A note on seeds: Even most small seed packets come filled with far more seeds than one average gardener can use. Save more money by splitting seeds with a friend! You can also save seeds from many plants in the fall and then plant them the next spring. Visit WinterSown for more information and ideas.
Once you have your seeds planted, use duct tape to tape the jugs closed.
I generally put a plant marker in each jug, but I also write whatever the plants are on a piece of duct tape and attach it to the bottom of the jug, just in case it fades too much from the sun.
As long as there is condensation on the inside of the jugs (as shown in the top picture), you don't need to water the plants. If they look dry, either spritz or drip water in until all the soil is moist.
According to what I've read, if you live where it's colder, you can leave these containers out all winter in the snow and everything. We don't really have much winter, so ours grow pretty fast. Once your plants are big enough, you can remove the duct tape and let the little plants get some sun during the day, then just tilt the top back over for protection at night.
I don't follow any hard and fast rules about when to transplant from the containers into the garden soil, but generally if the plants have some secondary leaves and the weather is good enough, and they have been "hardened off" by having the tape removed for several days or a a week, I will transplant. The little swiss chard seedlings in the photo above will go into the ground sometime this week.
Another one of my favorite containers to plant in is foam cups with clear lids. These are great for plants that need a little more space, like tomatoes. You can plant just a couple seeds in each of these. There is a great step-by-step tutorial at WinterSown for these.
Disclaimer: I'm sure there are just as many ways of doing this as there are gardeners, but this is how I do it. I am by no means an expert, just someone who likes to garden. This is the process that works for me. For more information, I highly recommend you visit WinterSown. You can learn all about winter sowing as well as get free seeds to use in your own winter sowing efforts.
milk jugs (or cartons, or tall foam cups, or any other container you can re-use that will hold at least 3" of soil, plus plants)
good quality potting soil (go ahead and buy the good stuff, you'll save enough everywhere else)
heavy duty kitchen shears or a utility knife
plant markers (optional) and a marker
First I gather a lot of milk jugs and other containers. I don't like having these sit around all year, so I just ask friends and family to save them for me for about the month before I plant. I always end up with enough. Make sure these are SUPER CLEAN. I wash them out beforehand and then after cutting them to make sure they're really clean.
Start by cutting slits in the bottom of the container for drainage.
Then, pinch the corner of the jug that is opposite of the handle about halfway up the jug. Snip with your shears.
From the snipped point, cut around the jug, leaving the handle section intact.
Fill with at least three inches of good quality potting soil. Soil should be moist before you put it in the containers. Not dripping wet, but damp.
Next plant your seeds in the dirt according the the package directions. I plant a lot more than the package calls for, and then divide them when I transplant. But how you do this is really up to you.
We loved the butterfly house - so fun! Next time we may try to visit on a day that isn't quite so sunny though, since there were not as many butterflies as we were hoping would be out and about. It was just too bright out from what I heard. The ones we saw were beautiful though!
Here are some pics from January. These are taken at Callaway Gardens. We did a day trip since they were having free admission in Jan and Feb. Had a great time and plan to visit again! The birds of prey show was better than any I've been to before-the birds were flying through the audience the whole time.