Making a Greenhouse & Sowing Seeds (Updated)

WHEN is a water jug not a water jug? When it’s a miniature greenhouse! Yes, the very greenhouse you need for seed-sowing in winter. Although I described this Cinderella-act in an earlier post, you might find it helpful to see the procedure in pictures:

1. Making Drainage Holes
Because your seeds will be watered with snow, sleet and rain, your greenhouse will need drainage holes, and lots of them . Thus, turn your container upside down and punch through its base about 15 holes, as illustrated above. Also make holes about a half-inch above the container’s base, say, 3 holes per side.

I have found that the easiest, and also the fastest way to make openings in a plastic container is not with a knife, which can slip and slide, but with a red-hot “Phillips” screwdriver. I heat mine over a gas flame at the stove. If you don’t have a gas cook-top, heat the screwdriver with a culinary torch. Failing either device, use an electric drill for your hole-making.

2. Making a Hinged-Cover
Just below the base of the handle, cut almost all the way around the jug, leaving a half-inch hinge, as illustrated above. Use a pen-knife or scissors for this easy job.

3. Adding Potting Soil/Water
Add, to your container, a quantity of potting soil to the depth of 2-3 inches, as above. Soak well, and permit to drain thoroughly at the kitchen sink. The soil, of course, must be well-draining. If your soil-mix is slow to drain, amend it with a small amount of perlite.

4. Planting Seeds
Sow your seeds on the surface of the soil. Very small seeds need no additional soil to cover them. Just leave them on the surface, regardless of what your seed-packet says. Large seeds, such as Morning Glories and Sweet Peas, require only a one-eighth-inch planting depth.

5. Labeling & Taping
Using a permanent marker, indicate on the jug the following data: name of seed, quantity sown (if possible) and date sown. Then close the container’s hinged cover, and secure it in place with 2 or 3 pieces of duct tape. It is not necessary to get a “tight” fit.

6. Lose the Cap
If your container has a cap, definitely remove it. The top opening of a jug permits not only ventilation, but the necessary entry of rain, snow and sleet. Especially on sunny days, your greenhouse will heat up and become quite humid. The vented top will permit excess heat and humidity to escape.

7. Out They Go!
Finally, bring your greenhouse to the wintry elements outdoors. My containers go on the wire-mesh patio table, which I moved to the sunny south side of my garden shed. In this position the jugs are protected from strong north winds. The greenhouses are arranged in a shallow sterlite box, which I peppered with drainage holes. The box mitigates the chance of tipping (should a strong wind get through), and also permits the easy moving of jugs, should this become necessary. If you place your containers in any kind of plastic box, make sure the box has drainage holes, or your seeds will be washed away when the snow melts.

And that’s it! Making a greenhouse and sowing seeds the winter-way is easy, easy, easy!

Don’t miss a beat at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter!

Related Posts:
Winter-Sowing 101
Perennials Which Require Cold-Stratification
Winter-Sowing: Who, What, & Where?
Winter-Sowing: What’s Sprouting in YOUR Milk-Jugs?
Winter-Sow Tender Annuals and Vegetables Now


  1. Great info. And, as always, a picture is worth a thousand words! Thanks!

  2. Gardenlady says:

    Wow – from the looks of it, your winter sowing project is growing by the minute. I admire your tenacity! How many containers have you planted?

  3. Justin – …and your words are so kind!

    Gardenlady – It is too wet and windy for me to go out and check, but I think I've planted 15 miniature greenhouses. I have many large gaps in the Woodland Garden, and my winter-sowing projects should take of these.

  4. I've planted many varities of Delphinum, Morning Glories, and Hollyhocks in about 10 mini greenhouses. These make great weekend projects. I love planning the garden on days like today!

  5. Erin – congratulations! And just think…these are probably Delphs, MGs, and Hollyhocks that you would not be able to obtain, as seedlings, from any garden center.

    Are you using water jugs, milk-jugs, soda bottles, or something else for your greenhouses?

