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4 Different Ways to Start Seeds

by Robert Wayne

This spring has been a cold one for many parts of the country. But we’ve had enough warm weather that many of us are longing for spring to finally be here to stay. And for those of us who garden, we’re itching to start getting plants into the ground.

Many of us started seedlings indoors for a while, perhaps using seed starter kits and accessories that we’ve purchased commercially. But the costs for those materials can start to add up and get expensive. Here are four ways you can start seeds frugally.

1. Egg Cartons

Paper egg cartons are a great way to start seeds. They hold just enough potting soil to get your seedlings started, and they’re made of compostable material just like many cardboard seed starting cartons.

Simply fill your egg carton with potting soil, add your seeds, and water. Once your seedlings are large enough to transplant, you can cut each individual seedling out, as the egg carton pocket will naturally decompose once you’ve planted it.

That ensures that the root systems of your seedlings remain undisturbed. Or if you prefer to remove your seedlings from the carton, you can just toss the remnants of the carton onto your compost pile to let it break down.

2. Yogurt Containers

Plastic containers for yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, or similar products are another great way to start seedlings. They can be better for starting seedlings for larger plants or even trees, as they can hold a lot more soil.

The downside to these is that they’re not biodegradable, so you will have to remove the seedling from the container before you plant it in your garden. But at least you can recycle the containers afterward.

3. Milk Jugs

Milk jugs are another way to repurpose household items that would ordinarily go straight to the recycling bin. Cut the milk jug in half widthwise and you have a great container to start seedlings.

You can even grow smaller herbs in them, especially annuals. Just be aware that if the jugs stay outside in the sun, they probably won’t last more than one growing season before they become brittle and crack.

4. Homemade Seed Tape

Seed tape is a popular way to plant seeds such as lettuce, spinach, radish, carrot, and others that require proper spacing and that are light enough that they might be blown away by the wind. And you can make your own at home.

The first step consists of making your own “glue” out of flour and water. You’ll want to use about 2 parts flour to 1 part water, since you don’t want the glue being too watery.

Roll out a few sheets of toilet paper and fold them in half lengthwise, then unfold. Mark with pen or marker every few inches on the toilet paper where your seeds need to be placed.

Use a toothpick to pick up a small amount of your glue, then pick up a seed on the gluey toothpick and place it into position on one of your marks. Once you’ve got your seeds in place, place glue around the edges of the toilet paper, fold over again, press flat, and allow to dry.

You can then roll up your seed tape to keep it ready for planting. Once it’s time to plant, roll your seed tape out into your garden and cover it with a little bit of soil. The toilet paper will help absorb water to keep the seeds moist, and it will naturally break down in a short period of time.

Hopefully these simple uses for common household items in starting seeds will give you some ideas and inspire you to get your garden started.


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