Save Recycled Containers For Starting Spring Seeds

comments (3) December 4th, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Plastic and Styrofoam cups are perfect for starting seeds. Collect used ones during the holidays.
Photo by marajane under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Plastic and Styrofoam cups are perfect for starting seeds. Collect used ones during the holidays.


Photo by marajane under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

We're going to focus on two things here. The first one is saving money on a required gardening practice - seed starting. The second one is ignoring the fact that we're heading straight for deep winter and instead, thinking about spring. We're going to deny that we have have months on end of cold weather and sleeping plants.

We'll refuse to acknowledge that by the time the robins drag in the spring, we've literally been starved of fluffy soil, seed planting, and garden nurturing. Is it any wonder that by the time spring comes, we gardeners are ready to whip out the wallet and purchase whatever it takes to get our vegetable seedlings going?

Stop doing that. Getting those baby seedlings going is the shortest part of the growing cycle - spend accordingly! Save your money for super important things like more tomato seed varieties, a mulching mower, or Felco pruners.

You can start right now by making a little space on a garage shelf or hidden box and begin saving little containers for seed starting. I promise you'll collect more recycled items that you can believe and it's really weird not to spend any  money this spring on new plastic seed cells or pots. And by "weird" I mean awesome in a justified-other-garden-purchases sort of way.

Seeds will also appreciate a little babying while they germinate by giving them some humidity. If you don't have a plastic lid, you can make-shift a cover out of plastic baggies and bamboo sticks or chopsticks to hold it in place over the container(s).

Seed container ideas:

  • yogurt cups
  • toilet paper (cut in half) or paper towel rolls (cut like 4 times)
  • sour cream containers
  • cottage cheese containers
  • egg cartons - and their lids (even half-egg shells for that matter)
  • Plastic milk or juice containers (cut the top off and use the bottom - the top you could use as a cloche)
  • Paper, plastic, or Styrofoam cups
  • Salad or sandwich plastic deli trays (built in lid!)
  • Those tiny, snack-sized Ben & Jerry ice cream containers

You get the idea. Be sure you wash the containers out thoroughly and don't forget your drainage holes.

For links to articles, blog posts, and videos on starting vegetable and flower seeds, see All About Starting Seeds.

posted in: starting seeds, recycled seed containers, seed containers

Comments (3)

JadaE writes: Here's for those plastic strawberry/cut fruit containers from the grocery/deli dept! Built in greenhouse lid, and drainage holes included! :)
Posted: 1:56 pm on December 21st
Ruth writes: Another vote for yogurt containers; they're very sturdy, and if you cut off the bottoms, they make great cutworm collars in the spring. I have lots and lots because my daughter brings me hers when she visits.
Posted: 4:56 pm on December 7th
WhatsTheMuck writes: Chris, couldn't agree more- yogurt cups especially are the best and the strongest- far better than purchased seed starting containers (learned that from an old friend- thanks Ben!) My problem is that I recycled way too MANY of the round containers (like several hundred, and my garden is just not that big) so I had to start re-recycling them into something else. I do hold on to the rectangular plastic mushroom trays, my absolute favorite, as I've found they will fit eight to a standard flat, and will take multiple seeds (give them drainage holes first, of course). I arrange them with one tray's long side touching another tray's short side, and they fit almost perfectly in the flat. Haven't tried it with the Styrofoam mushroom trays, but I imagine they would fit as well.

If you already have enough round containers for holding dirt, the 'excess' is great for labeling what's in the dirt ( You can use some as dividers inside of the mushroom trays too, just cut the strip to the width or length of the tray and square each end. Even the lids and cut-off bottoms can be used as shrub tags!

I now have lots of plant tags and will never need to buy any again, but I do still keep an 'uncut' yogurt cup supply on hand for transplanting up from the mushroom trays.

Yikes, better get started cutting- there's only a few more weeks to seed starting...
Posted: 6:55 pm on December 4th
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