  6. Gardenlady says:

    Not to mention the money you save when you sow this way. Last spring, Pacific Blue Delphiniums were $4.99 EACH at my local nursery. I just bought a packet of seeds for $1.69 from Agway!

  7. Hi, Kevin – After your winter-sowing blog post, I saved a bunch of milk and seltzer containers and got to work this weekend. As I created my little winter greenhouses, a question came to me that I'd sure love the answer to:

    If the seeds sown in mini-greenhouses in January will sprout come spring, why wouldn't they sprout after being placed in the ground before the ground freezes and then thaws in the spring? In other words, why containers instead of the ground (other than time of year)?

    Thanks in advance!

  8. Tammy – Great question. As someone explained to me, it's all about protection: From mother nature — winds and rains wash seeds away — and from critters, who dig the seeds up, or eat the seedlings upon emergence. Insects, too, frequently ravage seedlings the moment they sprout in the open garden.

  9. I use all 3- it's a great way to recycle!

  10. I can't tell you how many times I've planted seeds directly in the garden, only to have crows pick them out.

  11. Erin – yes, it's a great way to recycle. When I shop, I now look for food that's packaged in a potential greenhouse! Rotisserie chicken, for instance…

    Carol – Crows are very intelligent, indeed. I swear they WATCH us when we plant seeds in the garden, and make their move the moment we walk away!

  12. I'd imagine another benefit to sowing in containers is control. One October I planted Sweet William seeds in my perennial border. When they sprouted in April or May, I mistook them for weeds, and pulled them all up!

  13. Thanks for the reply, Kevin. I use soda bottle cloches over seeds I direct sow in the garden to keep the birds away and it works really well. I may try some winter sowing on exposed garden soil, using the same approach you describe (cover with soil, etc) and soda bottles just as a comparison experiment with the winter sown approach you described here — I'll let you know what happens!

  14. Adele – LOL! I once pulled out a gaggle of nasty weeds, only to realize later they were my previously-sown hollyhocks!

    Tammy – Your direct-sow versus winter-sow idea is a terrific one! And such data is extremely valuable to those of us who plant much of our our gardens during the winter months.

  15. Anonymous says:

    YOUR BLOG HAS SAVED ME!!! Not to be dramatic,( too late) but I am a sufferer of SAD and coming from a warmer climate (socal 20 yrs) I have had to learn all over what to plant and keep outside and what to bring inside. I've become familar with the term “overwintering” I had no idea that you could sow seeds outdorrs in this climate. Keep up the good work. I've had success with forcing bulbs indoors… now onto seeds. Your blog is a blessing

  16. socal plant lady says:

    Last comments were mine, just figured out how to post with name, don't want to be anonymous, thanks again.

  17. Welcome, socal plant lady! I look forward to hearing from you often.

    A friend of mine suffers from SAD, too, and found considerable alleviation by growing, in winter, African violets and other flowering plants beneath “daylight” fluorescents.

    Anyway, do stick around…no matter what the calendar (or the weather) says, it's always spring and summer here at A Garden for the House!

  18. You have inspired me, Kevin. I'm getting my containers ready now! Psyched!

  19. Brigid – Good for you!

  20. I had no idea you had a blog on this topic, or even any interest or experience in gardening. How funny! We are interested in doing more with gardening and will certainly be reading more on your blog and talking to you in the future!

  21. Fabulous ideas thank you especially for newbies like me.
    I am forever sowing seeds only to pull them up as weeds as soon as they sprout LOL
    This year the bug has bitten me thanks to my mother-in-law and I am growing everything in pots and containers so I hope to have a few flowers this year.
    I am now saving all bottles and can't wait for winter ROFL

  22. Hi, Kevin – Last year (conversation is earlier in this thread), I said I would try winter-sowing some seeds directly in the earth in addition to the container method I learned from you.

    At the end of the fall, just before snow, I put some spinach seeds inside the cold frame I built from the remains of a picnic table destroyed in the ice storm of 2008. I left the cold frame lid open all winter, letting snow pile up inside. On March 2 I closed the lid, the snow melted, and the sun began to warm the soil.

