Thursday, January 11, 2007

Greenhouse Hack

Gardening can be an expensive hobby and if you look often times the gardens we admire the most are lush and full of plants that are maintained by people other than the actual owner. The average gardener may not have the time or resources to achieve the same look. And for the person wanting to start a garden a visit to costly garden centers can often be disappointing when the realization of how much money is involved in gardening. The alternative is to visit big box stores where prices are cheaper but selection and plant size that is driven by volume, again leaves the would-be gardener feeling uninspired.

So how do you achieve the same look without the bourgeois greenhouse or environmentally draining set-up of grow lights? You start your own plants from seeds using various things you may already have around your house. Here's what you need: an empty 2 liter plastic bottle, potting soil, a handful of seeds and a tool for making holes. I find that Miracle- Gro potting soil works fine for me, other people don't like it for starting seeds. Use your favorite brand but whatever you do don't skimp on the soil. If you use those 99 cent bags you find in Walmart, Walgreens or similar stores it may harden and you'll end up with a brick. That's fine if you want to build a patio or raised bed, but not so good for seed starting.

Take your 2 liter bottle that you've cut in half and make several drainage holes in the bottom of the bottle.

Fill the bottom with about 4-5 inches of soil. Read the seed preparation directions on your packet of seeds and sow them and water them in. You can water from the top or set the "pot" you just made in a saucer of water and allow it to absorb water. Take the top half of the bottle and replace it. What you have now is a seed starting greenhouse like the kind of available in stores. But it didn't cost you between 12-20 dollars. It should look something like this

I use this method to start seeds that require Stratification (cold treatment) I prepare all of my Ghetto Greenhouses and sow the seeds and set them outside for the winter and allow them to be exposed to the elements. When the weather starts to warm up and the snow melts I keep an eye on the containers and water when necessary. The clear bottles make this easy and when the seedlings emerge I just plant them out either into the ground or into pots. I can fit five of these into a plastic milk crate that I stack in a corner of my back yard. Here's what it looks like inside in the spring.

You can use this method to start all kinds of seeds. When the weather outside warms up you can start your tender plants, like annuals and tropicals. You can also adapt this method and make your Ghetto Greenhouse out of things you may have around your house. As a kid my grandfather used coffee cans, in school we used empty milk boxes and larger orange juice boxes. You can use take out containers, the salad containers you get nowadays in fast food restaurants. If you have empty pots you can cover them with plastic wrap or used sandwich bags. You can sow your seeds in Styrofoam/plastic cups and set them inside a plastic tote. Just make sure you have drainage holes and some opening(s) for ventilation, a few holes in the top of your container will still trap enough humidity. If you don't have a yard, try your deck or a bright windowsill.


ldybug said...

funny name. i have always done this, but didn't know it's "official name" cool

MrBrownThumb said...

Oh ldybug it's not the official name I just call it that because it sounds funny.


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