Cherry tomato seedlings transplanted into cardboard newspaper pots. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)
It’s getting closer to the time to start planting seeds indoors where I live in USDA Hardiness zone 5b. Most seeds, especially vegetable seeds, take about 6 weeks to be strong enough for transplanting. Our last frost day is around May 10 so I back date how long seeds take to be established before transplanting to determine when to start seeds. One of the best items we can all repurpose to grow seedlings are clear fruit clam shells. You can also use cleaned baked chicken, cupcake and cake plastic containers.
Traditional peat pots used for vegetable seed starting. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)
Over the years, peat pots have been a favorite pot of choice for seed planting. Those are a good choice as well because they can feature one seed per pot and easily be transplanted. Plants grown in clam shells can also be transplanted into peat pots.
Fruit clam shells work well for me because they are small enough for six to fit on cookie sheets so I can easily move them around the house to catch sunlight. I place them on a towel on the cookie sheet so the soil can stay moist without getting wet. Clam shells have openings at the bottom.
I use a different option. After getting plants started in the clam shells, I transplant them into pots made out of cardboard and newspaper. Once the weather is right, I can easily plop these into the ground without moving the plant around any more. This will ensure the roots can then grow into the surrounding soil as the thin cardboard disintegrates.
The inside of toilet paper rolls make excellent planters for individual plants. Those can also be planted outside when the temperatures are right.
Along with many things that can go wrong with this method, we feel it’s unnecessarily complicated, gravity will always make sure roots find their way down anyway. Therefore we do not recommend customers to use it. One of the main risks is that the coffee filter will hold too much water and soak the seeds, causing root rot.
How to transplant a seedling? One easy way is to fill the larger container with grow medium and then make a ‘hole’ in it with the small container currently containing your seedling. This will be the perfect size for the root ball of your seedling. But make sure that you don’t over-compact the new grow medium when you make the hole.
Is soaking seeds in a glass of water a good germination method?
When seedlings first sprout they are very sensitive to their growing environment. Strong light at close range will damage their delicate leaf tissues easily. Temperature extremes and large temperature swings/cold nights can also be fatal to them. That is why you have to be careful growing your seedlings in the first 1-2 weeks.
Water has to be added to jiffy pods in order to use them. The Dutch Passion team have seen many cases where growers completely soaked the jiffies before use. Other growers will even stand the jiffy pods in a shallow tray of water while seeds are germinating in them. In the worst cases, this results in a soaked environment in which cannabis seeds won’t germinate (or with reduced germination rates).
It’s not necessarily the biggest problem if your seedlings have stretched, so long as you support the stems in time. This can be done with a small support, such as a small stick/cane. Some growers support a stretched seedling with a short length of drinking straw which has been slit down the side with scissors.
Seedlings do not need deep soil to get started. Using 4-inch pots takes more soil than they need, but if you use larger containers you will be able to skip the transplanting stage and plant your starts directly into the garden when it is time.
Cereal boxes and other lightweight cardboard packaging can be broken down, wet, and use to make paper mache pots similar to the shredded paper idea listed above. You’ll have to render the cardboard into small pieces and soak them overnight before you can get it into a workable form.
Try cutting one in half to make a self-watering planter like the post from PreparednesssMama. Milk jug greenhouses work well for early spring planting too. Just sow the seeds inside, tape it back together and set the outside. The seeds will sprout as soon as the temperature warms, but the seeds will have been protected from the harsh winter weather.
Use Toilet Paper Rolls
Here’s how to reuse old 4-inch pots.
Newspaper seedling wraps come together easily. You will need something sturdy like a small can of tomato paste, or a small candle holder to use as a mold for the pots. Really, these can be made any size as long as you have a piece of newspaper big enough to wrap around your mold two times. Follow these steps:
Use this article Guide for Winter Sowing from 104 Homestead to get started.
It is hard to keep plastic out of your home. Why not use some of the items for starting seeds? I always keep plastic containers that come with built-in lids. These make terrific mini greenhouses to keep moisture in while you are waiting for the seeds to sprout. Look for clamshell containers from purchased salads and cupcake carrying containers with individual sections to keep the cupcakes secure.