    I peeked inside today and what did I find? Dozens of little spinach shoots!!! I'm so excited at the prospect of my own fresh spinach in April.

  23. Tammy – That's exciting! You'll be eating fresh homegrown greens in no time!

    And..I just looked at the wintersown spinach on my patio — it has sprouted, too.

    I'd love to see a picture of the cold frame you made. How well I remember that ice storm – no power here for 5 days.

  24. Hi, I want to try this idea with my granddaughter to prepare for our vegetable garden. We live in the Atlanta GA area and still are having warm weather. For this area when we get little to no snow and the weather is warmer, when would be the best point for me to try setting up our planting for things such as tomatoes and peppers?


  25. Jim – what a great project to do with your granddaughter. While you can winter-sow all of your flowering perennials and frost-tolerant edible crops (like spinach) right now, it’s best to hold off on the heat-loving veggies like tomatoes and peppers. Plant these about 8 weeks before you would normally transplant them to the open garden.

    Otherwise, in your climate, tomatoes and peppers can germinate way too early. And then you’ll have to coddle them by placing a blanket over their mini-greenhouses should frost threaten.

  26. Thanks for the information, I thought I would need to wait on the vegetables. Guess we will have to find some flowers to start for now. She loves picking flowers so I maybe having her grow her own will supply her needs.


  27. Ray in Georgia says:

    I want to try this! Most of our Milk Jugs are a Yellow Plastic instead of the Opaque White. This should be okay to use, right?

  28. Ray in Georgia – Nice to meet you! If light can penetrate the walls of your yellow jugs, go ahead and use them. Otherwise, opt for clear plastic bottles (i.e., soda-pop bottles) or even clear plastic deli take-out containers. Light is essential for all seedlings, including those which are winter-sown.

    Lots of folks are singing the praises of clear plastic salad containers (these are available in supermarkets) over on this post.

    Hope you’ll report back on your progress!

  29. Ray in Georgia says:

    Thanks Kevin! It’s a pleasure to meet you too. I like your website very much!

  30. Hi Kevin,
    I found your blog thorugh pinterest and I am so glad I did! I am going to ask everyone for their milk jugs so I can get this winter sowing going soon. Thanks so much for the step by step tutorials and pictures. I learn best with pictures, very similiar to my five year old…..anyway, thank you and I will be stopping by regularly!

  31. Rebecca – Nice to meet you! You can also winter-sow in clear plastic bottles and deli-containers. I happen to prefer the gallon-size milk and water jugs for the roomy quarters they provide. Have fun with your project — hope you’ll report back on your progress!

  32. Can this be done with Veggies. Such as tomatoes?

  33. Marcia – Yes, you can winter-sow veggies! Be sure to read this article: What to Winter-Sow…& When.

  34. I’ve had great success winter sowing squash, tomatoes, peas, cukes and basically everything but root vegetables (where I always end up with a frustrating root ball).

  35. Sam Hunting – Nice to meet you. I check your site — great pix of your winter-sowing vehicles!

  36. Kelly Custer says:

    I like to use 2 milk jugs to make mine. I cut the bottom one as high as I can (under the handle) so I can have over 3 inches soil. I cut the top one as low as I can (above any ridges)–then I can slide the top over the bottom, and I don’t need tape.

  37. Maxime Cunningham says:

    Fantastic ideas, how about the herb garden in an over the door shoe tidy.I have just bought one and am having a go.
    I love all these ideas, like yours, a bit quirky.

    Thank you so much for great ideas I will definitely put in to action.

  38. I keep clear plastic containers that produce like spinach and lettuce come in. Can those be used too even thought they are very clear, not like the milk jugs.

  39. Hello, I wanted to know is winter-sowing needed for Zone 9, like I live in Phoenix area? I wanted to start my annuals right now but wanted to know if I should directly sow them in ground or winter-sow them. Thank you in advance for any inputs.

