What a Gardener Can Do – Milk Carton Planter

I wouldn’t know how to get along in my garden without a milk carton planter when I was a kid. They are durable enough to last a long time and they are easy to dispose of.
We had to buy them when we bought milk and it is a waste of money to throw them away and buy something else to use for the same purpose.

Cartons make good flats for germination and planting seeds in the hotbed or greenhouse. For this purpose, cut out one side of the carton and staple the pouring spout shut. Then punch one or two holes in the bottom for drainage and they are ready to use.

They will last long enough for seedlings to reach transplanting sin, and then they are discarded.

As individual pots for tomatoes or peppers, the cartons permit keeping plants in the greenhouse longer and transplanting out without disturbing the roots.


When I use them for pots, I cut out both ends and then set them on a board or concrete shelf. The seed may be planted directly in the pot or small seedlings may be transplanted into them.

When it is time to set out the plants, dig a hole large enough to hold the pot and set it in the ground. Then slit one corner with a knife and lift out the sleeve.

The roots are not disturbed and the plants will continue to grow as if they had not been moved.

For early melons, I plant enough melons for a hill in each carton. By the time the vines have the second or third leaves, the roots will have reached the bottom of the sleeve.

They are then transplanted in the same manner as tomatoes. This makes it possible to have melons two or three weeks earlier than planting in the open.

Milk cartons make sturdy hotcaps for protecting plants from cold weather in the spring. In this case, remove the top end of the carton, turn them over the plants and push them down into the ground far enough to prevent blowing off.

Wind Protection

To protect tender plants from wind, both ends are removed and the sleeve put around the plants. This allows them to get sunlight without being whipped about by the wind.

Cartons can also be used as cool caps in summer to protect newly transplanted plants. When the strawberry crop is over, I’ve started transplanting new plants into next year’s location as soon as they have developed roots.


I would set the plants and turn a carton over them to keep off the hot sun. Then remove the cartons each evening and replace them the next morning. This allows the plants to get some sunshine and the night dew.

As soon as the roots have developed enough to maintain the plant they are left off. New transplants are made and the shifted to them. This method insures strawberry plants large enough to bear the next year and eliminates the loss of a year’s time in getting a new patch started.

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