Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Second Article Published by the Fairfield Ledger

It’s Time to Begin Spring Planting!

I’d like to share a VERY easy way to propagate new perennial plants.   Creating no-fuss, mini greenhouses is fun and nearly foolproof!  Please read this entire set of instructions prior to beginning this project.

Many seeds require stratification before they germinate.  Stratification is the process of subjecting seeds to cold temperatures for a period of time, as happens outdoors when seeds fall to the ground and are subjected to our winter weather.  The following plants represent those I’ve grown using this process:  Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, Monarda, Joe Pye Weed, and Blackberry Lily.

If you have access to gallon-size plastic milk jugs, a drill with a smallish bit or an awl, a sharp knife or scissors, potting soil, seeds, duct tape, and a label-maker or permanent ink marker, roll up your sleeves!  You’re ready to create your first mini-greenhouse. 

Discard the milk jug cap.  Drill, or carefully poke with your awl, several holes in the bottom of each milk jug.  With your permanent marker, draw a horizontal line from one side of the base of the handle all the way around the jug to the other side of the handle.  The handle area will be the greenhouse “hinge.”  Cut along the line with your sharp knife or scissors. 

Carefully fold back the top of the jug; filling the bottom with potting soil to a depth of approximately three inches.  Poke several ¼ to ½” deep holes with your finger, place a seed or two in each hole. Cover the holes with additional soil.  If the soil is quite dry, dampen it with a spritz or two of water.  I use an old window cleaner bottle filled with plain water.

The best way to identify the type of seed in each jug is to label twice.  One label will remain inside the jar, written in permanent ink or marker, either in the soil or taped inside the jug.  Write the other label on the outside of the jug.  The outer label often fades by Spring.

Re-situate the top of the milk jug, using duct tape to securely fasten the top to the bottom.  You threw away the lid because precipitation, in the form of winter snow and spring rain, must reach the soil in your mini-greenhouse. 

January and/or early February is the perfect time to set mini-greenhouses outdoors.  Locate a somewhat sunny area that’s not sheltered by an overhanging roof and not subject to wind gusts.  I usually put mine on the easterly or southerly side of the house, next to leafless bushes and raised garden beds.   

A third hindrance to success is placing the milk jugs in an area subject to being covered by drifted snow.  Slow melting snow drifts would prevent your green house from receiving sunlight, warmth, and proper amounts of moisture, all of which are necessary for germination and plant growth.

Now, enjoy your mini-greenhouses!  Peek in there periodically, just for fun!  You should see some seedlings in April.  When all danger of frost is gone, remove the duct tape and remove the greenhouse tops.  You’ve placed the jugs in sheltered areas, so let spring breezes toughen the seedlings.   When it’s time to plant, scoop out your seedlings carefully, and set in the ground with a little slow-release fertilizer.

This is a wonderful way to gain new plants for your garden.  You MAY grow more plants than you need, so share them with friends and family members!!    We’d like to know how you do!  Submit your results to “Dear Iris” this Spring!

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