If you are like me and love to start your own seeds, you are probably familiar with the usual seed starting vessels – plastic trays and pots, soil blocks, and peat pots. But some of the best seed starting vessels, in my opinion, can’t be purchased at a garden center. They actually can be made from items you probably have in your recycle bin or compost right now.
Homemade seedling pots are a great way to re-purpose common household green and brown waste items. It’s a bit of an art to learn which pots are the most convenient for you to use, based on how easy they are to get or make, as well as which trays work the best for holding the most amount of pots in each sunny spot in your house. Here are my top five favorite ways to turn household green and brown waste into seed starting vessels.
1. Newspaper pots:
Small seedling pots can be made by rolling doubled-up sheets of newspaper around a small jar or soup can, then securing the bottom together with tape, or by folding the paper into a square pot and stapling the edges together. The entire pot can be planted in the ground and will decompose.
Tip – If you are a proponent of growing organic, use newspapers and avoid glossy advertising and magazine pages to build these pots. Most newspapers today use water or soy-based inks. Although these may contain small amounts of toxic compounds, the trace levels are not of significant toxicological concern. Some caution should still be used with glossy magazines, which sometimes use heavy metal based inks to produce vivid colors.
2. Egg cartons:
Cardboard egg cartons can be used to start a dozen seedlings, and then cut apart to plant each one when it’s time to plant them in the garden. As with newspaper seedling pots, there’s no need to remove the plants from the pots before planting, as the cardboard will break down in the soil as the plant grows.
Tip – I find it easier to cut apart the carton at the end, if I cut off the center points of the tray before starting the seeds.
3. Egg shells:
If you’ve got egg cartons, you probably have egg shells as well, and while they can be crushed to make a great soil or compost pile additive, egg shell halves can be used as seedling pots as well, and naturally, they fit perfectly inside an egg carton tray.
A small hole will need to be punched in the bottom of each shell for drainage.
The seedling and the eggshell can both be transplanted in the garden.
Tip – Slightly crack the bottom the eggshell before transplanting to allow the roots to find an exit into the soil. (Although eggshells are biodegradable, they take longer to break down than the roots grow. Thus, cracking the shell prevents the roots from getting root bound.)
4. Paper towel or toilet paper tubes:
Not everyone uses paper towels, but pretty much everybody buys toilet paper, and the paperboard tubes in the center of both of these items can be cut to form small seedling pots. There are two different methods of making pots from these paper tubes, one of which is to just leave the bottom open and fit the tubes tightly together in a tray (easiest), and the other is to cut several vertical slits in the bottoms of the tubes and to fold the resulting flaps to form the bottom of the pots (takes more time, but the soil won’t come spilling out the bottom if you pick these up).
Once your seedlings are ready to be planted in the garden, you can either plant the whole thing (toilet paper roll and all) in the garden or gently peel off the outside of the roll from the roots before planting.
Tip – If you section off 5 rolls, and place a rubber-band or tie around them prior to watering, it prevents the rolls from coming undone (as they sometimes do when wet).
5. Citrus Peel:
Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits grow in abundance in my California garden, leaving me with epic amounts of citrus waste each year. My compost can only handle so much citrus and I can only handle making so much jam.
What’s a girl to do? Start seeds! I’ve found citrus peels make fantastic vessels for seed starting. Just poke a hole in the bottom of the peel for drainage, fill with potting soil, then add two seeds and some water. After thinning to one seedling per peel, transplant the whole thing into the garden. The peels will compost directly into the soil to nourish the plants as they grow.
Tip – Don’t over water as these vessels have a stronger tendency to mold than the other seed starting vessels previously mentioned.
I hope this post inspires you to start some seeds! If you are interested in learning more about starting seeds indoors check out this Easy Indoor Seed Staring Guide. Happy gardening! 🙂