ALWAYS produce red delicious trees. Golden delicious apples are a mutation that does not breed true. All golden delicious apple trees are the product of grafting, either from the original oddities, or from later grafted trees. A bit of agricultural trivia there.

I love it, thanks for that info Grey Wolfe. I found that out when trying to grow cherry seeds from store-bought cherries. I don't know what went wrong when I did it but the tree that grew was NOT a cherry tree by any shape or form. Very odd, and it puzzled me for a long while.

Grey_Wolfe (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-05-22

Second note: If you are using fruit seeds from tree born fruit, the trees you produce will be nowhere near as disease or climate resistant as the parent plant, as all commercially sold fruit trees have roots from more resistant varieties grafted an to more succulent fruit bearing stalks. Frankly speaking, the hardier trees tend to produce undelectable fruit. (This is for anyone who didn't know. I'm not making any assumptions at the level of education anyone might have.)

stalkingcoco (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-05-25

Any idea what you might get from black cherry seeds? I have nice small trees (grown to about 8 inches in 3 months) currently growing in the greenhouse; I'm trying to speed their growth. They do very much look like geans though. Also I'm trying tomato seeds from a store-bought tomato, so far they are growing well. Last year I grew tomatoes from the seed of the year-before's tomatoes, which worked well.

Grey_Wolfe (author)stalkingcoco2008-05-26

Black Cherries are their own species of cherry and therefore should breed true (unless your stock mutates...mmm yellow delicious cherries, jk.).

Key identifying features.. Little yellow-white cylindrical pendulums in May; dark purple to black berries in August. This is the tallest of the cherry breeds.

Common name.. Black cherry

Scientific name.. Prunus serotia

Mature height.. 70 to 80 feet

Mature spread.. To 30 feet or wider when grown in open, sunny, moist soil locations.

Form.. Spreading, irregular crown.

Where are you located, btw? I'm in Arizona, and while, with work and care, you can get cherries to grow (despite popular belief) and even blossom, they will not come to fruit. We've had the same cherry trees at the high school I went to for about twenty years, never fruited. And they go full bloom every spring.

Adding a bit of glucose to your water might aid in growth. This works for almost any plant.

I found in grade school that vitamin E seems to do well for plants too, though I couldn't give you any directions on how much to use, and you'd want to cease use at least a month or so before removing the plant from the greenhouse, as it will be a bit sunlight sensitive. It was an experiment that I never took any farther than 'what might work'. I used one E gelcap per day with water.

stalkingcoco (author)Grey_Wolfe2008-06-16

Hi grey wolfe, I'm trying to grow them in Scotland, which has really hard frosts every year. Technically some parts escape but not where I live. I'm growing a dwarf pear that needs taking in over winter, so I might try growing the blackcherries the same way, possibly grafting onto another root stock, I've got lots of little trees to mutilate. Whatever is left after the grafting will be planted out in a sheltered area just in case they can survive. Even if they survive I don't think that blackcherries would fruit here if grown outside as other edible cherries are a bit touch and go. I haven't tried the vitamin E but the glucose is working well, thanks.

Grey_Wolfe (author)stalkingcoco2008-07-16

Glad it helped, was just experimantal experience, but as sugar is what is made by photosynthesis, it made sense. You could help reduce risk of frost by setting up an awning of sorts, maybe a tarp on posts. Frost doesn't form as well under coverings. It's worth a try. Also, since I don't know your experience with grafting, I'd just like to throw the genus rule out there for you. Except in rare cases (ie: pear to quince, or apple to quince), grafts only work with the same genus. I'm not assuming you didn't know, but wasn't going to assume you did either, just in case it might save you a tree or two. Maybe you could find a hardy decorative stock, and use that for your roots. They tend to be more resistant than the nicer fruit bearers.

thepelton (author)stalkingcoco2009-05-30

Trees can grow from discarded apple seeds, but they may come up looking more like a small warty crabapple than a prime supermarket apple. Many of the commercial types are made from grafts from a few trees with the best looking apples.

irrilia (author)Justinicus2008-09-06

I think, with apple trees, and most fruit trees, it is not so much they won't grow if the seed is taken from the apple you bought at the store. I believe there needs to be TWO trees in order to pollinate. Something along those lines Am I remembering wrong?

lain_blank (author)2009-12-16

hi i have a question, this insrutable seems very effective but how do you plan on removing the plants to place in a larger space?

astrong0 (author)lain_blank2010-03-22

...a box cutter?... unless your really good and can use the force to move the plants out of the container.

dildo224 (author)2010-02-01

Wow nice! This is the most usefull thing i found on the internet about plants! Very thankfull. a little tip: Try cover the bottom where you can see the earth with something i heared sunlight is bad for the roots. Thanks again!
Look at mine ^^ (still have to cover the earth)

ahava488 (author)2009-09-17

This is an awesome tutorial for a poor college student like myself. Plus it reuses trash which is always a plus. Would you recommend transferring your plant to a bigger container once it has grown a few inches? I'm not sure at what point you'd do this.

MrBrownThumb (author)ahava4882009-09-17

Generally, I'd say to move it to a new container when it develops a second set of leaves. You can wait a while longer if you're more comfortable moving it once you notice a lot of growth.

fartface (author)2009-08-23

Hey!!! that's a great idea!!!! i never thought of replacing cookie sales with plant sales!!!!! but i probably should put up a warning sign that says, " no refund/returns if they die". what if i do a terrible job and when they take it home it dies?!!! anyways...i plan to do this is the future with my next charity run. YAY!! something new!!!!! thanks!!!

macpower (author)2009-07-21

I love your a part of a city, esp. a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups garden. As for the rest of the sociopolitical commentary, why don't all us n!gger, sp!ck, cr@cker, k!ke, j@p, n!p, dºthead, monkeys STFU? I suppose if the poster called it a gimp garden, he'd be assaulted by the differently-abled? the handicapable? It's an instructable for Pete's sake!! (great, now I'm gonna here from Pete! Forget it, I take it all back. Great 'ible!) :) Let's have fun folks!

josiedrewes (author)2009-06-26

I love this idea. It's also great that it stirred up a thought provoking conversation. Way to go!

thepelton (author)2009-05-30

I have grown beansprouts in a jar with no dirt. They are cheap, loaded with vitamins, and can provide you with salad greens all year round.

REAL6 (author)2008-06-05

Mobjo: A ghetto is described as a "portion of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure" Also, the term 'Ghetto' was originally used to refer to the Venetian Ghetto in Venice, Italy where Jews were forced to live. The word "ghetto" actually means "foundry" in Italian, a reference to a foundry located on the same island as the area of Jewish confinement. And if you want to get more technical: The corresponding German term was Judengasse known as the Jewish Quarter. The term came into widespread use in Ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944 where the Jews were required to live prior to their transportation to concentration and death camps. The term "ghetto" still has a similar meaning, but referring to broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area. Sorry but i was bored....

socialtalker (author)REAL62009-04-21

you are only covering the "denotation" in your first sentence.
and whatever the eariler 20th century "connotation" refering to "jewish ghetto"
it has taken on a different meaning now referring in a negative manner to black people and their culture.
its not a neutral term NOW, if it ever was and by claiming that it is intellectually a little dishonest.

magnoliasouth (author)2009-04-13

I too did this in school eons ago, but I forgot all about it until I came upon your tut. Thanks so much for sharing!

lucek (author)2009-01-03

I made one of thees back in 3rd grade with one of the oldtimy bottles that had the black bottom.

About This Instructable




Bio: Guy from Chicago interested in a wide range of things. Right now I'm really into Cacti And Succulents and plant propagation from seed and ... More »
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