I have read all the reviews of this type of mini-greenhouse, and people were generally positive. Most of the negative critiques had to do with the propensity to being blown over and that the cover wears out after a few seasons. But, for 50 bucks, I'm not sure what people want. Folks generally say to put it in a protected area, with bricks or heavy pots on the bottom, and it will stay in place. Part of me wanted to hold out until I had the space for a beautiful, more permanent structure. In buying this cheap, intermediate tool to extend my growing season, I am going against some commitments I recently made to myself about long-term investments. In the end, my desire for a different approach to seed-starting won out. Additionally, with space at a serious premium, this was just about the size of sunny real estate I was willing to give up in my yard.
For years, I have struggled with seed starting and getting a jump on the growing season. So many books instruct the beginning gardener to place little pots in a sunny window. But no matter how sunny the window, my seedlings usually turned out leggy. And now, with a curious toddler about, nothing lasts very long on a window sill. I tried grow lights as well, which worked a bit better, but made me feel a bit disconnected from the "natural" process. It all seemed too industrial, and walking into the eerie glow of my basement at seed starting time made me feel like I was on Star Trek.
I did find an interesting suggestion for seed starting in some now-forgotten gardening book I skimmed through at the library. The author suggested that, if you don't have your own greenhouse, just befriend the local independently-owned nursery. Give them your seed packets, have them start the little buggers, and then buy them back at the three dollar price tag that the nursery puts on all of their seedlings. She argued that the premium was worth the labor saved, and that also the nursery gets to sell more heirloom seedlings. I don't have the chutzpah to try this. Nor does one ever, in my opinion, get into gardening to avoid unnecessary labor. So, hopefully this mini-greenhouse will give me a jump start on the season. The shelves can be moved later, to give me more container-garden space. Or, one reviewer did say she grew a vertical container garden of lettuce and microgreens on the shelves, once the summer heat rendered the cover useless.
It is indeed still winter, but the solstice has passed and the new calendar year is upon us. This greenhouse is a harbinger of the new season, like the first sighting of a warbler or the new blades of chives pushing up through spring earth. I will have to wait for March for the latter two, but until then, I can plot my seed-starting on my four tiers of "growhouse".