1 gallon milk jug green house

Milk Jug Gardening

Get a jump start on gardening with a winter garden greenhouse. This greenhouse requires zero maintenance and can be pulled together with items you may already have around the house.

  • 1 gallon milk container, empty and well rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of shredded paper, optional
  • 1 knife
  • 1 sharpie
  • 4 cups dirt
  • 1 plastic shopping bag
  • 1 package of seeds
  • 1 Phillips head screwdriver
  • 1 cup water

I begin my outdoor planting the first week of February. This is 14 weeks before the last frost is predicted. The first two weeks of February I make the switch to plastic milk containers and plastic grocery bags and start setting them aside to use as my garden containers.

Around mid-February or 12 weeks before the last frost is predicted, its time to begin your favorite summer garden planting. To get started you’ll want to collect the above items and find a warm place to work as this activity can take a while. I recommend starting indoors.

  1. Puncture 4 drainage holes in the bottom of the milk container.
  2. Slice or cut 7/8 way around the milk container horizontally. I often start and stop on opposing sides of the handle. Leave the handle attached so the top and bottom of the milk jug stay connected.
  3. Place the milk jug inside of a plastic bag and rest it on the ground or counter top (at this point I recommend being outdoors).
  4. Fold the top of the milk jug over so you can add two handfuls of shredded paper to the bottom of the milk jug.
  5. Add about 2 cups of dirt on top of the shredded paper.
  6. Place seeds on the dirt.
  7. Top with about 2 two more cups of dirt.
  8. Using the Sharpie write what you planted on the milk container.
  9. Add a cup of water to the dirt.
  10. Tie the bag as air tight as possible around the milk jug.
  11. Place the containers outside so they get as much sun as possible.

Plant it and forget it now. Let the plants grow. You don’t need to open and check on them and you don’t need to water them. Open them back up after the first frost and begin to transplant them into your garden.

We’ve been starting our garden this way since 2017. I often plant left over seeds from the previous season or seeds I have saved from the garden. The trick to these milk jugs is a quality grocery bag. For the best success you want a white or translucent plastic bag that has no holes. You should be able to pick up the bag and nothing leak out. You also want to tie the bag tightly to try to leave no room for bugs to crawl in or condensation to seep out.

I’ve had the most success with early starting tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers using this method about 10 weeks before the last frost. Although pictured, DO NOT plant corn in these, corn does not transplant.

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