  40. Jeanne – Yes, you can use the clear produce-containers, too. Punch out plentiful holes in the tops so that moisture (rain, snow) can enter. And punch out lots of holes in the bottom, too, to permit excess water to escape.

    Carrie – Yes, you can winter-sow even in Phoenix. Go ahead and start your annuals now. I suspect you’ll get a better germination rate if you start them in winter-sowing containers rather than directly in the ground.

  41. thanks,,, my sister sarah loves this kind of stuff

  42. Riversana says:

    I saw this post last year–it’s hard to believe I’ve been enjoying your site for a year already!–and have asked my parents to save their milk jugs for me (they already save their egg cartons for my chicken eggs!) so that I will have plenty of mini-greenhouses!
    Can I use a compost and vermiculite mix instead of potting soil for my seedlings or will that be too rich?

  43. Riversana -So glad you’re planning to winter-sow! Be sure to test your compost/vermiculite mixture for drainage. If it drains well, go ahead and use it. If not, amend the mix with perlite. Good drainage is essential, because the seeds will (hopefully) be bombarded with rain, snow, and ice.

  44. Riversana says:

    Not so much snow here in GA, but I’m hoping for success!! Thanks for the advice Kevin!

  45. Love this idea ,I will be using it a lot can’t wait to tell my friends about this

  46. Hello! Came from Pinterest, posted this on my Garden board. Also passed it on to my mom, and she also posted it on her own board. I just finished making one little greenhouse, so I look forward to seeing if this will work for me.

    I just wanted to comment on the yellow milk jug question/comment. I took a tour at the Purity factory a couple of years ago and found out that their yellow milk jugs are not just for marketing; the colored container actually prevents light from entering the container and helps preserve the milk for a longer amount of time. I didn’t know this, and I don’t know if this is common information, but I thought I would add my $0.02. So essentially, yellow milk gallon jugs are not optimal for winter sowing.

    Thanks again!

  47. pocahotness – Thanks so much for passing this post along. Also, thanks for sharing your knowledge of the yellow milk jugs. When asked, I shall tell readers not to use such containers.

  48. I am a newbie in gardening and wanted to plant a few vegetables and strawberries in my backyard (still debating whether I want to do raised beds yet or transplant everything in big pots first since it’s our first year in this new house and I am not sure where I have the most sun/shade). I was wondering if this method is also good for strawberries. Also, I see in your instructions that you are using topsoil…is this what is to be used with all the vegetables and then the soil is changed once transplanted? What about for strawberries? Thank you for all your help.

  49. Wondering if you have a post about when and how to transplant? I was successful at getting starts last year but lost them all as they dried out but it seemed too early to plant outside.
    I am excited to get my hands in dirt but there is still plenty of snow and more to come here in north Washington.

  50. My sister sent me your website today and I am really excited about trying this.

    I live not too far from you Kevin, near Bennington, VT.

    I’ve always had two black thumbs, my late mother-in-law tried to change them to green but trust me we had a good laugh for years remembering when I planted the tulips bulbs upside down! ROFL just thinking about it.

    I’ll keep watching! Happy planting everyone!

  51. Hi Tamie – Here’s my how-to article on transplanting winter-sown seedlings.

    Hi Mickey – Howdy, neighbor! You’ll feel green-fingered indeed after you give winter-sowing a try.

  52. I love this idea! I really enjoy your blog. I write a blog called Reese the Recycler and would love to feature your idea on it. I would give you credit and link back to your blog. Let me know if this would be okay with you.

  53. I don’t have a gas stove, but I do have some oil lamps that I keep on the mantle in case we have a power outage (which happens quite a bit around here). Worked like a charm warming up the screw driver to poke holes in the bottom of the container. 😉

  54. Kevin, I just found your blog a week ago. I only have 2 milk cartons so far but I’m on my way. I used my husband’s wood-burning torch to put holes in the bottom of the cartons. It work great! So easy and quick. My granddaughter Megan and I are going out right now to plant lupine and hollyhocks. I live in zone 5 – don’t know if it’s a or b.

