Gardeners are discovering that clear household storage bins can be used as mini-greenhouses in which to start seedings. By absorbing heat and light from the sun, the soil or seed-starter mix in see-though bins warms up, allowing seeds to sprout. This is a good way to repurpose something you may already have at home.
Early spring is the time of year when most people start their garden seedlings. The seeds need a warm and gentle environment in which to sprout. Once they become strong enough, they can be hardened off outside to face the conditions of the garden.
The bin acts as a greenhouse would, storing heat and protecting the plants from chill. After seeds sprout, keep the seedlings indoors in a sunny, warm spot. Once they become larger, they can be transplanted outside. Much like people, plants need time and nurturing to adapt to a new environment, so the process of exposing them to harsher conditions must be gradual.
If you don’t already own one, you’ll be pleased to learn that a large clear storage container usually costs about $10 and can be found on the Canadian Tire website.
Some online tutorials call for drilling holes in the bin to permit evaporation, but if you don’t add ventilation holes, the greenhouse will heat up even more. Remember to allow for some breathing; your plants need air.
There are many variations of this seed-starting technique, and many varieties of clear storage containers that double as mini-greenhouses.
A short video by Jag Singh of Daisy Creek Farms demonstrates how to use a clear bin without drilling holes. Singh tests the efficiency of the bin in retaining heat and locking in moisture by showing data that he collected with temperature meters. He placed one meter outside the greenhouse as a control and another inside it to compare temperatures. He uses the Govee temperature and humidity monitors to learn that the greenhouse temperature was 11.6°C warmer than outside during the day. The bin greenhouse also retained more humidity than the air outside.
If it’s too cold to leave seeds outside, get inventive and use a clear bin to start your garden. The warm temperature and condensation it retains is surprising for such a small hack. Your plants will appreciate it and your garden with get a head-start. •