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Starting Seeds in the Winter

Growing flowers from seed is something that many of us love to do. It is a money-saving hobby that also gives us the benefit of watching life emerge from one tiny seed. Most of us start seeds indoors in late -winter or early-spring but with this process, that I was blessed to learn from my mother, you can start seeds as early as January!

We live in the pacific northwest where our growing zone is zone 8. The peak of our winters is usually in the month of February when we can have multiple weeks of strong frosts and snowfall. Despite the temperatures we live in, though, my family and I have used this method of sowing seeds earlier than most gardeners do.

Sowing Seeds in a Mini Greenhouse: Milk Jug Method

If you live in an area that is cold in the winter or live in an area with small backyard space, this method is the one for you! The benefit of sowing seeds in used plastic milk gallons is that first, it takes up little space, it is inexpensive, and it is a great way for the seedlings to go through natural stratification.

*Stratification is an important process for the seeds in order to produce healthier and stronger root systems and sturdier plants!

This milk-gallon method works best for flowers and herbs. You can use this for vegetables but need to start this process later in the spring because most veggies need a much more warmer climate to germinate.

The Step-by-Step Process with Pictures

Step 1: Collect your plastic milk jug, wash it from all the milk, and poke holes on the bottom with a nail or a knife.

Step 2: Cut the milk jug starting a little lower than the handle and cut all around leaving about an inch of uncut plastic by the handle.

Step 3: Place in your seed starting mix or potting mix, sow your seeds, pack them down lightly and sprinkle some water on your soil. Note: Don’t worry about watering your seeds much after words because the pouring hole from the top of the milk jug will let in water and moisture will build up because of the condensation of the greenhouse environment.

Step 4: DON’T FORGET TO LABEL! Make sure to label what type of seeds you’ve sown because believe me it is easy to confuse all the seedlings when they are growing. I used just a plastic spoon and a permanent marker to do this.

Last Step: Cover the lid of the plastic milk jug and place outside in full sun. You can also grab some duct-tape and tape around the milk jug to secure it better from the winds or just leave it resting as is.

Check up on your seeds once in a while to see how they are doing and water them ONLY if the soil is almost bone dry (don’t overwater because your seeds can rot).

Now just sit back and wait for the nature to work it’s magic! Germination will take place in 1- 3 months depending on your regions weather conditions and the time your seeds were sown. After the seedlings have 1-3 “true” leaves, thin them out and transplant them into individual pots or just leave them in the milk gallon and let them grow until your are ready to plant them out into your garden!

This is a picture I found on Garden Gate Magazine to show you how well the seedlings grow in these milk jugs!

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