It is so frustrating, when after so much work your tender seedlings just die overnight or simply disappear, eaten by a naughty snail. I am showing you step-by-step, how to protect your seedlings from sudden death by simply using yoghurt containers, frost cloth and rubber bands.
Why did I Start Using Yoghurt Containers in my Garden?
My garden is situated in the south-west of Australia. I learned early on that gardening without mulch in our Mediterranean climate is way too much work. Mulch helps to conserve water, keeps the weeds down, feeds the soil slowly and improves it over time. Mulching the beds takes absolutely priority in my garden. But hiding in the mulch are unwelcome visitors: slaters.
Slaters like ring-barking seedlings and eating young, fleshy leaves. However, slaters do have their place in the garden. They mainly feed on decaying organic matter. So they recycle nutrients and help build up the soil. Knowing that, I wanted to keep slaters in my garden. I had to find a way though to protect my seedlings. So I started experimenting with different methods and containers.
Advantages of Using Yoghurt Containers
Physical Barrier: Yoghurt containers don’t only protect your seedlings from slaters. Slugs and snails like to hide in the mulch too. There are also various other pests that like to eat young seedlings.
Protection from the elements: On a hot day your seedlings keep cool and the soil keeps moist, on cold nights they keep warm in their little greenhouse, plus strong winds won’t affect them.
Getting used to the elements slowly: The seedlings grow towards the top of the container and finally push off the frost cloth. So they get slowly used to more wind and sun. They harden off naturally and you don’t have to do anything. My days of carrying seedlings in and out to acclimatise them are gone!
What Kind of Container Should I Use?
I experimented with lots of different plastic containers and settled in the end with the 1-Litre yoghurt containers you can see on the photo to the right. Milk container don’t work so good, because the seedlings grow up quickly into the neck of the bottle. When you remove the container, the plant will most likely topple over, because it is not strong enough to hold itself up. It can die suddenly, because it did not get used to the elements. Also, it will be nice and juicy – a feast for all the little garden creatures.
1-Litre yoghurt container have the right size for the plant to become big and strong enough to be left out in the elements. Use a container with a wide mouth, so it is easy for the seedling to grow out. Use a container with a neck, so you can easily secure the frost cloth with a rubber band and it won’t slip off.
What type of seeds and seedlings benefit from this method?
I use this method on all seedlings, when I transfer them outside. It helps them to get established and hardened off. Most directly sown seeds benefit from this method too. But I find the following seeds don’t need protection, because they grow fast or are disliked by slaters and snails: bulbs (garlic, flower bulbs and tree onion bulblets), seed potatoes, broad beans and corn.
What do I need to protect my seedlings?
- as many clean 1-Litre yoghurt container as you can collect (Ask family and friends for help. But please only buy natural yoghurt without sugar and gelatine to keep your family healthy!)
- a roll of frost cloth (from your garden centre or hardware store)
- big scissors
- nail scissors or utility knife
- rubber bands
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Protect your Seedlings with Yoghurt Containers
Step 1: Weed, feed and mulch your beds.
Step 2: Cut off the bottom of the yoghurt containers with nail scissors or utility knife. I prefer to use scissors, because I cut myself badly ones with a utility knife. Poke a hole in the bottom side of the container and then cut around it. (Dispose the container bottoms in the recycling bin!!!)
Step 3: Cut the frost cloth into as many 20×20 cm squares as you need. (Just roughly, you don’t need to use a ruler.) One role of frost cloth will last you many years.
Step 4: Find a spot, where you want to plant and push the mulch to the side to expose the soil. Sow a view seeds or plant a seedling.
Step 5: Pull the yoghurt container over the seeds or seedling and push the container about 1 cm into the soil.
Step 6: Scatter a handful of slow release fertiliser or pelletised manure around the outside of the container. (NOT, if you plant carrots or radishes!) You might also add magnesium, potash, sulphur or other soil conditioner depending on the plants needs. Push the mulch back around the container.
Step 7: Secure a piece of frost cloth with a rubber band over the container to cover the seedling.
Step 8: Water your seeds or seedlings, making sure to water on top and around the containers.
Step 9: Check the seedlings regularly. Remove the frost cloth, when the seedling starts to push it off. Remove the yoghurt container, when the plant fills it out completely.
Step 10: Store the yoghurt container and frost cloth in your garden shed. You can use them a view times before they deteriorate.
There you have it. An easy method to protect your seedlings from pests and the elements by using yoghurt containers, frost cloth and rubber bands. Did you find this article helpful? How do you protect your seedlings? Do you have a different method? I am always happy about your comment!
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