What food packaging & other household waste do you use for starting seeds?

It’s seed-starting time here in the northern hemisphere and my Twitter feed is full of exciting stories about what fruit & veg people are going to be growing this year. I’ve added half a dozen more fruit bushes to our garden this year but I’ve not sown any seeds yet — my seed box is sat on the side of my desk making sad puppy eyes at me as I type ;)

Gardeners & allotmenteers are just about always resourceful types when it comes to reusing and recycling stuff – I don’t think I’ve ever met a grower who doesn’t keep ice cream/margarine tubs etc for reuse – but I thought it would be worth having a bit of a sharing session about what you reuse for starting seeds, as plant pots or as water-catchers under plant pots, and if there is anything that you choose not to reuse for whatever reason.

At one point, a good few years ago now, I think about 90% of my seeds were started in plastic mushroom tubs — either directly in the tub or using them to catch water draining from plants pots. In the past, I also used shallow fresh pasta packaging as starter trays and multi-serving yoghurt/cream pots for the growing on stage. I know my dad keeps the clear plastic boxes used by supermarkets for muffins or pastries whenever he gets them because the lid gives the tray its own little propagator/greenhouse too – and similarly he cuts down 2ltr pop/soda bottles to make a pot with its own little cloche.

Moving away from plastic – since I do worry about putting plastic in direct sunlight/warm spots when it’s not designed to be used in that way, I’ve used newspaper and toilet roll tubes to make “plantable” pots – the former just require a little folding into shape and the latter can be cut in half to make twice the number or left whole as “root trainers” for growing carrots or parsnips.

(I also cut up plastic milk bottles & drinks cans to make plant markers for all these many, many seeds!)

So, what packaging (or other household waste) do you reuse for starting off your seedlings? What about for the growing on stage?

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9 Responses to “What food packaging & other household waste do you use for starting seeds?”


  1. Dani says:

    Hi Louisa

    If you go to my blog (http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com) and click on “Recycled” in the labels column to the right of the screen, I have 34-odd posts about how I recycle “rubbish” in my garden – even down to creating mini greenhouses.

    Dani :)

  2. Cappenz says:

    I use the very large, rectangular, plastic bags that bedding is sometimes sold in as mini greenhouses for flats of seeds. To improve ventilation I punch holes with a one-hole paper punch and leave the zipper open a little. I like the fact that they are easily portable when I move the seeds around my garden to chase the sun in early Spring. I also scavenge an occasional plastic cover from a grocery store cake. The very largest ones are several times larger than a take-out container. I also cut open bags that mattresses come in to make hoop houses. One can ask for them on Freecycle or directly from a mattress store. Those three are my favorite seed starting reuses.

  3. anna says:

    I use a few takeout containers – bigger, round, with clear lid and black main part they work great for e.g. basil and tomatoes as a nice greenhouse.
    Plus many of those already mentioned – newspapers or ads for folded seed starter containers, egg cartons, egg shells (tried once), plastic tubs and other plastic containers (just make a few holes in the bottom with scissors etc for drainage) etc.
    Plus of course any previous year’s actual pots some smaller plants came with.

  4. This year we used the toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and the Kerig coffee containers (plastic, ugh) that only make one cup of coffee at a time. So wasteful, but my friend gave me a whole bunch of hers. They’re working well so far!

    • BoB says:

      I finally broke down and bought a Kerig.. The wife can’t drink coffee due to a digestive issue, and the doc has told me no more than one cuppa in the morning to jump-start my heart.
      I hated wasting all that coffee, but balked at the Kerig because of both the expense, and the individual plastic packages. Then I found a reusable K-cup! (For anyone stateside, I bought it at Bed. Bath, & Beyond)
      I buy whole beans, so I don’t know the exact measurement, but if I grind 2 Tablespoons (30ml) of beans, it just fills the cup. For best results, tamp it down lightly with your finger before brewing.

  5. Maddy says:

    I love using tin cans, few holes in the bottom for drainage and they are a nice size for herbs and such :)

  6. Essie Earls says:

    We use our unused cans, bottles , and old pots of our neighbors. They were the best spot for seedlings since they are still on the nursery part of their lives.

  7. Ora says:

    I use eggshells. The size is perfect and it biodegrades right into the soil, carrying with it all it’s vital nutrients. No waste.

  8. BoB says:

    I make newspaper planting pots. This site has a wooden tool for shaping the pots, but I found an old tin can works just as well.

    http://www.burpee.com/seed-starting/potmaker-prod001209.html



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