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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Homemade Greenhouse: Germinate Seeds Easily Outdoors

Sowing seeds directly outdoors may be necessary if there is insufficient lighting in the apartment or if the apartment gardener only has a limited amount of space to work with. I'm beginning to start more seedlings outdoors because I am running out of my room in my apartment.

I did not have much luck at first. The soil would dry out too quickly preventing some of my seeds to germinate and the seeds that did sprout would shrivel up from lack of water. I lost some of my bulbs to the neighborhood squirrels. And sometimes slugs would attack my seedlings and eat all of the plant's tender shoots! I was able to solve all of these problems by creating a miniature greenhouse out of materials you probably already have in your home. Continue reading to learn how to make your own mini-greenhouse.

Homemade Greenhouse
  • Advantages:
    • Conserves water
    • Prevents birds, squirrels and other animals from eating your seeds
    • Protects your seedlings from slugs and other insects
    • Uses recycled materials
    • Requires less maintenance than sowing indoors
    • Reduces clutter in your home
    • Easier to adapt seedlings to outdoor environment
  • Disadvantages:
    • Seeds sowed outdoors germinated a bit more slowly than the ones I sowed indoors probably because of the differences in temperature.

Germinating Oregano Seeds Using a Homemade Greenhouse (left);
Oregano Seedlings (right)
  • Materials:
    • Container with draining holes
    • Old Ziploc bags or other clear bags
    • Seeds
    • Water
    • Optional:
      • Bamboo Stakes
      • Duct Tape or Large Rubber Bands
      • Plant Identification Marker
  • Directions:
    1. Fill your container with soil, leaving about 1/2" of space from the top of the soil to the rim of the container.
    2. Sow seeds according to the directions on your seed packet.
    3. Thoroughly water the soil (i.e., until water begins to drip from the bottom of the container).
    4. Place the ziploc bag or clear bag over the rim of your pot. You want the bag to stand somewhat erect. If the bag is saggy, just place a bamboo stake in the center of the pot to keep the bag from collapsing. It is not necessary for the bag to form an airtight capsule, but you do want the bag to fit snuggly over the pot to help trap moisture and to prevent the seeds or seedlings from drying out. If the lip of your bag is too wide, you can (a) gather some of the plastic around the rim of the pot until the bag forms a snug fit over the rim of the container and secure with a rubber band or duct tape, or (b) place a large rubber band over the bag and around the base of your pot.
      • Tip: The large ziploc bags are sturdy, and fits snuggly over a standard 6" terracotta pot. If you keep your pot outside and are expecting rain make sure you place a bamboo stake in the middle to keep the bag from collapsing.
    5. Place the container in a sunny location. As the sun warms up the soil, the water will rise, hit the plastic ceiling, and drip back down to the plant. Not only does this cut down on your maintenance time, but this also conserves water. You can go weeks without watering, but it is still a good idea to check in on your plant at least once a week.
    6. Leave the protective bagging on the plant after your seeds have sprouted. The plastic bag will deter slugs, insects, birds and other pests. Just make sure the plant leaves do not touch the walls of the plastic bag. If they do it is time to remove the bag. If you would like to continue to use the greenhouse method at this point, just upgrade to a larger bag.


Anonymous said...

What you see beautiful plants, but did you get rid of slugs?

viagra online said...

My apartment is very small and light that enters is low, they still could have a mini greenhouse?

Zoey said...

I used this method except i had two tiny plants so i just zipped them up in the bag. I put a piece of thick paper on the bottom and put the pots on top of it. This way the zip lock bag wouldn't form right around the pots but rather make a tear drop shape, giving distance between the bag and the plants. And...i just saw my first seed sprout! I can't believe it works! I haven't watered the plants in a week and they're still nice and moist. My concern is that i don't know when it's okay to take the plants out and grow them without the bag. Do i wait until all have sprouted? If i wait too long will my sprout die? (I grow my plants inside on the windowsill).

Lina said...

I didn't "get rid" of the slugs, but the plastic tent acted as a barrier and prevented the little critters from eating my seedlings. You can turn empty 2-liter bottles into mini-greenhouses too by removing the label and cutting off the bottom of the soda bottle.

Lina said...

@viagra online:
Yes. You can at the very least germinate seeds on your window sill. Seeds will germinate in warm, dark places. The little light you do get will warm up the soil and air inside the plastic tent; creating an ideal environment for you seed(s) to grow. Of course, most plants are going to fair better in the long run when they have more sunlight. You can choose to grow more shade-tolerant plants if traditionally sun-loving plants don't thrive in that location. Or you can use full-spectrum fluorescent lighting to supplement what light your plants do get from your window.

Lina said...

How exciting! I am so happy your seedlings sprouted! I like the teardrop method you described. I'll have to remember to try that on my next batch of seeds.
I would wait until at least most of your seeds have germinated. Then what you do from there depends on the plant.
If you are growing high-humidity loving plants, then I would leave them in the bag as long as the bag is not touching any of the leaves. I would still open the bag once a day to allow some fresh air in.
If your plants cannot tolerate humidity, you should remove the bag.
You can transplant your seedlings when its first "true" set of leaves appear; however, I normally wait until the second set of true leaves appear or when the plant is 3 to 4 inches high.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to use a similar method in my classroom. We planted mum seed in small milk cartons. I put all the containers in a box top just to keep them together. I put some "stakes" up in the corners and one in the middle, and then put a large garbage bag over top. Two days later, I have white, fuzzy mold growing. A couple of sprouts did shoot up also. Any suggestions?

Lina said...

Hello, I am so glad you are bringing the garden to your classroom! I have fond memories of growing seeds in my class when I was younger. :)

I am assuming the white, fuzzy mold is growing on the soil. If that is the case, then the white, fuzzy mold is most likely fungi that has grown as a result of the damp or humid environment. This happened to one of my dixie cup seedling starter experiments.

I suggest removing the existing white, fuzzy mold as long as it does not disturb your seedlings. Then leave the plastic covering off of your seedlings to allow some air circulation.

This should be enough to get rid of and/or prevent the white mold from coming back. I would still check on the soil everyday. If the soil is dry to the touch, then water the soil so that it is moist again; not soggy. If it is moist to the touch, then skip watering for the day.

Also, if it is any comfort the the white, fuzzy mold did not harm my seedlings. :)

I wish you the best of luck! :)

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