Making mini green houses to start tomatoes early

by John Lobenstein
(Angier NC U.S.A.)

Milking Spring, Little Green Houses

Here in North Carolina the 2011/2012 winter has been very mild. The temperatures and general weather conditions spring-like so I have become very impatient about starting my garden. I have several raised beds and had contemplated building small, temporary, green houses over them. But the time and expenses were hard to justify.

My family and I are anxious to get tomatoes started since we canned 50 to 75 quarts of tomatoes and sauce. But the pessimistic inner voice keep ranting 'it's too early, if you plant now the frost, or a freeze, will kill them'.

But my optimistic voice said wait a minute. You have been throwing away all those 1-gallon plastic milk cartons. Why don't you cut the bottoms off the milk cartons and use them for small individual "green houses" for each tomato plant.

Approximately 1" up from the bottom there is a line created during the carton forming process. Use this line as a cutting guide. Use a box cutter to cut the bottom off. Take the carton with you to the garden bed, plant your seeds, then press the carton down into the soil about 1". This will anchor the milk carton so the winds don't blow it/them away. The cartons I used have screw on lids that I left on for use as a crude temperature control.

Remove the lid and poke your finger down into the carton. If the temperature seems comfortably warm and moist leave the cap on. If the temperature seems hot you may want/need to temporarily remove the cap so you don't cook your seeds and plants.

Comments for Making mini green houses to start tomatoes early

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Feb 11, 2012
Mini Hothouses NEW
by: Kiwi George

Hi John, thanks for the neat idea but may i add an extra item. The nursing home I volunteer at disposes of many 20 litre (approx 5 gallon)containers during the year and I cut the bottoms of them and, as you do, give my plants the extra protection they need to prevent the last bits of winter weather killing off my "earlies". As Wellington New Zealand is like Chicago, a windy city, I drive a garden stake through the hole in the top and this anchors the cover. If the weather warms up I lift the cover off but leave it hooked over the stake so I can drop it down if a cold snap is due.

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