Seedling Greenhouse - cheap and easy
A seedling greenhouse is just what you might need to support your frugal living vegetable garden. It will help you get your seedlings transplanted early and keep them protected from critters that want to chew them up. This idea occurred to me one day when I was tossing out old 2 liter soda bottles that I had converted into pots for growing seedlings.
I thought, if I can put a seedling in it, I should be able to put it over a seedling too. So, the idea of a greenhouse for each seedling was born.
At first I thought it might be a bit too much work, but then I discovered the benefits, so I'm passing the idea on to you so you can experiment.
Most of us want to get our seedlings out as soon as we can. We often use cold frames to do this. One problem is that the cold frame contains seedlings in small pots, and the plants can get root bound before we get them into the ground. Even if we use open soil in the cold frame, we're still transplanting at some point and that is a setback for the plants.
What I need was a way to plant the seedlings in the soil that they'll be growing in, but still give them the protection of a cold frame - something like their own seedling greenhouse.
The other need for a seedling greenhouse is to provide protection from mice and rabbits that love to nibble down seedling and send you back to the seed trays to start again.
An empty 2 liter soda bottle can be modified to create a seedling greenhouse that offers protection like a cold frame, but gives individual protection to seedlings so they can be set out early in the place where you intend to grow them. This gives each plant it's own protected environment that acts like a tiny greenhouse to capture warmth and retain moisture.
To make the tiny greenhouse, simply cut off the bottom of a 2 liter soda bottle at the point where the curved bottom meets up with the straight sides. This will result in a straight sided enclosure that can be embedded into the soil surrounding the seedling.
The 2 liter seedling greenhouse is akin to a glass cloche, except they don't cost $37.95 and they're readily obtainable as scrap.
How it Works
The way I use a seedling greenhouse is to place (or fit) them over the seedlings early in the planting season so the seedlings can be put into their home soil even if it's a few weeks before they really should be planted. I twist the soda bottle back and forth a little to work it into the soil about an inch so it's resistant to wind.
Leave the screw top fastened lightly as this will be where you add water. Don't be concerned about bottle labeling, unless it's opaque. Anything that will completely block light from the seedling should be removed when you cut the bottom off.
The clear bottle retains moisture and allows heat to build up around the seedling. The screw tops allows you to add water and vent the enclosure when necessary. The sides retains water right around the seedling, just where you want it.
On cloudy days, leave the top loosely screwed on. On sunny days, remove the top and set it aside to avoid over-heating the seedling. To harden off the seedling, untwist the seedling greenhouse from the soil and set it aside for a while during the warmest parts of the day, then replace before it cools off too much.
The solid clear plastic sides let light in, retain moisture, and keep rabbits and mice at bay. This is also adequate protection from driving rain and all but the largest hail - all from scrap that we would normally throw away.
If you don't have empty soda bottles, you can use water bottles or large clear plastic or glass drinking glasses or large canning jars. When watering the glasses or canning jars, just pour the water on the top and let it trickle down the sides. The water will end up circling the plant, thus achieving nearly the same result as watering inside the soda bottle - the water comes to rest in the soil right around the seedling.
If you use a glass or jar, be sure to lift them off to vent the seedling when the sun comes out because small spaces like that will heat up quickly. Also, put them back on while there is still some good sun left so they get a chance to warm back up before the sun disappears for the night.
I use this glass jar approach inside my greenhouses to help get a jump on the season. It's like a seedling greenhouse within a greenhouse, and that is all the more effective for extending the season for my frugal living vegetable gardening interests.
Done with Seedling Greenhouse, take me back to Build Your Own Greenhouse
Done with Seedling Greenhouse, take me back to Cold Frames