Last year, I had dreams of eating veggies during winter, but the prohibitive costs of a greenhouse put a damper on all my efforts.
I didn’t want the mini greenhouse tents from Amazon either because they’re junk and too small for my needs.
But with some old tents lying in my garage, and being a DIY enthusiast I’m, I thought maybe I could use them for my grow tent.
Now, if such an idea has ever crossed your mind, read on to understand whether a tent can double up as a greenhouse.
Unfortunately, you can’t use a tent as a greenhouse. The simple reason is the polyester or canvas material used on tents restricts the amount of sunlight needed for optimal plant growth.
Plus, tents hardly trap heat inside or create a micro-climate for optimal plant growth as the greenhouses do.
Finally, understand that tent material isn’t made to stay outdoors for long sessions. So, the UV and humidity might degrade the canvas and make it weak/brittle.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use a camping tent to grow plants. While you can’t use a tent as a grow tent as is, a couple of modifications can make it a perfect solution for a DIY greenhouse.
And in the section below, I’ll detail the tweaks I made to my tents for my own greenhouse use.
But before I get you started on how to build a greenhouse from a tent, it’s prudent to first learn about a greenhouse and how it works.
What is an A-Frame Greenhouse?
An A-frame greenhouse, also known as a glasshouse, hothouse, or conservatory, is an outdoor structure or building designed to nurture and grow tender and out-of-season plants.
Usually, greenhouses are covered on all sides except the underside using transparent material. Typical greenhouses are usually temporary and consist of transparent plastic.
There’re, however, permanent greenhouses that are usually covered by glass or corrugated plastic.
These plant shelter solutions also vary in size, ranging from a simple, small sheds to industrial-size sheds.
How Greenhouses Work
Greenhouses use the Greenhouse Effect. It occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere where the Earth’s gases trap the sun’s energy.
Once the sun’s UV hits the ground and bounces back to the atmosphere, they’re trapped by the gases from escaping.
It’s what makes the Earth a comfortable place and warm.
The same effect is replicated on a grow tent but on a greater magnitude.
The transparent plastic covering on the greenhouse allows sunlight or UV energy to enter. It warms things up and changes to infrared energy, radiating back out.
Now, much of this energy would go back to space, but it gets trapped in the greenhouse and heats the spaces because of the transparent plastic.
It effectively raises the greenhouse temperatures and increases the growing season for plants that can’t survive frost or cold conditions.
Further, the humidity gets a real boost because the moisture evaporating from the plants doesn’t blow away.
And the good thing with greenhouses is that as long as there’s enough daylight to warm the ground (even on cloudy days), the greenhouse insulation prevents heat loss.
But it’s always good to construct these plant shelters on a level surface in areas receiving sun throughout the day.
And on a cautionary note, the greenhouse effect is a complex system, and our simplified model above doesn’t capture all the complexity and intricacies.
What are the Advantages of Growing Plants in a Greenhouse?
I’ve been an ardent gardener for a year now, and I’ve seen plenty of benefits of using a greenhouse instead of growing my plants outdoors.
And in the section below, I’ll detail some of the benefits you stand to gain if you go the greenhouse way.
1) Extended growing season
One of the pros of using a grow tent is it’s easy to control the climate of your growing environment.
Therefore, you can still grow your plants even in unfavorable conditions outside.
For example, I’ve grown citrus trees, root vegetables, brassicas, and greens like lettuce in warm-season conditions. Equally, I’ve kept growing warm-season photoperiod-dependent plants such as tomatoes and melons in fall.
An a-frame greenhouse is also handy in regions with short growing seasons.
2) Grow plants out of your zone
A greenhouse also offers a chance to grow plants out of your zone.
For example, cucumbers are usually challenging to grow in my region, but they’ve thrived in my indoor garden greenhouse.
3) Provide a growing head start
A greenhouse gives you a bump at the start of the growing season.
A head start is usually crucial for me when starting seedlings and young plants.
See, plants love warmth, and a grow tent offers exactly that, providing them with a good way to bring them on early.
For example, I usually start my seedlings in early spring, which has boosted my season by starting them earlier than normal.
4) Better germination
The ideal conditions for better seed growth are warmth and moisture.
An indoor garden greenhouse creates a micro-climate for the right seed germination conditions.
5) Fewer pests
Greenhouses aren’t pest-proof.
However, because your plants are less exposed, it’s easier to control some of the pests, such as snails and slugs.
6) Better control
Finally, a greenhouse gives you better monitoring of the outside elements. It allows for determining the amount of rain, wind, storms, and bugs.
The greenhouses even have flaps, allowing you to expose and increase the amount of light and fresh air getting inside.
Of course, there are drawbacks to using a green house instead of growing plants outside.
But in my opinion, they’re not comparable to the benefits you stand to gain.
The first one is pests. See, some bugs love the humid conditions in a greenhouse and grow optimally faster than on the outside.
Secondly, some plants, such as tomatoes, don’t respond well to humidity, meaning they may not thrive optimally.
