In case I haven’t mentioned it before, this year’s growing season is quickly approaching for all of you gardeners out there. Who am I kidding…? Of course I’ve mentioned it!
This means that it’s about time to start collecting and buying seeds. If you live in a cooler climate and want to get an early start on your garden, it also means that you’ll need to start thinking about starting your seeds inside pretty soon. Although it’s still a bit early for this yet, you can get started on collecting seed starting pots.
While you can buy seed starting pots at most stores, these can get expensive if you have a large garden. Since my garden is massive, I really can’t afford to go out and buy all of my seed starting pots. Instead, I’ve improvised over the years and used homemade seed starting pots.
Here are just a few items that you can use for homemade seed starting pots.
These are my favorite homemade seed starting pots. One toilet paper tube will make two homemade seed starting pots, and one paper towel tube will make four. Cut a toilet paper tube in half and a paper towel tube into quarters.
Square off the cardboard tube by flattening it and creasing the sides, then flattening and creasing the opposite way. Make four 1/2″ cuts up one side of the tube, and fold each of the flaps the cuts make like you’re folding the top of a box closed. Place several homemade seed starting pots in a large container for support. I’ve found that large ice cream tubs work well.
Fill the homemade seed starting pots with seed starting mix or potting soil and plant your seeds. You can transplant them into larger pots later or place the whole seed starting pot right into the ground, as the cardboard tubes will break down. Just be sure to open the bottoms and make sure that the pot is completely sunk into the ground.
Newspaper pages can be used to make simple, biodegradeable, and cheap seed starting pots. There’s a nifty little tool you can buy to make these, called the Pot Maker, but it’s just as easy to make these by hand.
Start with a long strip of newspaper about three inches wide, and wrap it around a small cylinder shaped object with about an inch hanging off the edge. (I find that the small 6 ounce tomato paste can work well for this, but you can also use a bigger can for a bigger pot.) Fold the paper hanging off the can into the center, and carefully remove the newspaper seed starting pot from the can. Repeat 1,000 times.
The nice thing about homemade seed starting pots from newspapers is that they can be planted directly into the ground, since the newspaper will break down very quickly. This minimizes the chance of transplant shock.
Styrofoam, plastic, and cardboard egg cartons all make excellent homemade seed starting pots. Actually, there’s really not much you have to do to “make” them into seed starting pots.
Simply add your seed starting mix to each of the individual egg spaces and plant one or two seeds per space. You’ll need to add some drainage holes to Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons, but cardboard egg cartons can be used to bottom water seedlings by placing them in a tray of water.
You’ll have to remove the seedlings when they get big enough to transplant, but this isn’t usually difficult. Some people also cut apart cardboard egg cartons and transplant the whole thing – seedling and egg carton compartment – right into the ground. I, myself, have not had much luck with this, and it seems as though the egg carton doesn’t break down fast enough for the roots of the plant to puncture it.
A possibly better solution to using old egg cartons for homemade seed starting pots is using empty eggshells. This is a little more difficult, though, and takes a little practice and finesse, the latter of the two I seem to be missing at time.
Empty your eggshells by carefully breaking the top off, then rinse them out well. You’ll also need to poke a small hole in the bottom for drainage. Carefully scoop seed starting mix into the clean empty eggshells and plant your seeds. When it’s time to transplant your seedlings into your garden, crush the eggshells a bit and plant them.
I’ve found that trying to save lots of eggshells over time just isn’t for me. If you don’t clean them out very well, they start to get a bit rank. Also, I have been likened to a bull in a China shop at times, so I find it difficult to keep the shells all in one piece until it’s time to use them. On the flip side, the eggshells will provide your growing seedlings with much needed nutrients and possibly deter some pests, like slugs.
Empty cereal boxes can be used for homemade seed starting pots as well. Just cut the bottoms of the boxes off so you have a shallow tray, fill with seed starting mix, and plant a row of seeds.
When it comes time to transplant the seedlings, dig a trench and open the bottom of the cereal box. The seed starting mix and the seedlings should slide right out of the box. This is a great way to start seeds for plants that can be planted in rows.
If you look at some of the products that you use and the containers that you throw away each day, you might wonder why you ever bought seed starting pots in the first place. Just be sure to wash out any container you use very well, and add drainage holes in the bottoms. Here are a few of the containers I’ve used in the past for homemade seed starting pots.
- Yogurt containers – I don’t recommend the yogurt containers with smaller openings than bases, since it will be virtually impossible to remove the seedling some transplant time.
- Mushroom containers – You can start several plants in a mushroom container, but you’ll have to separate them later.
- Water bottles – Cut the bottoms off and use them as seed starting pots, and bury the top upside down next to a plant and pour water into it when you need to water. This directs the water right to the roots, and keeps them moist longer.
- Disposable cups – After a party, collect and rinse out disposable cups and use them to start seeds.