No matter the time of year, you can always get seeds started for the upcoming growing season or for growing indoors, and by knowing some creative ways to start seeds, you can save money. I’ve started seeds in muffin tins, milk cartons, and tiny clay pots. There’s no need to buy any type of special starting pots if money is tight or you just want to recycle whatever happens to be around the house.
When should you start these seeds? Well, that’s a topic for a different post, but you can track down planting charts on your county’s extension office website. These websites are invaluable resources, free, the information is public domain, and you should definitely know about them! Find the one for your county at this website link or do a search online for “-your county name- extension”. Once you’re on that site, look around for gardening information and a planting chart. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, then search a different county close by as long as they have a similar climate.
By the way, if you’re new at gardening or feel you don’t have that much knowledge or experience, stick with advice from your extension office. The plants they recommend have been proved in trials to succeed in your area and their advice is all based on research.
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Start seeds with items you probably already have at home
- Use single and larger size water bottles. Cut off the top and then place the top of the water bottle inside the bottom half spout side down. This allows the water to drain into the bottom portion and avoid soggy roots. Another way to do this is to plant the seeds in the bottom portion and then place the top over the planted seeds with the cap on. This will create a humid microclimate for the seeds and seedlings.
- Cut milk jugs partially in half so you have something like a hinged top. Once the seeds are planted in the soil, put the top back over the planting to help retain moisture.
- Use a cardboard box and coffee filters. Place your coffee filter in a cup and fill with soil and seed. Take the filter out of the cup and put in the cardboard box. Place these filled filters side by side so they don’t fall over.
- Here’s a classic — egg cartons. If you use cardboard cartons, you can cut them apart and place the entire cup in your garden plot. The cardboard will disintegrate and allow the root system to expand into the existing soil.
- Recycle juice cartons. Make sure you put drainage holes in the bottom.
- Use half or ¾ of a lemon rind. When the weather is right, you can plant the whole thing directly into the ground.
- Go through your old Mason jars, chipped cups, and bowls and use those for your plantings.
- Clean eggshells can be used both for planting seeds and then transplanting directly into the outdoor soil. Poke holes in the bottom of the egg for water to drain. These little pots can dry out easily, so keep an eye on the moisture.
- Use toilet paper or paper towel tubes. Cut into 3″ lengths. These work great for plants that don’t like being transplanted because you can place the seedlings into the ground, cardboard tube and all.
- Recycle old food containers — the ones with missing lids, pasta sauce stains, and melt marks from the microwave
- Another way to use old milk and juice jugs is to make a mini-greenhouse. Cut the jug in half horizontally. Place top of jug back on top. Use duct tape on one side to create a “hinge”. This allows you to check your plant and adjust the roof of your “greenhouse”.
- An old milk jug can also be hung vertically. Cut the jug so the handle can be used for hanging outdoors.
- Use rotisserie chicken and plastic salad containers. They are often called “clamshell” containers. Store bought fruit and fast food is often packaged in them. They are ready-made mini-greenhouses.
- Make seed pots out of old newspapers. They can be planted right into the ground. Cut the newspaper into strips, get them wet, and wrap them around a small glass jar or cup. Let it dry and remove jar. You can also fold or roll the newspaper into any shape you need.
- Sow seeds on a paper towel, napkins or coffee filters. To germinate seeds, place seeds on a damp towel, napkins or filter. Put into a plastic bag. Store in a dark and cool place. When you see seedlings sprout, move to a small pot with loose soil.
Retail or dollar store items
- Cake pans and muffin tins are perfect for seeds.
- Cookies sheets with a raised edge make great drip pans to place your smaller pots on.
- Dollar store plastic bins that are about shoe box sized. The lids help hold in moisture.
- For tiny seeds, use ice cube trays with holes drilled in the bottom.
- A deep bucket (like mop bucket) will accommodate root veggies and squash
- This one is fun for kids. Use ice cream cones! Once the seeds sprout and it’s time to move them outside, you can plant directly into the ground.
- Solo cups! Write with a permanent marker on the outside which plant is on the inside.
- The kid’s toy aisle at the dollar store is perfect for finding small buckets.
- Look for tiny gardening pots at garden and home improvement stores. Use them for peas, squash, and beans.
- You’ll also find beginner gardening kits, tray, or seed pods are available at home improvement stores and nurseries.
Tips for sprouting those seeds
- Rotate pots that are by windows. You want all sides of your little seedling to get sunshine.
- Ask your neighbors and friends for items they may be tossing out.
- Some plants, like lettuce, you can keep in your home and eat from all season long.
- Cover seeds with plastic until they germinate
- Let the plants soak up water from the bottom. Poke holes in all of your pots.
- Check your plants every day. Soil should be moist, not wet.
- Check the seed packet for planting instructions.
- Prepare your plants for the great outdoors. Have them spend time outside during the day to help them adapt to their new environment.
- Use popsicle sticks for labeling your seedlings.
- Gallon size Ziploc bags are great to put smaller trays and containers in.