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The Seedy Gardener: Milk Jug Marigolds

Updated: Apr 9

With the help of our new trainees and the plant propagation lab observers, we are embarking on an experiment to answer the question:  what is the best or easiest way to grow French marigolds?  The group will be divided into three groups:  starting seeds indoors, sowing them directly into the garden, and the last group, which is the subject of this blog, planting seeds in milk jugs.  Our end goal is to have marigolds to offer for sale at the RAMGA plant sale on May 11th.  I will also be planting using each technique and hope that we can guide each other through this experiment.

 

The Seed

I harvested seeds from French marigolds (Tagetes patula) during the summer and fall of 2023.  They were stored in a dry, dark cabinet at room temperature and will be distributed to the group during the propagation lab in February. 

 

Milk Jugging

We will be following the directions outlined in the Penn State article:  https://extension.psu.edu/starting-seeds-in-winter

We are all using the same soil medium, Promix, obtained from the Augusta County Coop.  The seeds are to be planted about ¼” deep, watered in, then placed in a sunny location outside.  I have my jugs in a one of those large milk crates so they don’t blow away.

(A big “thank you” to Yellow Brick Road Daycare for providing all the empty milk jugs for this experiment.)

 

Start Date

I hope everyone will start as soon as convenient after the lab, the weekend of February 24th. 

 

Good luck!  Please post a comment to this blog if you have any questions.


February 24, 2024



So my milk jug marigolds are now nestled in with my other winter sowing projects. I forgot to mention the importance of labeling both on the outside of the jug, as well as inside, because you may want to remove the top as the weather warms.


February 29, 2024

Based on my inside sowing results, I would suggest sowing heavily as the germination rate seems low.


March 12, 2024



The seeds have sprouted and the seedlings seem to be doing well despite the cold temperature. This picture was taken after a night in the chilly 30's.
















March 16, 2024


I'm seeing a lot of germination in the jug at this point and decided to thin the sprouts.












Even after thinning, I will have more than enough to transplant. The weather forecast for several nights this week will be down into the 20's and 30's, so I will try and remember to bring the jug into a protected place for the night.













April 9, 2024


Took this picture April 1st, no foolin'.

Time to take the cover off, prick out a few seedlings and fertilize. They have already been hardened off by being in the jug. Unless we get a freeze, they should be good.

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I am testing the "milk jug" method of sprouting seeds. I have already made MANY mistakes Is this fixable?

(1) I way overseeded (all of the seeds in the packet) for the size of the milk jug. I assume that would thin out some/many of the seeds that sprout. Is there a way to "save" some of these sprouts in other containers? (2) I was afraid to put the jug outside straight away while it was still so cold at night. This was a mistake. I am now getting many seeds sprouting. Will it be too much of a shock to the young sprouts to go outside now? (3) Will these plants be too mature at the time o…

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Catherine, I prefer to think of these variances as "experiences" and not "mistakes" because we learn from them all. Perhaps, you've discovered a stellar technique. You have a hybrid of inside sowing and milk jug sowing. Anyway, to answer your questions:

(1) I would gently thin your sprouts. If they come up easily with tweezers without disturbing neighboring sprouts, then OK. Otherwise, just cut them off with fine scissors near the soil surface. At this point, you are just culling the smaller seedlings or those too close to a preferred target. See the picture in the "Marigolds on my Windowsill". You will end up pricking out the best seedlings later for potting up and maybe you can save some …

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