Tom's Blog

Monday, July 21, 2008

Clever way to start prairie plants

Denny Connor, one of our most reliable Prairie Enthusiasts, has invented a clever new technique for getting prairie plants started in the field. He creates miniature greenhouses out of gallon milk jugs.

Prairie seeds or a prairie seedling are placed in the soil and covered with the milk jug. The bottom of the jug has been cut off so that the sides can be forced into the soil. The translucent plastic jug allows light to penetrate but helps retain water. Seeds germinate readily inside this mini-greenhouse, and transplanted seedlings thrive. Occasional watering is all that is needed.

The second photo shows a thriving lead plant peaking up from the bottom of the container. Kathie had planted a tiny seedling here about three weeks before. It is obviously happy inside its habitat and has grown very well.

According to Denny, this technique works especially well for early spring plantings of prairie seeds. The dome helps to retain heat from the sun, warming up the soil and giving the seeds a head start. He has used this technique for spring planting of prairie grasses, both in a garden set-up and in the field. I saw some of his milk jugs when he led a trip to prairie remnants near Indian Lake a month ago.

Denny says that although he thought this technique up himself, he is certain that others use similar devices. In fact, when I used the search term "miniature greenhouse" I got lots of hits, many from commercial sources that will sell you "kits" for $15 dollars or more. However, as long as you drink milk, you have an unlimited supply of free mini-greenhouses.


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