    Thanks for your blog. It’s so informative and helpful. The idea of planting in the dark winter months lifts my spirits and gets me excited for spring.

  55. We are growing many perennials and vegetables this way to save $. Just wanted to let you know, a great containers is the one from the scoopable cat litter. They are strong, light goes through and there is a lot of surface area for planting, I think they are my favorites so far! We are also trying out the potato tower this spring, I’m really looking forward to giving that a try.

  56. Deb Nelson says:

    Getting a bit of a later start this year than I had hoped. On my days off weather has not been favorable for outside activities and I have nowhere indoors to work. So yesterday I got 19 gallon jugs and 3 rubbermaid type clear containers w/snap on lids (that I used last year and worked great) ready to plant. Was hoping to do that today but most likely not happening, still ok on time but am getting antsy to get my hands a dirty even if only for a few minutes. For those of you new to this gardening technique you will soon be saying “How did I ever garden before this?” Thanks so much Kevin, I tell everyone about your website and brag on how great it is, just so you know!!

  57. Mike Paraschos says:

    I like this idea. I am goint to try it but I am going to line the inside bottom of the container with a few sheets of newspaper so I can lift the whole thing out at once and transplant it in tact.

  58. My Rocky Top leaf lettuce plants are doing nicely…about 1″ high. I’m wondering if I can keep them in the gallon jug to maturity? Say 3 or 4 ” high?

  59. Hey kevin just found your blog.

    I live just south of you in Philadelphia. Zone 6b
    Is it too late to winter sow? Should I just wait to “regular” sow?

  60. Hi John – You can certainly grow your lettuce to maturity in a milk jug greenhouse. That is, if you are willing to water the plants multiple times each day. There isn’t enough soil in the container to keep mature roots moist for more than a few hours.

    Hi Brian – In your zone, it might be too late to sow perennials that require stratification. But you still have time to winter-sow everything else.

  61. All of my little greenhouses have sprung their little plants. I am so excited about it. Here is what I planted: Swiss Chard, Cumin, Cauliflower, Spinach, Broccoli, Lettuce, Cabbage, Basil and Kale. Such a great idea. Can’t wait to put them in the ground.

  62. S. Taylor – Congratulations!

  63. I used your “greenhouse” idea and combined your idea with another one.
    I cut toilet paper rolls in half, placed them tightly inside the milk jug, then filled them with starter soil and added my seeds to the soil.
    I planted my marglobe tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and Armenian cucumbers on March 3, and they are ALL about 3 ” tall now! I also planted some pumpkin seeds that I saved from a cooking pumpkin we bought this past fall and planted them a week after the others and they are even taller now. Thank you SOOO much for the great tip for re-using empty milk jugs!
    The toilet paper rolls disintegrate in the soil, and makes it easy to plant the seedlings.

  64. I forgot to tell you NOT to put holes in the bottom of the milk jug if you are using the toilet paper rolls. Living in the mtns of NM we have a shorter growing season, so your greenhouse idea gives us a head start! Strong UV’s burn up a lot of babies too. I am SO excited about all of my babies doing so well! Wish I knew how to send you a picture of them.

  65. I keep my “greenhouses” in our breakfast nook which faces south. I turn the containers around for even sun exposure. We get 50 – 60 MPH winds up here and I doubt the “greenhouses” would last outside in spring. Planning to make a cold frame this year. When the babies get larger I will pot into pots a little larger, then keep going til they get strong enough to go outside. I always harden off our babies. I take the tops off during the morning and place them back on for humidity & warmth after lunch.

  66. Hey there! I followed the link you provided in the comments that gives info on transplanting but I got a 404 error. I’d love to learn any info you have about it – let me know. Thanks!

  67. Hi Trish – This link works: Transplanting Winter-Sown Seedlings.

  68. Is it too late for winter sowing in zone 5b?

  69. Lisa – It’s too late to plant seeds which require cold stratification to germinate. But it’s not too late to plant everything else. Have fun!

