Ghetto Greenhouse:Seed Starter




About: 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 crossings. Check out my blog about gardening if you're bored.
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.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: 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

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

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

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.

The Instructables Book Contest

Participated in the
The Instructables Book Contest



    • Indoor Lighting Contest

      Indoor Lighting Contest
    • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest

    93 Discussions


    1 year ago

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


    3 years ago

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

    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

    9 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction


    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*


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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


    3 years ago on Introduction

    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

    Akin Yildiz

    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    "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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 2

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