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I came into the possession of one of these:

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I want to know if it would make a decent greenhouse and, if so, how I could retrofit it to grow some kind of small plants or seedlings. I think the refrigeration component is no longer functional and will make sure that the coolant has been removed.

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I think I might be tempted to call that unit a large terrarium rather than a greenhouse. It is still a neat unit and could be used if you are willing to take care of some of the details. You need to establish what your purpose is: a display case, something to grow something edible in, a germination area....the possibilities are numerous so you need to settle on one thing and do it well

  • light: to make plants pop you will need lots of it. I guess 48" fluorescents would do. If you want really healthy plants consider using Vita-Lite tubes to duplicate the spectrum of sunlight.
  • moisture will be an issue. For a terrarium you need a soil depth of at least three to four inches. In a terrarium you would add a drainage layer underneath the soil. Say....an inch of styrofoam packing peanuts with a soil separator like landscape fabric between drainage area and soil.
  • Where will the water go? You might need to put a drain into the base of the display area.
  • if your choice is to germinate seeds you could add a heating pad which will help germination and just put the trays of seedlings inside
  • ventilation: moist air that doesn't move causes mould or rot. One solution is to cut a four inch diameter hole in the side and get a computer case fan installed. Put it on a timer or run continuously depending on how you use it.
  • one other possible issue is how much weight will the unit support. Soil and water can weigh quite a bit. The base must be well supported and waterproof. I would be tempted to get some pool liner cut to fit the base with some extra to run up the sides. This would keep moisture in and not leak.
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  • +1 Good list of issues. I'd also add that overnight heat retention could be an issue, e.g. for seed starting in spring. That case doesn't look like it will hold much heat on its own. If the bottom shelf will support it, a layer of bricks might work well for storing heat during the day and releasing it overnight. – bstpierre Jan 29 '12 at 14:08
  • Size and proportions do make me think of seed germination or terrarium. Good points about ventilation/etc for germination. As for a terrarium, why not use it for carnivorous plants? The smaller varieties (e.g. sundews) would suit the shelves very well. – winwaed Feb 22 '12 at 2:54

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