by Connie Oswald Stofko
At a recent workshop at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, David Clark shared this ingenious way to plant hardy annual seeds right now in the Buffalo area– outside!
I love this idea because I always get itchy to do some gardening at this time of year, but there’s generally not a lot to do outside.
I’ve tried to start seeds inside at this time of year, but it doesn’t work. It’s simply too soon to plant seeds. Unless you use grow lights, your seedlings will get leggy, flop over and die before you can transplant them outside.
Even when I wait for the proper time to start seeds indoors (usually it’s not until the beginning of April), it’s hard to find enough room for lots of seedlings since I don’t have many sunny windows.
This mini-greenhouse made out of a used milk jug seems like a great solution.
Note that you want to use seeds from cold-hardy annuals. These are plants that are typically tolerant of colder temperatures and capable of reseeding in most gardens. Think of plants that might sprout up on their own from your compost pile, Clark said, such as tomatoes, squash and cantaloupe. Here’s a list of flowers you can try.
To get started, rinse out a one-gallon milk jug. You don’t need the cap.
Using a sharp knife or boxcutter, make a horizontal cut almost all the way around. The uncut part will act as a hinge. (See photo at right.)
Poke two small holes in the jug opposite the hinge– one hole in the top half and one hole in the bottom half. I used a tiny screwdriver to poke the holes.
Fill the bottom with your potting medium. Clark recommends using a soil-less potting mix. Don’t forget to moisten your medium.
Plant your seeds.
Use a twist-tie to hold the two halves closed, as shown in the top photo. I twisted two ties together to make one long tie.
Use a permanent marker to label your mini-greenhouse with the name of what you planted.
Place your mini-greenhouse outside in a sheltered spot. When the weather gets warm enough, your seeds will start to sprout.
When the seedlings are large enough, you can transplant them into your garden.