The Great Garden Experiment


I wanted to try something new this year for our garden.  I love experiments and I love gardening! Put those two together and you have a happy girl! I remembered pinning something on Pinterest about using milk jugs as personal greenhouses. I had to give it a try! If it didn’t work out, I’m not really out anything.  The cost of dirt I guess… but we keep our seed packets from the year before (and the year before, and the year before….).  The seeds stay good (we keep them on the top shelf of our closet).  Still, I couldn’t help buying some cool seeds when I took the girls out to buy soil! The one I’m looking forward to the most? Pumpkins on a stick!


You can see exactly how we did it from the picture above. My least favorite part- bleaching each milk carton and poking 6 holes in the bottom of each one.  My favorite? The seeds 🙂


We started out using Black Gold soil, recommended by IFA, but it dried out really quickly.  We bought a huge bag of Miracle Gro potting soil from Costco for $10. It stayed moist and the seeds thrived.


We tried all sorts of containers besides milk. This applesauce jar didn’t end up sprouting anything, a 2 liter soda bottle worked well, but my most favorite was the plastic rectangle boxes that you buy your spinach and mixed greens at Costco.  A lot of little plants can get started there and it’s easy to use.  You don’t have to cut the container in half- there’s already the giant lid! I don’t know if it would work as well in colder weather since the plastic is a lot thinner (I took those in at night).

garden experiment 2


Every week or so I’d add another 5 or 10 milk cartons to the mix. So many neighbors donated to the cause! By the end both garden boxes were packed with milk jugs! In snowy weather I’d cover them, but didn’t always.  Once the outside of the milk cartons were covered with ice after a night of rain and cold temperatures.  I thought for sure all of the plants had died! I opened the lids and although everything was cold, no plants were frozen! I did lose one plant because I opened the lid and a huge chunk of snow landed inside the carton. I couldn’t get it out and I thought the rising sun would melt it fast enough anyway. Wrong!


Once a huge windstorm blew all of my containers away- I thought all was lost then.  I decided to open all of the milk cartons and replant the strewn plants.  Not one died!  I did lose a plant from getting baked!  It’s crazy how hot it gets inside on a warm day! I went for a month without having to open the lids during the day… but after that it got too warm so I went outside in the early afternoon to open all of the lids and then I’d close them all in the evening. They were so fun to watch! I loved watching them sprout 🙂

I even had a group that I actually took in every night because I wanted to see if there was a difference.  (It was also an insurance policy- for sure those plants would make it, right?) They actually had a harder time adjusting to garden life than the ones who stayed outside morning and night.  That was my fault though because I didn’t have a chance to really get them used to outside temperatures first…


When we went out of town for Spring Break I knew that I had to figure out a watering system.  Most of our friends were also going on vacation, and it really was a task to water each little milk jug.  So, even though it was early all the plants had to go into the ground.  If the plants were big enough, I planted them directly.  If they were still a little small, I left them in the bottom half of the container so that the garden sprinklers would still water them.  A few weeks later we had a cold spell and I lost a few plants, but everything else was fine!


In May I planted our front beds with the 100+ flowers in these containers and even planted 3 different rows in the back yard! They will probably be small plants this year, but they should really fill in the whole bed by next spring! I was worried about the tomatoes the most. I’ve always heard about how hard and finicky they are, but we got 19 plants! We’ve lost 3 (one from a chilly night and two from transplanting).  The funny thing about this experiment – I carefully labeled each container with a sharpie. Buy the time it was ready to plant, almost all of the sharpie had faded away.  I have no idea what flowers are growing in my front yard!


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