  70. Pat McGregor says:

    I love the milk jug greenhouses! I planted them on April 1 near Raleigh, NC. The teacher in me also yearned for a control group so I planted seeds directly in the ground the same day, and placed the milk jugs right next to the ground plantings to see if there was any difference in the size of the plants. The greenhouse with cucumbers looks healthier than the ground-planted ones. The tomatoes were planted in clear Tropicana containers and the ground-planted ones are significantly larger and more developed. Hmmm?
    I will definitely start them earlier next year.

  71. I love this idea, and as an educator, I would love to do this with the visitors to the park as a way to help them plant and love native flowers! Can we do this as a fall project? As in have them keep their greenhouse inside until January? Or what would you suggest? We are in Missouri.

  72. Hi Jamie – Native flowers drop their seeds in the fall. So you can certainly plant up your milk jugs then. I’d keep the jugs outdoors, where the seeds can receive rain, sleet, snow — just as they do in Nature.

  73. Elizabeth B says:

    You don’t add any water at all? Just have it come through the top?

  74. Carol DeWald says:

    I’m going to try starting my plants this way this coming season! It sounds so easy and since I don’t have a greenhouse this method would be just great–plus I wouldn’t need to find occasionally sunny windows to put tiny trays on! Thanks!

  75. Elizabeth – Dampen the potting mixture (see step 3).

  76. After I originally commented I sesm to have clicked the -Notity mee when
    new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment.

    There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Apprecioate it!

  77. I have been winter sowing for several years and have been very successful. Its so easy and much fun. I have found working with the sticky duct tape to be unnecessary. I punch three holes – sort of evenly spaced – with a paper punch, above and below the cut and secure the two edges with the wire twists like those used on bread. Its much less fuss to open and close the jugs in spring when the weather warms. I set the jugs on wooden pallets so that they drain freely. I really enjoy your blog.

  78. Hi Kevin, Can you do this on Tomatoes? I live in San Antonio and the weather here is on and off in mid 20’s-70. Saturday it was 71 January 5, 2014. Sunday it dropped again to 20’s and currently 34 @ 3:50p.m. Monday Jan 6th.
    We do not get extreme One digit weather here, but it does get very cold as stated.
    I have not had any luck with growing tomatoes. I have tried planting them on the ground, garden wood boxes, pots and no luck. Start from the seeds in milk containers, I will give it a try and with other herb plants and flowers.
    On my bulbs, I buy some every year and they do not grow:( why? The tip of the bulbs go up, right? That is what I’ve always planted them. Can you please give me some tips. Also, my elephant ears bulbs are huge but no luck:(
    Thank you, Kevin for the great idea.

  79. Alicia O'Neal says:

    Kevin. What do you recommend for ROSE BUSHES – Highly Scented Rose Bushes without thorns would be nice. Someone told me Belinda’s Dream Rose Bush is one of them.
    I bought a large 10 gallon pot of ANISE herb and when I transplanted it; it was not happy:(
    Is it true that herbs produce and do well starting from seeds over buying a plant?
    On herbs do you cut them down in the winter season and cover them with mulch, and hopefully they will come back again? Thank you for any info you can share, Alicia

  80. Hi Kevin – I live in Germany and have just discovered your website through a commentator on Karen’s blog ‘The Art of Doing Stuff’. I certainly plan to try out this idea with my children, hopefully at the weekend. I am looking forward to later this evening after they are all in bed and can take my time having a look around here.

  81. Howdy Kevin,

    I live your site, look forward to it every week! I live in Deep South Texas and was wondering what time is best to start using milk jug green houses. It doesn’t snow here and rarely gets seriously cold. Will these still work? Will they be too hot for our little seeds?

  82. This is great to see the pictures. I thank you very much for teaching us this method. I didn’t get my jugs out until Feb. 5, but within 6 days some were already coming up. (Zone 8 down here in Alabama.) They are doing great so far! Thank you, thank you.

