How to Make Mini-Greenhouses

Learn how to use recycled throw away containers to better your green garden.

  • Mini-Greenhouse
    Barbara Hardesty puts recycled material to good use in her organic garden. Here she explains how to make mini-greenhouses.

  • Mini-Greenhouse

Large peanut butter jars, translucent plastic milk containers, and one-gallon glass jugs can all be recycled into mini-greenhouses that will give your garden a big jump on spring.

The peanut butter jars, of course, are the easiest to use: just take off their lids, wash the containers, and turn them upside down over whatever in your vegetable patch needs this kind of protection. Last year, for instance, the mulched soil In which I seeded my first planting of pole lima beans was so cold that the beans began to rot instead of germinate. So I replanted the crop with an upended peanut butter jar over every bean. Presto! The extra heat that collected under each cloche brought the limas right up and quickly forced me to remove the individual greenhouses altogether (to keep the new growth inside from being scalded during the increasingly warm and sunny days).

Translucent plastic milk jugs work even better as garden plant protectors (since you can regulate their internal temperatures by removing and replacing their lids). Just cut the bottoms right out of these containers and set the jugs — upright, this time! — down over your early transplants. I find that these particular recycled containers work extremely well with dwarf dahlias (started from seed in a hot frame) when I'm ready to transplant the flowers to the garden. The translucent plastic keeps the dahlias warm and sheltered from the wind ... yet protected from the direct rays of the sun. So protected, the somewhat finicky dahlias dig right in and grow vigorously.

My all-time favorite mini-greenhouses, though, are still the ones I make from one-gallon glass jugs. They're simply ideal covers for my Green Comet broccoli transplants (four broccoli plants per jug!) and other vegetables that I want to set out in the garden well before the danger of spring's last hard frosts has passed.

You do, of course, have to work a little harder to transform these glass jugs into cloches. I begin by hoarding vinegar, cider, etc., containers all year in an old shed behind the house. Then, once a year, I carry the cache to the picnic table in the back yard and "have at it."

 Tools you'll need are a pint jar inverted over gasoline-soaked string, kitchen matches, jug, bucket of cold water, hammer, scissors, glass cutter, and more (sill unsoaked) twine.

3/11/2011 7:16:53 PM

The tip about cutting the glass jugs is fantastic! I almost never see glass containers anymore but I'll try to find some. I've used the milk jugs many times, they work really well. The wind can knock them over but they can be anchored with a couple of sticks, such as wire coat hangers. Lance, please, a little less Kool-Aid, a little more rationality.

2/27/2011 7:09:07 AM

U R trying very hard to perpetuate the MYTH that there is an Oil shortage...There is MORE than ENOUGH OIL, COAL & NATURAL GAS right here in this US of A ! Only the ECO CRIMINALS, GREEN MAFIA, EPA & the De-Mock=RATS in Dodge City are holding this great Country HOSTAGE with their "enviro LUNACY" !!!!! ><> GREEN SUCKS <>< L v M ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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