• Ludovic Vilbert

Enhancing the greenhouse effect

We recently built a mini greenhouse to fit on our balcony so that we could get a head start on our summer seedlings.


Every construction or woodwork project can be thought of as an architectural project, no matter how big or small. I like to use SketchUp to plan my project. SketchUp is a 3D modeling computer program for drawing applications including architectural, interior design, landscape architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, film and video game design. I can draw the project to scale and estimate the materials required.


Below you can see how I have used SketchUp to develop a design for a mini greenhouse to fit on our north-facing balcony.

Concept for our new mini-greenhouse modelled in SketchUp

After purchasing the materials, I used this sketch to start building the mini greenhouse.

I used 35x70 sections of untreated, non-structural pine certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for the frame. After cutting the pieces to size, I stained the timber to fit the aged style of the existing house, and then sealed it with a coat of varnish.

I then started to assemble the frame using batten screws to have a solid frame, and added the polycarbonate sheet to the front.

I did not plan the door until the end of the project. I decided to use a good old palette we had in the yard.

I then covered the rest of the frame and the doors with builder's plastic and fastened it with staples to the frame. The tip here is to use low force on the staple and to put two staples on top of each other to form a cross to avoid the plastic ripping apart.




In case it gets too hot inside the mini greenhouse (and it will!), I made it possible to slide both panels on top of the greenhouse to allow hot air to escape. Note though that the middle part is fixed. I used the same railing system sold with the polycarbonate panels and fixed them with small screws. You can see below that the thermometer inside indicates that the internal temperature of the greenhouse was 23 degrees (Celsius) on the day this photo was taken, whilst outside the temperature was only 8 degrees. Even on a cold day, the power of the sun can be harnessed.

That's it, here the final result. We have put in our first batch of seedlings and cannot wait until we can transfer our tomato and other summer vegie seedlings from our heat pad set up indoors to this mini greenhouse. But more on that later. In the meantime, we cannot wait for the end of winter so we can get these seedlings into the ground.

I hope this may inspire you to create your own mini greenhouse. If you have any questions or photos of your own greenhouse projects, feel free to share them with us on Facebook.


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