Friday, March 11, 2011

Little Sprouts in the Jiffy Greenhouse

Maybe I'm a simpleton, but it really excites me to see a little seedling sprout up from seed.

Granted, it's certainly much easier (but more expensive) to start off with well established plants sold in those little cell packs at the home store than to remember to get seeds started. And then there's the whole issue of having a safe space to set up seed pod trays inside - away from curious cats, in my case.  That whole old-timers disease I call CRS always seems to keep me from getting seeds started on time, because... well, I just forget!  (And actually, I'm a little behind for my region) So, I do usually cave into the easy shortcut and buy the plants and then cringe, especially like last year, when they do not produce as they should. Not very cost effective - and in truth? Just flat out expensive.

Well, I'm trying to be a bit more frugal these days (God only knows what could happen in this country financially tomorrow) and it is certainly much less expensive to start a garden using seed, but... it does take a bit of planning. 

If you don't have an actual greenhouse, the small Jiffy Greenhouse units are super easy to use, and factoring in that you can potentially use them year after year, very reasonable. The units are made of plastic and not very sturdy plastic, so you will have to be mindful about storing them, so they aren't damaged.

A week ago I decided to drop some seeds in the 25-Plant Jiffy Greenhouse pictured at the top. I also have two of the larger 72-Plant Greenhouses and later today, I'll be planting some annuals, and a few other vegetable seeds in one of them.  I really do love these little greenhouses - they are easy to use and they make a nice enclosed, warm and cozy environment that are perfect for the seeds.  If you've never seen these before, the pellets are pretty cool too. They start out looking like this:

Linked to smaller disks for the larger greenhouses
They are compressed disks loaded with a peat and fertilizer mixture that you pop into the bottom recesses of the plastic greenhouse.  You can usually find these in the stores (if unlike me you actually leave home from time to time), but if you decide to order a greenhouse online and order extra pellets at the same time, make sure you get the right sized refills for the greenhouse you choose. The larger greenhouses have smaller pellets and the smaller greenhouses have larger pellets, which I think are called Jiffy-7 pellets.

Once you get all of your pellets settled into the recesses, you then add warm water and wait until the pods soak up most of the water.  This is the larger 72-Plant Greenhouse.

The pellets will expand and grow tall in the netting that encloses them. After the water soaks in and the pellets have expanded, you'll pour off the extra water, and then you'll pull apart the netting at the top and drop in seeds. 

They recommend planting 3 seeds per pod so that you can select the strongest seedling that comes up, then just clip off the other two at the base and plant the whole netted pot right into the soil.

The smaller tray pictured at the top is mostly all tomatoes - Romas and Big Boys - with the exception of one back row of herbs.  I have one raised bed square foot garden dedicated pretty much to herbs, but since I managed to save my rosemary, thyme and mint from over the winter, I only planted seeds for flat leaf parsley and basil in the smaller tray. The larger tray has a variety of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. You do need to keep the greenhouse out of direct sunlight, so the best place for me to put it was to set it on the table right next to the AeroGarden that I have by the window. I kinda figured the residual grow light might help it anyway.  

A couple days ago the greenhouse started sprouting and I popped the lid, so that it was still covered but slightly ajar. I've got a few seeds still working on coming up, so after that I'll uncover the whole tray and then begin to harden them off outside to get them used to being in their future home environment before I transplant them.

All that "hardening" means, is that you have to acclimate your plants to being outside from their comfy little environment inside your house a little bit at a time - so they can adjust to the changes in light, temperature and general environment. You do this by bringing them outside either in the early morning or late afternoon, a little at a time, beginning with a sheltered area and eventually toward the garden area where they will live. Each day you'll gradually increase the time they are outside and depending on your climate, this could take a week or more before you can actually begin to transplant them.

Tomato seedlings generally need to be about four inches tall, and have a second set of leaves to be ready to transplant.  Tomatoes actually do better if you transplant them first to larger containers, sort of like I did with the seedlings I found growing out of the compost pile. This gives them time to develop a strong root system before the next transplant into the garden. I'm not sure I have enough pots though.

I always plant Blue Lake Green Bean seeds because I love them, but those will be sown right into the garden, and spaced apart by about 2 weeks to keep them going.

Homemade Greenhouse:  I already had these greenhouses from several years ago and have managed to keep them well, but since you only need the covered environment long enough to sprout the seeds, you could potentially buy the pellets and use a disposable aluminum roasting pans that comes with a cover as a greenhouse. You'll probably need something like a tray under it as a support, and pouring off the water may be a challenge because unlike the Jiffy greenhouses, there's no recess to sort of hold on to the expanded pellets as you tilt the pan.

Images and Content ©2011 Mary Foreman/My New 30. All rights reserved.


  1. Are we supposed to water the seeds in the greenhouse at all during the process? Or should the water for the pellets be enough to last until hardening?

    1. Hi Emily! Generally speaking, no. Once you hydrate the pods they are heavily saturated. Add the seeds and cover until you see the seedlings coming up. The greenhouse keeps them hydrated. Once they sprout, then they are ready to begin hardening off for outdoor planting. During that process of getting them used to outdoor temperatures and sunlight, you will need to water the pods until they get into the ground. There are more detailed instructions on the greenhouse packages though.


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