I love starting my garden plants from seeds. By ordering seeds and starting seedlings my self, I have hundreds of options. Instead of limiting myself to the 8-10 varieties of tomato plants that are offered in stores, I can grow whatever kind of tomatoes or other veggies I prefer. However, one problem with starting your own seeds is that, unless you have a greenhouse or cold frame, your seedlings can grow too tall and leggy indoors. They really need more sunlight than a windowsill can provide.
Last year, I solved this problem by using Coke bottle greenhouses. I started the seeds in Jiffy peat pellet trays on my kitchen windowsill. When the seedlings grew their first pair of real leaves, I transplanted them to a Coke bottle greenhouse.
Here’s how you make a Coke bottle greenhouse.
You’ll need empty two liter Coke bottles (one for each plant), a sharp knife (a utility knife works great), and potting soil.
Using the utility knife, cut a small hole for drainage in the bottom of your Coke bottle. About halfway up the bottle, cut around the bottle. Cut around about 85 percent of the bottle, so that you can tip the top half of the bottle away.
Fill the bottom portion of the Coke bottle with potting soil and plant your seedling in there. Give it a good drink of water. Then, tip the top half back over to cover the seedling. Put these in a sunny spot on a deck. Keep in mind that they can be vulnerable to tipping. That’s why I put them on the floor of the deck, rather than on the table or railing.
The Coke bottles protect the seedlings from cold weather, working exactly like a greenhouse. March and April in Middle Tennessee can have rather unpredictable weather, so we need that protection. However, the plants can also get plenty of sun outdoors. My vegetable plants do very well this way. Cold snaps and severe thunderstorms are not an issue when I use these greenhouses. We even got a hailstorm last week, and it didn’t hurt my baby plants.
Last year, I was quite pleased with the results. I started my seeds in early March. By mid-March, the seedlings went outdoors into the Coke bottle greenhouses. By late April, the tops of the plants were touching the tops of the bottles, so I cut away the upper half of the bottle. They stayed on the porch until I was able to plant the plants in the garden in mid-May.
You can leave the caps of the bottles on the greenhouses, or you can remove them for ventilation as the weather warms up. You just want to keep an eye on your plants. You don’t want them so warm and damp that they get moldy or diseased, but you do want to protect them from chilly nights.
Note to non-Southerners:
You can use any kind of soda bottles that you want. Here in the South, any soft drink is a Coke. The conversation may go like this: “Hey, you want a Coke?”
“Well, I have Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Root Beer and Co-Cola (that’s a Coca Cola in case you don’t know). What would you like?”
“I’ll have a root beer.”
“Here you go.”
“Thanks for the Coke!”