**UPDATE** We had sprouts by day two in these indoor greenhouses!! See results here!
This year we have decided to change things up in the garden to focus more on food sustainability. We live in a pretty cold climate, so our growing season is typically only 4 months a year. With the cost of food going up more every day, it seemed like a good time to start experimenting with new ways to produce our own food, expand our growing season and create self sustaining watering systems to grow larger crops longer.
We made these cute little DIY greenhouses to help our seeds germinate and prepare them to move outdoors. We planted the seeds in egg cartons placed inside aluminum containers and topped with plastic. The warm, moist environment created by sun and damp egg cartons will help the seeds germinate faster!
We hope to start our growing season in April this year instead of the end of May like we normally do. We also hope to continue to grow throughout the entire year. How are you going to do that you ask? With cold frames! Cold frames are like mini outdoor greenhouses that protect the plants and allow you to control the climate by opening or closing the glass top. We will have lots more on building cold frames soon, so keep an eye out for that! But today, we want to show you how we are germinating our seeds to prepare for them for the cold frames by using these little greenhouses!
With it being the second week of March, it is time to get our seeds germinating in some soil if we want to move things out to the cold frames in April. We obviously won’t be able to move everything out that early, like tomatoes, which take 6-8 weeks to germinate anyways. But veggies like lettuce, peas and potatoes are pretty tolerant to cold so they will go out first.
We started by cutting the egg cartons and popping some holes in the bottom of each cup for water drainage. The egg cartons will hold a lot of moisture, so we wanted to make sure that the extra water doesn’t get stuck in the soil, which will drown the little seeds.
We did 10 egg cartons and I can tell you that this is a pretty tedious job! We used wooden skewers, but the points kept getting dull, so I would suggest a large pin or something medal to avoid collapsing the carton when trying to puncture it.
Before filling the egg cartons with soil, we made sure to label each one. We have some seeds like lettuce that we are germinating just to get out early into the cold frames and will start another batch in 3-4 weeks, so we also added the date as well. Labelling the cartons would have been so much harder after they were filled, so I’m glad I thought of this instead of having to play the guessing game. Most baby plants look the same and it would be a shame to have to guess what is what!
After the cartons were holey and labelled, we placed them in the aluminum containers and filled them with potting soil using a small measuring cup so we didn’t get dirt everywhere! We filled the cups to the top making sure not to compress the soil to much which would make it harder for the seeds to produce roots. Once the cups were filled, we lightly sprayed them with a water bottle to dampen the soil and they were ready for seeds!
I’m always afraid of planting the seeds to deep, so we used a ruler to not only make the trench for the seeds, but also to measure the depth…double whammy! This would wonderfully and the ruler also made a great tool for scrapping the soil back over the seeds.
After the seeds are planted, we used a spray bottle filled with water to give them a good soaking! Last year, I used a regular watering can and it washed the soil away, exposing the seeds! Lesson learned! A spray bottle is perfect to make sure you don’t compress the soil or overwater!
Next, we needed to top the aluminum containers with plastic which will help hold the heat and moisture. Some of the containers already had plastic lids, so this worked perfect. We just popped some holes in the top for ventilation. The other containers with no lids were topped with plastic wrap and secured with clothes pins!
Hopefully in the next coming weeks we will be able to show you some sprouts!! We placed our DIY greenhouses in an east facing window since the morning sun is the strongest at our house. We will give them a nice spritz of water in the evenings and let them soak in the heat in the mornings!!
We will be starting the construction on our cold frames next week and building in self irrigation systems using rain water collection! Hopefully by the time we have these complete, we will have little plants to put in the cold frames and start a new growing season that will just keep producing all year long!