Making Mini Greenhouses

Here is another gardening project that can be done in the winter.  It’s January in Chicago, at least 2 to 3 months until we can think about getting annuals into the garden, depending on the weather.  So let’s take matters into our own hands and get some plants started.  Let’s make mini greenhouses to get seeds started outside as early as possible.  All we need is a milk carton, soil, seeds, and duct tape.  Oh and we’ll need something to poke holes and cut the carton.

Cut the milk cartoon open on three sides to create a hinged top.  Make the cut at about the halfway (or higher) mark on the carton.  Poke some holes in the bottom for drainage.  Fill the bottom with moist soil.  Sow the seeds in the the soil.  I set up all the milk cartons first, seeds and all, then sealed them up.

IMAG0710 mini green houses IMAG0714 mini green houses


Put them in a sunny spot with the caps off.  This will allow for watering and circulation.  As soon as it gets warm enough the seeds should germinate.  I put a lot of seeds in each carton so I may need to thin the crop.

Once the plants are large enough to transplant to pots or beds remove the tape and open them up, leaving the plants in.  This will harden off the plants, or acclimate them to the outside temperature and sun exposure.  After a week or two you can put them wherever you want.

I chose cool weather plants in the hopes of benefiting from them as early as  mid spring.  I will set up another round of greenhouses in the spring with summer plants that will hopefully be ready to go into the ground after any risk of frost.

If this project is fruitful I will have two kinds of Osteospermum daisies, a purple and a copper color, red Gerbera daisies, snapdragons in multiple colors, and a beautiful Nemesia.  

If anyone has any winter projects to share please do, we love comments and suggestions.


More of the Midwest Gardeniere

Great news everyone!  There are more new Gardeniere videos online to watch.  I want to thank everyone for spreading the word and for all the compliments.  Filming has been very exciting and rewarding.

A few posts ago I showed some pictures of the projects we worked on early this fall.  The newest video shows how I planned and put together a fall themed garden design using accents in the color blue. Click here to watch on YouTube or go to my Midwest Gardeniere page and push play.

The other new Gardenieres video talks about sun and shade plants in rail planters that I designed early this summer.  It’s a great transformation from tired withered plants to colorful summer flowers filling up the planters.  Again, click here watch or go to my Midwest Gardeniere page and push play.

I’ve been talking about a design project for a while now and that’s what I’ve been working on this past week.  I took an empty front yard and turned it into multi-season garden.  Tune in for the next post to get all the details and before and after photos!

Thanks so much for your support.  I love to hear comments and suggestions so send them my way.


The Garden Party Continues

Now that you have toured the front yard let’s tour the back.

We’ll take a walk down the side path, the picture on the left, which in a few years will have flowering trees blooming in the spring.  When we get to the back you can see the yard, the picture on the right.

On the south side of the path we have a climbing hydrangea making its way up the deck railing.  Further along we have the shade garden, which gets only a couple of hours of sun. In here we have multiple varieties of hostas, astilbe, mums and columbine, with Plumeria, Monarda, and Campanula.

On the north side of the yard is the sun loving garden.  We have lilacs surrounded by Salvia, Sedum, Coreopsis, Munstead lavender, and Russian sage.  Then we have the rose garden, in the middle photo, which is so exciting because these roses were all grown from seed!  They are only two years old right now so they are still pretty small.  I will spread them out a bit this fall in preparation for next year’s growth.  I have mums centered in this garden to offer some additional fall color.

The picture on the right is our pergola.  We built this to accommodate the grape plant that is now vining its way to the top.  I did the design work, we sawed out the decorative ends and put it up in a couple of days.

Let’s head back to the house to check out the back deck…

Facing to the north we hung a decorative metal piece.  This was actually the back of an old wooden bench that had seen better days. We recycled the wood and used this piece to add some character to the deck.  Then we hung little plants off it to add more color.  In each of those pots is a moon flower vine that climbed up all the way to the rafters.  Really exceptional!  We also have hooks in the rafters to be able to hang all sorts of plants at different heights.  We have pots on the deck, on the railings, and on decorative racks…flowers everywhere.

We have also harvested some nice vegetables, the picture on the left. The zucchini was 14 inches long and the eggplant bigger than a softball.  I am very pleased with the result of my first attempt at these two plants this year.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.  As always let me know if you have any questions or comments.


btw – Thanks to Rich and Alice for the vegetable plants that were so successful this year!


Annuals For Your Summer Display

Back from our travels we found so many wonderful plants to share with you.  Make sure you click on the pictures to really see the plants up close.  These plants were all found at The Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbrigde, Massachusetts.  This post will cover annuals you can use for a display garden. We will talk about perennials in the next post.

This display is extraordinary and really it is just two different plants. The yellow-brown foliage is Ipomoea, the sweet potato vine, yes, like the kind you eat. This variety is ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’, offering that wonderful color. We often see the green ‘Marguerite’ and dark ‘Blackie’ varieties filling up pots and window boxes. Now you know another variety to add some new color. There are three purple plants in here too, all of which are Ageratum. By using three different varieties you get different heights and colors. For a tall blue plant you might choose the ‘Blue Horizon Tall’ variety. For the shorter blue try ‘Blue Hawaii’. For the rich violet purple color on the right try ‘Purple Fields’ or ‘Artist Purple’.

Falling out of this container with tons of bright pink flowers is Portulaca ‘Pazazz’. What a brilliant display of flowers for the summer. Put this in a pot on your steps or porch and enjoy the flowers every time you walking in and out your door.

This sweet little ground cover with its rich foliage and bright yellow flowers is Oxalis spiralis ‘Burgundy’. Again, adding interest and color to the garden with its colorful foliage. This one could be up in front at the edges of a garden bed to keep it visible.

For something really different and truly amazing you might consider the spiny tomato plant in these pictures. This is Solanum quitoense, aka ‘Bed of Nails’, and it is a defensive plant to say the least. All along the burgundy veins of the large green leaves you will find these sharp, pointy spikes. In my excitement and awe of this plant I learned quickly how sharp these spikes are! This would make a really interesting addition to a specimen garden. For those not familiar with the term “specimen” that means that you have a plant in a visible location specifically because it is great to look at, especially up close.

Plants can be ornamental and functional too. Take this Opal Basil plant…look at the color it will add to your herb garden or even to a pot, and it has a full and rich scent and flavor, much like the green variety.

So there you have some exciting annuals for bright summer display in beds and containers.  Stay tuned for the next post on perennials that will offer enjoyment year after year.  As usual, any comments or questions are encouraged!


btw – Thanks to my husband, Ed, for his excellent photos.