Where to Find Free Seed Starters
Updated: Jun 11
It’s a great time of year to think about planting seeds to start your spring garden. If you're like me, you hate to spend money for those little planters and pots if you can use something you already have. Can you recycle and save time and money as well? Yep! Here are some ideas I have collected over the winter months to make great seed starters from items you probably already have in your home.
A few cautions
In each case, you may want to use a medicine dropper for watering the seedlings to avoid drowning them. Always place starters on a waterproof base to collect any water run off. You can always cover a platter or old cookie tray with foil and place the starters on it to protect your surfaces. If you can start the seedlings outside (if it’s not too cold) that’s the best plan. Have fun trying these!
Recycled k-cups (I’ve mentioned this before)
They are the perfect size for planting seeds easily. After you remove the cover and clean the K-cup, fill it about half way with potting soil (I get mine at the Dollar Store). Press a pencil, skewer or screwdriver into the middle of the soil to make a small hole for your seeds. Cover the seeds with more dirt, then water them. The little hole in the bottom serves as a drain for excess water. Place on a dish or foil pan and set in a sunny window. Now just watch for the shoots and replant when they are big enough.
Fast food drink cups
Many fast food restaurants serve drinks in a plastic cup with a dome on top. Save these cups and lids when you finish the drink and wash them well. Use them to make a sort of mini terrarium. First, poke some holes in the bottom of the cup for drainage, then fill it with potting soil. Plant your seeds or cuttings in the dirt, then attach the dome. If you have a little plant, stems and leaves can shoot up through the hole. (It’s also an easy way to water.)
Newspaper, junk mail, and other scrap paper
Use the recycled paper to create little plant cups. I have seen this done in a variety of ways on Pinterest, but if you don’t want to research it on your own, here is one easy way to do it. Start with a baby food or jelly jar and turn it with the bottom facing up. Fold your paper over the jar, pressing it tightly to the jar until it forms a little cup shape. Carefully pull the paper cup off the jar, then turn it over and fold the top ends down to the inside. This will create a little rim and help the cup maintain it’s shape. Next, carefully fill with potting soil. Place the completed seed cups in a plastic tray or other container and water as needed. Excess water will drain through the paper. When the plants are grown enough to transplant, you can put the whole thing in the ground. The paper will biodegrade as the plants grow.
Toilet paper tubes
After the roll is empty, save the cardboard tube. Start by cutting each tube in half to create 2 seed starter cups. To use, stand each half with an open end facing up on a tray or old cookie sheet. Carefully pack the rolls tightly with potting soil, then add your seeds or seedling and leave them in a sunny spot. Water will run out the open bottom. When the seedlings are ready to transplant, you can put the whole tube, as well as the plant, in the ground. The cardboard will create compost as it biodegrades.
This is a great way to re-use those empty foam egg cartons. Save the cartons when you have used the eggs, clean and cut the lids off (keep both sides ,the lid will become your watering tray).
When you are ready to start your seeds, make a little hole in the bottom of each of the depressions where the eggs sat. (A heated nail works great for this.) Fill each depression with soil and your seeds. Now set the carton full of dirt on the lid you saved. Be careful about over watering. You could also cover the entire carton with some plastic wrap to create a little greenhouse.
A 2 liter plastic bottles
Technically, this is just a topper for the other starters, but you can use the bottom as a planter, too. For a mini terrarium, start with a cleaned and empty 2-liter soda bottle. Cut the spout off the top (use elsewhere as a funnel), invert the bottle, and place it over a seedling plant. Don't forget to remove it to water the plant. It will also protect the plant somewhat from harmful bugs.
Pull out the straw and snip off the top of the package, then poke a few drainage holes in the bottom with a pin. Clean it well and dry it. Stand the box upright, add some potting soil then seeds. (Limit the number of seeds or you'll have seedlings too close together as they grow.) Push the seeds into the soil so they are covered, but not very deep. Put the boxes on a tray, place on a windowsill, and water regularly.
Small drinking cups
To re-use those small drinking cups from the bathroom, just clean them out, poke some drainage holes in the bottom, and fill with dirt. As with the other “planters,” you will need to put them on a tray or old cookie sheet to contain any excess water. Again, you can plant container and all when you transplant,
Empty egg shells, too.
Use your egg as you like, but keep one end of the shell intact. You can also save the egg carton to hold your seed starters. Place a little soil in the shell and add seeds (only a few). Nutrients in the shells will help nourish your seedlings. As they grow. When the plants are hardy enough, plant them (with the egg shell) in the ground. The shell will break apart when the plant's roots grow out. Same goes for half an orange peel (if you can peel it carefully enough to leave a section undamaged).