    One problem I had was the permanent marker washed off in the first rain. So I wrote out more names on a little piece of paper and covered the paper with clear tape like you mail packages with. IT covered it from the rain and looks like that will not erase.

    Also the electric drill was too heavy for my arthritic shoulder rotator cup to hold and was hard to push in and out.But instead of the drill or gas heated screwdriver…both of which I tried..I was disgusted with myself when I had such trouble holding the drill for 30 jugs. So.I took a serrated steak knife without heating it and just jabbed it in the bottom and twisted it and it just went right in and twisted out a litte hole easily. Soft drink bottles were too tough in the bottom for me to use that method, but in milk jars, even my joints could quickly puncture the bottoms and sides with a serrated steak knife fast…bang, bang, bang, like that! Thank you again for a great start on Back Yard Food Production 2014!

  83. Kevin, we don’t drink milk or soda so have no jugs like that. However, we do have cats. Can I use the big green cat litter jugs to start my seeds in? I’m in Alaska zone 3/4 and would like to start the seeds now. Is it to late?

  84. Kevin, I just discovered your blog this morning and already have so many tips and ideas from your posts! Thank you for sharing. I just signed up for your newsletter so I don’t miss anything! 🙂

  85. Annette Roy in Oregon says:

    Thank you for the milk jug idea…and I was just getting ready to send the entire lot off to be recycled! I can now get a backyard garden started immediately! I long so much for the flowers to line my rustic (ok Lame) fence-line and make it look kinda respectable! Now I may be able to get a jump on the project for the first time! Wonderful advice sir!

  86. Very exciting. Can I do this with herb seeds? If so how many and how? Spinkle a few? Will they sprout jammed together? Thanks.

  87. To make holes in your milk jug, I found that a cheap glue gun does quite well. (I got mine at Meijer for $3) Heat it up & burn holes in the plastic.

  88. Thanks for sharing this Kevin. I live in North central Montana where it can be 20 or 30 below. Can I still do this? If they start to sprout in early spring and a cold snap comes should I bring them in or closer to the house for more heat? Thank you. Cheryl

  89. i just started 8 yesterday! i couldnt believe how warm the partly sunny skies got those little jugs. I had quite a bit of condensation on the sides so i am planning on making a couple more venting holes near the mouth of the jug.

    because of my elevation, i never get a warm enough spring to work the soil because it is still frozen! Last year we had snow on April 16 and had to wait for two more weekends for ideal conditions to till. This is an incredable idea and im am so stoked for the Kale, peas, parsley, cilantro, wormwood, and basil ro start growing!

    When do you suggest raddish, onions, carrots ?

    Great post, and thanks for the idea!

  90. You R THE BEST!!! My 2010 chocolate cherries are an inch tall thz to your instruction. Happy spring to you too!

  91. Learned of your website today at our local gardening club meeting, it is wonderful! I made little greenhouses out of plastic containers that greens come in, kale, spinach, etc. Are those too thin to put outside now,? The seeds have not sprouted yet. I also started some seeds inside and they have already sprouted can those go in my little outdoor greenhouse (it has heat). In fact it is 110 degrees in there right now and very humid. I opened it for some venting before dusk. Thanks a million!

  92. kristin says:

    I want to try this project can you use bulbs also ?

  93. Mary-Jo says:

    Your’e a genius. I’m going to try this. I moved from Queens, NY and miss my bountiful garden of herbs, flowers and fruits. I have repeatedly attempted many ingenious plans of my own, and failed miserably with the sandy soil I have, or limited success to see the plants die out after a season or three. Heat exhaustion, no doubt! I’ve experienced it myself, toiling away in the sweltering heat & humidity! My poor babies. Foxglove, Lupines, Delphinium, Columbine and Hollyhock are some of my favorite perennials with Pansy being a favorite annual. Draining out the last of the sour milk gallon now. BTW, Hernando County, Fl drops to the teens and twenties for a few hours at the worst, so I can do this with high hopes. Any tips on keeping them alive throughout the heat & humid months?! Thanks so much!

