Get a good start on your seeds with these easy seed starting containers that won’t break the bank.
Seed planting time can be expensive! Not only are there is soil and seeds to purchase, but seedlings have to be grown in something that can retain soil and moisture.
Each of these items can be salvaged from recycled materials that you may already have around your home. If you are planting a large garden this year, ask friends to save material for you and then show them how to do it too!
Recycle Plastic food containers
It is hard to keep plastic out of your home. Why not use some of the items for starting seeds? I always keep plastic containers that come with built-in lids. These make terrific mini greenhouses to keep moisture in while you are waiting for the seeds to sprout. Look for clamshell containers from purchased salads and cupcake carrying containers with individual sections to keep the cupcakes secure.
Use Paper Cups
Paper cups are inexpensive and surprisingly sturdy when they become wet. use them as individual planters and then make a mini greenhouse by placing the cups inside of a clear plastic tub. This will help with moisture retention during germination and greatly reduce the amount of water you have the give the seedlings.
Cardboard Egg Cartons
Cardboard egg cartons are easy to come by and the paper containers will decompose quickly in the garden. They are not very deep, so plant seeds that can go out in the garden fairly quickly or be prepared to transplant them (carton and all) into larger pots before you plant the starts directly in the garden.
Go Natural With Eggshells
Another way to recycle those eggs is to use broken eggshells to grow seedling. Be purposeful about how you crack the eggs and try to get evenly spaced halves. Like egg carton planters, these will not hold much soil, so the seedlings cannot be held in them for long.
Pierce a hole in the bottom of the eggshell half so the moisture can drain, add soil, and plant seeds as normal. Store them in an egg carton while they germinate and crush the shell before you transplant into a bigger pot or the garden.
Paper Mache Pots from Shredded Paper
If you have excess shredded paper for your office, use it to make seed pots. Just mix the shredded paper with water in a blender to make a pulp. (you may find that using an old blender is best) Once it becomes pulp, push it into cupcake tins to dry. These will become your seed starter pots and they can be planted directly into the garden once the seedlings are ready for setting out.
Milk Jug Greenhouse
Not only can you use a gallon milk jug as a cloche in the garden, but you can also cut it open and use it to make a little greenhouse. Cut around the jug three-fourths of the way about 3 inches up from the bottom.
Try cutting one in half to make a self-watering planter like the post from PreparednesssMama. Milk jug greenhouses work well for early spring planting too. Just sow the seeds inside, tape it back together and set the outside. The seeds will sprout as soon as the temperature warms, but the seeds will have been protected from the harsh winter weather.
Use this article Guide for Winter Sowing from 104 Homestead to get started.
Recycle Lightweight Cardboard
Cereal boxes and other lightweight cardboard packaging can be broken down, wet, and use to make paper mache pots similar to the shredded paper idea listed above. You’ll have to render the cardboard into small pieces and soak them overnight before you can get it into a workable form.
Make it into paper pulp and add flour to the pulp. That helps it stick together. Push the pulp into cupcake tins and allow to air dry or bake on the lowest setting in your oven for a few hours.
Use Toilet Paper Rolls
Regular size toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls can be cut down and used to make simple seed starting containers. Here’s how to do it.
- Cut a regular toilet paper roll in half (each one will make 2 containers)
- Make four cuts in the roll, 1/3 of the way up from the bottom
- Fold the cut area on the bottom like you would close a box
These pots are about 2 inches deep and will hold a seedling until it is ready for planting into the garden. Use the plastic tub greenhouse idea from the carboards egg cartons and you won’t have to water them very often.
Wrap Newspapers into Seed Pots
Newspaper seedling wraps come together easily. You will need something sturdy like a small can of tomato paste, or a small candle holder to use as a mold for the pots. Really, these can be made any size as long as you have a piece of newspaper big enough to wrap around your mold two times. Follow these steps:
- Take a full-size sheet of newspaper and cut it in half. Now you have 2 pieces about 10 x 18
- Fold each piece in half again, so you have a length of about 5 x 18 inches. This makes a long strip.
- Fold the open end of the strip down by 1 inch. This will serve as a lip for the pot and help to make it stand straight.
- Get the round object you will use as your pot form. Consider a tomato paste can, candle holder, water bottle, or baby food jar.
- Place your form one and a half inches from the bottom of the paper strip; this is the area you will fold to make the bottom of the pot.
- Starting with the edge that has the seam, fold the extra in to make a flat bottom.
- Place a piece of tape over the bottom to hold it together and keep it upright (this will be removed before planting).
Use Recycled Plant Containers
Seedlings do not need deep soil to get started. Using 4-inch pots takes more soil than they need, but if you use larger containers you will be able to skip the transplanting stage and plant your starts directly into the garden when it is time.
Here’s how to reuse old 4-inch pots.
- Be sure that you wash them in a weak bleach solution before using them for a new year of planting.
- Fill the bottom of a 4-inch pot with 3 inches of regular potting soil or compost. This will give the roots something to grab on and will provide fertilizer once they reach this level. This type of potting soil is typically less expensive than seed starting mix, so you’ll save money.
- Fill the top 1 inch of the pot with extra fine seed starting potting mix. This type of mix is very light and gives the seeds an “easy” way to sprout through the soil.
- Plant 2 to 3 seeds per pot, to the appropriate depth according to package directions. Water the container with a gentle stream, being careful not to disturb the seed placement.
- Mark each container with the type of seed being planted and make a note of the average days to germination. You will find this on the seed package.
Cover the pots with a plastic bag, or place them in a clear plastic tub with a lid. Your goal here is to create a “greenhouse effect” for the seedlings to grow. This will keep moisture around the plant and soil, and you will have to do much less watering!
Monitor the seedling for moistness and water them every few days, as needed. The soil should remain consistently moist. Once most of the seeds have germinated remove the plastic covering and grow as you would any plant.
During most times of the year, any of these recycled seed start pots can go in a sunny window, and they will get enough sunlight. In January or February, you may want to place them under grow lights to prevent the seedlings from getting spindly and “reaching” for the light.
What other ways do you recycle materials for budget-friendly seed starts? Share ideas in the comments below.