Protecting your newly set out plants from a late spring frost, or simply giving them a boost of warmth and moisture for a great start in the garden is quick, easy and best of all inexpensive when you use recycled containers you already have on hand. Recycled milk containers and two-liter soda bottles can be used effectively to protect your plants and provide them with the ideal environment to get off to a good start.
Two-liter Soda Bottles
Soak and remove the label from a recycled two-liter soda bottle. Cut the bottom four inches off the empty soda bottle with a sharp knife or scissors. I cut a slit in the bottle with a knife and then use scissors to cut around the circumference of the bottle to make a nice smooth cut. Discard the bottom of the bottle. Remove the cap from the bottle.
Once your seedlings are set out in the garden, set the two-liter bottle over the top of the plant. Push the bottle firmly in the soil to prevent it from being blown over in the wind. I pack some soil firmly around the outside of the bottle for support. Unless you are expecting hurricane force winds, this is generally enough to prevent the bottle from being blown over.
In northern climates, the open cap will provide enough ventilation to prevent plants from overheating. In areas with high temperatures, you may need to cut a few ventilation holes in the side of the bottle. Check your seedlings during the hottest part of the day to determine the best course of action for your area.
Recycled Milk Containers
Recycled milk containers are great for larger plants. Simply cut off the bottom of the container and remove the cap. Place the container over the plants and secure into the soil by pushing gently or by packing soil around the bottom of the milk container.
Cucumbers and Melons
These are great for cucumber and melon seedlings. Cucumbers and melons thrive in the hot humid conditions the milk container creates. Allow your plants to grow until they nearly fill the container. When the container is nearly full, gradually begin to harden off your cucumbers or melons. I generally uncover them for a few hours a day, when the weather is mild and there is not a lot of wind. After a few days, your plants will be ready for you to remove the container altogether.
Plant protectors made from either a two-liter soda bottle or recycled milk containers are fantastic for young tomato plants that are sensitive to the cold. Following the same procedure as described for cucumbers and melons will provide your tomato plants with protection from the elements and will allow you to set them out earlier than usual. Take care in hardening off these plants when the time comes for removing the plant protector. Tomato plants that have not been properly hardened off will break easily in the wind and are sensitive to drastic temperature changes.
Portable, Reusable and Free
These plant protectors are portable and reusable. They can be used for extended periods to promote lush growth or for a quick cover to protect your plants from a chilly night. They are great for giving plants a boost in the early spring and to protect them from any late frosts. They are also a terrific way to protect small plants in the fall when a frost is expected. Best of all, making plant protectors from recycled containers is quick and easy and it is absolutely free.