By Kim Robson:
It might be hard to believe, depending on where you live, but summer is fast approaching, and so is planting season. Lots of folks in colder climes like to start seeds on a sunny windowsill to give plants a head start. Of course, all garden centers sell plastic seedling trays and pots, foam “soil” blocks, or manufactured peat pots; but there’s really no need to purchase seed pots when there are so many ways to make them from common household items you probably have on hand right now.
We’ve recently covered the many ways to repurpose cardboard egg cartons. Egg cartons make perfect seed starter cups. Instead of buying peat cups, start a dozen seedlings in egg carton cups (cut the lid off). When the seeds are ready to be transplanted outside, simply snip out an individual cup and plant the entire thing in the ground. The cardboard will decompose naturally as the plant grows.
Save neatly halved egg shells — they make great seed cups. (Less-than-perfect shells also can be crushed and added to soil or a compost pile for extra minerals.) Conveniently, they also fit perfectly into an egg carton. Punch a small hole in the bottom of each shell for drainage if you’re starting seeds. Or, leave the bottom intact and add tiny succulents and moss or flowers to make a darling window garden!
Roll a few sheets of newspaper around a small jar or water glass, leaving some extra at the bottom. Fold the paper ends toward the base, forming a square bottom, and staple the edges together. Remove the jar, and you have a newspaper “pot.” Fill it with soil and plant your seeds. The entire pot can be transferred into the ground once the plant is mature enough, as the newspaper will decompose naturally.
At Green Mom, we discourage the use of paper towels, but we understand their use is inevitable sometimes. Everyone uses toilet paper, though. Whether from paper towels or toilet paper, save those cardboard tubes — they can be formed into small seed pots. The easiest method is to fit the tubes neatly together standing up in a straight-sided tray (leaving the bottoms open). Or you can also cut several vertical slits along the bottom of the tubes and then fold the flaps inward to form bottoms (more labor-intensive, but the soil stays in place better when you pick them up).
K-Cups and Yogurt Cups:
Single-serving coffee pods called K-Cups have become all the rage, but they aren’t recyclable. There are lots of clever ideas out there for ways to repurpose those little plastic cups. Give them another life by making them into small seedling pots. Yogurt cups also work well. Either way, be sure to rinse them out well beforehand. Punch a few small holes around the bottom edges for drainage. After you transplant the seedlings in the ground, you can reuse the cups again next spring.
Did you forget your reusable coffee mug and purchase your morning fix in a paper to-go cup? Don’t despair. Rinse it out and save it — they make great seedling pots! Punch a few small drainage holes in the bottom, and when your seedling is ready to plant, just cut out the bottom of the cup and plant the whole thing in the ground. The paper will decompose naturally.
Clear Plastic Clamshell Containers:
I love this idea: clear plastic clamshell containers make brilliant mini greenhouses for planting seedlings together in a tray. Punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with soil, and plant your seeds. Close the clear lid to make a tiny windowsill greenhouse until the seedlings have sprouted. You can start several plants and then transplant them into individual pots once they have their first true leaves, or you can grow microgreens for the kitchen, such as sprouts, buckwheat “lettuce,” or wheatgrass.
Seed Pot Trays:
Egg cartons conveniently and automatically form trays of twelve seed pots, but you might need a tray to corral any individual DIY seedling pots and make them easy to transport without getting soil everywhere. Cases of soda, mason jars and canned goods are shipped in sturdy cardboard bottom trays that are great for holding seed pots. You also can line the bottom with a used plastic shopping bag for an extra layer of neatness. Got a Costco membership? Grab the lids from their old banana or avocado boxes. They make excellent trays, and are thick enough to stand up to being dampened frequently without falling apart.
Making your own homemade seedling pots is a great way to repurpose common household items and get a head start on the gardening season. And you won’t have to spend a pile of money at the garden center for new pots and trays. It’s also a fun way to engage your kids in the art of gardening!