Nevertheless, the pros of having a grow tent outweigh the cons by far.
DIYing a Greenhouse Tent
There’re a couple of ways of DIYing a greenhouse, but the easiest one is making one from a camping tent. It’s an effortless way to create an indoor garden greenhouse from the existing tent materials.
The main component you’ll source from your old tent is the tent poles. Remember, the tent’s canvas fabric may not allow enough light inside, so it’s not a good choice for the cover.
That said, let’s look at how to make a greenhouse using a camping tent.
The first step is gathering all the supplies you need for the greenhouse DIY.
Crucial tools you need for this task are:
- Tent fiberglass poles for the greenhouse structure
- Transparent plastic sheet
- Duct tape
Create a raised bed to form the greenhouse working area.
Heap mound of good-garden soil and compost before raking the surface to smoothen and level. Ensure you remove any debris and rocks.
On the edges of the raised bed, gently insert the ends of your flexible tent poles. While at it, ensure the poles are arcing on the bed’s width to form a tunnel-like structure.
More importantly, anchor the poles deep down in the soil to ensure they’re secured properly and keep the tunnel-like structure sturdy.
Take your plastic sheet and wrap it over the tunnel-like structure. It should form the cover of your DIY greenhouse.
You also need to secure it with duct tape to avoid wind from blowing it.
When securing the sheet, ensure it’s taut to allow the free flow of water. If it’s slack, it may form pockets, which might be a problem when they get filled with water and other debris.
In addition to securing the plastic sheet with duct tape, you should also dig a trench along the sides of the raised tunnel structure to bury the sheet.
Burying the sheet ensures it’s properly anchored in the ground.
The final step should be adding ventilation to the structure. The process to follow will depend on the type of indoor garden greenhouse.
For example, if you’ve a permanent greenhouse, you could add a door with a frame and vents operated using a Velcro.
But for the simple DIY greenhouse-like ours, you simply need to fold and secure the wraps with something heavy.
Be sure the holding object doesn’t tear or cause harm to the plastic cover.
If you don’t have a camping tent, there are many other different ways to set up your DIY tent.
Here’re some of the options:
1) Caterpillar tunnel greenhouse
A caterpillar greenhouse is ideal for gardeners with limited space for setting up a traditional greenhouse.
You simply need to cut your old hula hoops and push the ends to the ground to make a caterpillar tent.
The hula hoops will take a dome shape because of their rounded and flexible design. Next on, place a couple of hula hoops across the length of your grow tent to form a tunnel design.
Finally, cover the structure with transparent plastic and secure it on the ground using rocks. You could also anchor the plastic sheeting by digging it inside.
2) Lean-on greenhouse
The lean-on greenhouse is the simplest and easiest DIY greenhouse.
It’s the perfect option for gardeners with an exterior wall that gets sunlight most of the time.
You simply need to find planks or other materials and lay them against the wall. Ensure both ends of the planks are far away from the wall to create enough space for growing your seedlings.
Cover the planks with a thick plastic material to create the greenhouse effect.
And as with other DIY greenhouse designs, ensure you secure the plastic onto the ground, so it doesn’t get blown away by the wind.
3) Patio greenhouse/portable greenhouse
The patio greenhouse is even a smaller form of grow tent. It won’t support many plants, but it’s a great idea and a good way to provide you with occasional supplies all year round.
It works well if you’ve old windows or a patio.
Here’s a step-by-step of the process:
- Cut the bottom of a transparent bottle/growing container
- Unscrew the lid for free flow of fresh air
- Add some soil
- Position the cut bottle over your seedlings
Indoor Garden Tents for Growing Vegetables
The final way to DIY a greenhouse is by investing in an indoor growing tent.
These are similar to the camping tents but have a reflective interior lining for bouncing the light and radiation back into the tent.
That’s not the only difference; the growing tent material is thicker than the regular canvas or polyester material to prevent light and heat from escaping.
I like indoor tents because it’s easier to control the conditions inside. For example, you can install specialized growing grow lights to add to the overall warmth of the tent.
Understand these grow lights are different from those we use in our homes. The gardening growing lights have the spectral and brightness to allow optimal plant growth.
Using a Camping Tent for Greenhouse Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can you use a tent for a greenhouse?
A: No, you can’t use a tent for a greenhouse. The tent fabric doesn’t allow light inside, which is necessary for optimal plant growth.
Q: What can I use instead of a greenhouse?
A: There’re a couple of alternatives for a grow tent, but one of my favorite options is the indoor growing tent.
The indoor growing tents are similar to the traditional greenhouses and will provide a micro-climate that enables plants to grow better than outdoors.
Camping tents are one of the most versatile pieces of gear, but their usefulness goes only too far.
Their material makes them unsuitable for use as greenhouses. The canvas material limits the entry of light and doesn’t hold the warmth as the transparent plastic greenhouse material does.
However, their flexible poles usually come in handy when DIYing a greenhouse tent.