Happy spring, everyone! The weather in the bluegrass is still intermittently cold, but the trees are blooming, the bulbs are showing their beautiful faces, and I’m anxiously looking forward to gardening season. Today I’d love to share some sustainable seed starting ideas using household items you likely have laying around your home.
Why Start Seeds Indoors?
My growing zone is 6b, which means that my last frost date of spring is roughly the end of April, and my first fall frost date is mid-to-late October. (You can find out your growing zone here.) If you live in zone 8 or higher, you have a long enough growing season that you may not need to start seeds inside. But here in Kentucky, I need a little extra boost to help me get the longest growing season possible.
By starting seeds indoors, I can plant seedlings that are several weeks old after the last frost, rather than starting seeds fresh in pots and raised beds. By June, I’ll be harvesting vegetables rather than tending seedlings. It feels like cheating! (To see why everyone should have a garden, see my post here.)
Household Item #1- Toilet Paper Rolls
Who doesn’t have cardboard toilet paper rolls each week that go into the trash or recycling bin? Why not repurpose them into something useful? This was a new skill I tried this year and was very happy with the result. All winter my family saved toilet paper and paper towel rolls for me in a basket I placed in the hallway. One day while watching TV with my family, I made four one-inch snips in one end of each roll. Then I folded down the four flaps that made to close the end in each. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I filled the folded rolls with soil and lined them up in a plastic tray. They worked just as well as the store-bought cardboard rolls! The seeds I planted sprouted just as quickly and grew just as large. The cardboard will decompose into the soil and when the plants need to, the roots will grow right through the cardboard.
Household Item #2- Newspaper
This is a trick I have been using to start seeds for multiple years now. I use a wooden cup mold to fold strips of newspaper around. The mold then fits into the base to seal the cup. The cups can be filled with soil and planted later. They will eventually decompose into the soil the same as cardboard will. The little paper cups are quick and easy to make, and can be made with old newspapers or mailings. You can find one similar to mine here.
Household Item #3- Cardboard Egg Cartons
I have happily learned another way to repurpose cardboard egg cartons. Each compartment should be filled with soil and a single seed planted in each. When ready to plant, cut each compartment out and plant it. Be sure to use only paper or cardboard containers as the styrofoam and plastic ones are not biodegradable and can make your soil toxic. I recommend adding the cartons to a plastic tray during germination to avoid drips while watering.
Household Item #4- Plastic Rotisserie Chicken or Takeout Containers With Lids
Our large family frequents Costco’s deli counter for its inexpensive and delicious rotisserie chickens. With the sturdy bases and clear plastic lids, the containers for these create a fantastic mini-greenhouse. Simply fill the black base with soil, plant your seeds, replace the lid, and place in the sun. The lid will trap heat and moisture and encourage seed growth. The same can be done with takeout containers. Just be sure to remove the lids when the seedlings touch the top.
Household Item #5- Soil Blocker
If you don’t have a soil blocker in your household, I highly recommend obtaining one. These metal contraptions are genius. Mix potting soil with a little water to moisten so that it’s easily compatible. Pack some into the soil blocker and place into a plastic tray at least half an inch apart. Plant your seed into the divot the soil blocker creates. The space between the blocks will cause the roots to air-prune themselves– meaning they won’t stretch into other blocks and tangle their roots! Plants are so smart. You can find a soil blocker like mine here.
I hope you can utilize some of these hacks for yourself. If you have any gardening tips, please drop them in the comments below!