Usually I order most of my garden seeds for the year in January. A few weeks later I put together milk jug greenhouses. These easy, miniature greenhouses help give seedlings a jump start on the growing season. You can make them any time before your final frost date. Usually I put mine together sometime between January and March. In Northern Ohio, where I live, the final frost date is typically mid-May.
Milk Jug Greenhouses
How to make milk jug greenhouses
The first time I made milk jug greenhouses I followed Kevin’s winter-sowing process. He also lives in Zone 5, but in New York state. Here’s a brief summary of how I make them:
- Save and clean milk jugs or water jugs for a few weeks prior to planting. You will need one jug per variety of plant you are growing.
- Cut the top off the milk jugs with a box cutter knife. Leave one side of the top attached, so the jug has a “lid.”
- Puncture the bottom of the jug with several small holes for drainage. I used a small ice pick to do this. You could also use a power drill.
- Add soil and water to the bottom of the jug. Be sure to use a seed starter soil and not soil from your yard or garden. Then plant your seeds.
- Seal each jug with duct tape. Label the jugs with a Sharpie marker and leave the cap lids off the jugs.
- Place the jugs outside in an area where they will not blow away or be knocked over.
A few more tips
After I made make milk jug greenhouses the first time I realized I needed to cut the top of the greenhouse higher – near the handle – because mine were tipping over pretty badly. Also, I recommend mixing your soil with some water in a 5-gallon bucket and then scooping the soil into the containers. I tried “watering” the soil after I put it in the containers and it turned into a mess.
I like to store the jugs close together between two raised beds. The first year I made these they were more in the open and the sun and rain beat down on the labels and I had a few mystery jugs as a result! You can write on the jug itself with the marker or on the duct tape – or if you are paranoid like me – you do both and label each jug at least twice.
Why do I have so many milk jug greenhouses?
The first year I made these, I had 40 of these greenhouses because I was planting a lot of perennials. I was trying to establish a new landscape after removing four-dozen evergreens from our yard. I do not normally have that many milk jug greenhouses.
After reading several organic gardening books that year, I fell in love with the idea of edible landscaping. Grown plants are more expensive, and I do have time on my side so I mostly plant by seed, although I have ordered a few young fruit trees and rose bushes by mail. Here are some of the seeds I purchased through Botanical Interests to use in my milk jug greenhouses this year:
Have you tried making milk jug greenhouses?
*This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.