Gayla Trail

Gayla Trail

Q: I’ve heard about starting seeds in eggshells to save money. Are there any other free household items that will work?

ANSWER:

To be brutally honest, I’m not a fan of eggshells as seed-starting pots. They’re free, recycling at work, not to mention biodegradable. Unfortunately, they’re also teeny tiny, don’t hold water well, and need to be attended to constantly to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out. They’ll pass with small flowers and herbs on a cool windowsill, but are a disaster underneath warm lights. God forbid they’re put on top of a heating mat. Since most seedlings will grow out of them in a hurry and require transplanting into a larger pot anyway, I’d suggest starting with something larger from the get-go. You’ll have much better results and chances are very good that there are plenty of primo contenders lurking in your or your neighbor’s recycling bin that are also free for the taking.

Single-serving yogurt cups make excellent containers for starting annual flowers and herbs. They may be small, but the plastic holds moisture more efficiently than an eggshell. Try to stick with plants that won’t take over the small pot too quickly. Marigolds, calendula, basil, hot peppers, onions, parsley, kale, strawberries, and zinnias are just a few examples.

Tomatoes, on the other hand, are known for their rapid growth and large, sometimes demanding root systems. It’s okay to start them out in a much smaller pot, but I find that the larger indeterminate varieties need a step up to something larger in order to keep them healthy and happy in the weeks before it is warm enough to send them outdoors to their final destination. Fortunately, full-sized yogurt tubs fit the bill perfectly. In fact, their width-to-depth size ratio makes them my first choice bar none, and I’ve hoarded a stack in my shed to prove it.

Cardboard toilet paper rolls are another castaway that everyone has in abundance. They do tend to fluctuate wildly between moist and dry so they work best outside or with a fan setup nearby to keep air circulating. Since they break down naturally and can be plopped into the soil whole, I’ve found they are a good choice if you want to get a head start with plants that don’t transplant well such as beans, sunflowers, and dill.

Critical Drainage

Whether you’re planning to use disposable coffee cups, takeaway containers, clam shell packaging, wooden crates, or any of the examples I’ve offered above, remember that when starting seeds it is absolutely essential that you add drainage holes into the bottom to ensure that your seedlings’ delicate root systems do not rot. Three pencil-sized holes is perfect for a coffee cup. Adjust the number of holes to the surface area of the object you use. Happy planting!

Garden authority Gayla Trail is the creator of YouGrowGirl.com.

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