Seed starting ideas

Have you the urge to start seeds indoors but decided against it because you didn’t want to purchase seed starting kits? Despair not! You have plenty of material that you can use to start seeds in your own home. Egg cartons (plastic and recycled paper), those clear little plastic boxes berries come in, plastic bottles (smaller ones are better than larger ones for starting), old plastic Tupperware, styrofoam boxes, ice trays, toilet paper rolls (yes, you read that right!), plastic baggies (if you have a way to contain them from falling over), small store-bought yogurt cups, small paper cups  and pretty much anything you can punch a hole in all work well! Here is what I have this year.

1. Plastic Bottles

Cut Bottle

I was at a presentation that my city had for home gardeners on “Sustainable Vegetable Gardening” earlier this week and the speaker passed around this bottle that he had used to start his cucumber plants. I decided to try the idea myself. Take a clean bottle. Remove the label. Cut the top half with a knife, but only cut about 90% of the way around the bottle. The remaining 10% serves as hinge. Open at the hinge and fill with potting soil. Moisten and put in your seeds. Close at hinge and tape the cut portions completely shut with a clear tape. A perfect greenhouse that can be watered from the lid should it get dry. If you have put in too much water, blot out with a a towel or don’t tape the hinge back together until it is dried out. I like to use a heavy permanent marker to label the seed type and date of planting. This year, I have okra starting in my water bottles.

2. Egg Cartons

Egg Carton Starter

Carton Seed starter with Basil varieties

I have a few egg cartons saved to pass on to my local chicken farmer. I decided to try the plastic ones this year as they can be closed to serve as a greenhouse. The recycled paper ones would work as well, but they will need to be kept open, have plastic wrap on them to serve as a greenhouse if you want them closed and need to be watered more often, so I decided against them this year. Much easier than using a plastic bottle as there is no cutting involved. Just scoop in some potting soil, moisten and pop in a few seeds. Cover to keep moist or keep open if too wet! I think these would work for more delicate seeds, so I have 3 varieties of Basil starting in them. Just to try a larger seed, I also have some Armenian Cucumbers starting in them.

Seed Starters

The starters I have so far.

3. Toilet Roll
I was looking around to find some interesting ways to start seeds and found this post on how exactly to use toilet roll tubes to start seeds. YouGrowGirl has a step-by-step method showing you how to use them. These work like jiffy pots in that you grow in them, and plant them, roll and all, directly into the soil. Biodegradable “pots” which also condition your soil as they break down as well as a way to reuse those toilet roll centers!

4. Various plastic containers
Plastic tubs, berry plastic containers with lids, plastic cups etc. can all be used to start your seeds in. Poke a few drainage holes in the bottom if they are not a clear plastic, fill with some potting soil and put in your seeds. Put in some skewers or popsicle sticks and wrap clear plastic wrap over and above to provide a greenhouse and reduce watering.

Of course, all of these require that your seeds are started under adequate light – a window suffices just nicely or a sunroom when it is above freezing but not yet warm enough to put out your seeds; have adequate moisture (Too wet? Fungus. Too dry? Won’t germinate.) and adequate food (if your soil is fresh and has organic matter, you should be okay for the 3-5 weeks you are going to keep your seedlings in the starters). Your seedlings are ready for a transplant when the roots have filled out, but have not completely taken over the container. I like to keep my open seedling containers in the outdoors a few days before I transplant them, just to “harden” them off and prevent transplant shock from the warm, cozy home to the tough outdoors!

Happy Gardening…may your dreams of plentiful harvest come true!


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