Economical Seed Starters

Cheap and free ideas on what to sow seeds in


You don't need to spend a lot of money for seed starting trays or mini greenhouses. Take a little time to collect and reuse some common household items to use as seed starters next spring. Not only is it economical, but you are recycling and keeping these items out of the landfills.

Eggshells - Don't throw out or compost those eggshells just yet. Save the better halves, wash them out with dish soap and allow them to dry. Poke holes in the bottom with a tack for drainage and add a little seed starting mix. Sow seeds the depth recommended on the package. Sit the shells inside the egg cartons to catch water drips and so they don't fall over. At planting time, just gently crush the shells and plant, shells and all in the ground.
Economical Seed Starters
Paper egg cartons - Separate the bottom from the top of the carton. Plant directly in the egg shaped cups, no need to poke a hole in the bottom for drainage as the cardboard is so porous. Use the top of the carton to catch water from the cup shaped section. At planting time, cut apart the cups, tear the bottom of the cups open and plant directly in the ground.
Economical Seed Starters
Paper rolls - Paper towel and toilet paper rolls are great for starting seeds. Cut them into 2"-3" long sections. Rubber band four together at a time and place them on a tray. Fill the rolls fairly tightly with moistened seed starting mix and sow seeds as usual. As the roots grow, they will help to keep the soil from coming out the bottom of the tube. At planting time, simply plant the tube and all. Roots will continue to grow out the bottom of the tube as the tube decomposes.
Economical Seed Starters
Take-out containers - Reuse take-out containers that have clear lids. The lids act as mini greenhouses. Poke air holes in the top of the clear lids to help with ventilation and poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill containers with soil and sow seeds as normal. Put lids back on containers. If too much condensation forms inside the lids, remove the lids for a few hours each day to help with ventilation. What soil as needed using a mister bottle. I also use these containers when I winter sow my seeds as well. Read more about winter sowing here.
Economical Seed Starters
Plastic bottles - All plastic should be recycled whenever possible, but there is no harm in reusing a few bottles to start some seeds. They will last for several years if taken care of properly. Simply cut the bottle in half, leaving about an inch long hinge in tact on one side. Poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Bend back top of bottle and fill bottom with soil. Sow seeds as usual and then tape the top of the bottle back to the bottom of the bottle. Attach the cap to help keep in moisture and remove the cap to let excess moisture escape. I love using clear bottles like this because you can actually see how strong the root system is growing right inside the bottle. Great educational tool for kids as well. When the bottles are no longer suitable for seed starting, wash them well and then put them in the recycle bin. You can also use plastic milk cartons the same way. And again, these would be great for using in the winter sowing method found here.
Economical Seed Starters
Newspaper pots - Make newspaper pots for sowing seeds by wrapping 5" wide paper strips around the end of a bottle. Choose a bottle that is slightly concave on the bottom and tuck the ends of the paper into the concave part of the bottle to make the bottom of the pot. Slide the paper off the bottle and flatten the bottom. You can turn down the top of the pot to help it hold together if necessary. Place several side by side in a container with sides to help support the paper and fill the pots with potting soil. Sow seeds as per package instructions and plant the whole pot and all in the ground once seedlings are big enough.
Economical Seed Starters

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