  94. Hi Kevin, What makes great containers for the milk jugs are milk crates. I set them on the deck in the crates and they work great. No holes to bore and can used every year. You can even stack them if you have limited room.

  95. Hi Pat – I agree with you about milk crates. I just can’t find ’em around here!

  96. I didn’t read all the posts – but was wondering if this works at high altitude and cold temps. We live at our cabin in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming – at 8200 feet – gets to zero on some spring days. Has anyone tried this for these conditions? I love the hinged tops – would keep the deer and rabbits away!

  97. Hi Cathy – Winter-sowing is intended for those of us who live in cold climates. Temperatures drop to well-below zero where I live (New York’s Hudson Valley). Your perennials will be fine even if they sprout and then freeze. Should your tender annuals sprout when the weather is still “iffy,” you’ll need to throw a blanket over their containers on freezing nights.

  98. I finally made my jugs and am ready to plant Shasta daisy, Mondara Bergamo, and PowWow echinacea (the PowWow from seeds I harvested from a plant in my garden). I know I’m late, but I’ll let you know how it goes! Thank you, Kevin, for your wonderful site; you’re an inspiration, and everything I’ve learned from you has WORKED!


  1. […] need a table saw. Then I found this amazing post on making your own Mini-Greenhouses. On the blog A Garden for the House. Basically you turn gallon jugs, or any plastic container into a mini- […]

  2. […] first (pictured above) is winter sowing, using milk jugs to create miniature outdoor […]

  3. […] floor planting seeds.  I got this idea from Pinterest, where else?  Here is a link to the blog that gives step by step directions.  It was pretty basic but I have a few tips to […]

  4. […] Just planted some seeds for an early start to spring. Received a link to these milk jug greenhouses and thought it would be good to try. See this: milk jug greenhouses […]

  5. […] an old milk jug to make a mini greenhouse. Courtesy of A Garden for the […]

  6. […] be needing to collect a lot more soon because come December(ish), I plan on making A LOT of greenhouses and I’ll need a lot of potting soil. Might as well make my own and save my gardening money […]

  7. […] are asking around for milk jugs for our greenhouses. The plan is to order seeds the day after Christmas with our Christmas money & start planting […]

  8. […] this week, I went ahead and started some greenhouses. I do not have many milk jugs yet so I need to save them for things like tomatoes & peppers but […]

  9. […] Greenhouses are AWESOME! I was able to grow peppers for the first time and tomatoes earlier than ever this year because of them. […]

  10. […] of reused plastic containers. More about this low cost seed starting method can be found here, and here. This blog is provided by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small group of dedicated growers and […]

  11. […] only a few times to harvest kale and eggs. I will start sowing seeds mid-January in my milk jug greenhouses but until then, I […]

  12. […] (celery, onions, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, and kale).I am hoping to be able to plant some more greenhouses this week. The ground is still frozen so nothing in the soil yet… I also need to clean out […]

  13. […] I finished all of my February TO DO list. Yay! That does not always happen 😉 All of the pruning is done, new trees are planted, and all of my cool weather crops are in the greenhouses. […]

  14. […] greenhouses with warm-weather seeds started to sprout about 3 weeks ago. Two weeks  ago, the temps dropped […]

  15. […] planted out 50 cabbage transplants from my greenhouses Monday. My goal was to grow 34 heads in the spring and 34 in the fall. Some of the transplants were […]

  16. […] years ago, I learned about making greenhouses in order to winter-sow seeds so I could get a jump start on the season. Over the past three years, […]

  17. […] mini greenhouses using milk or water jugs. This is […]

  18. […] Kevin Lee Jacobs and many others use gallon milk or water jugs as mini-greenhouses in which they start their seeds. I have done that in the past, and will probably do so again in the future, but for my mental health I needed to sow seeds today and I hadn’t had the forethought to set aside some cleaned milk jugs. […]

Speak Your Mind