Starting seedlings in recycled seed starters saves you money and reuses items intended for the trash bin or recycle center. Recycled seed starters have become very important in my life. Egg shells, egg cartons, tin cans, seedling trays, and my new favorite, emptied Keurig coffee cups have all been pressed into service. Some years I go a bit crazy adding chickens and this year I went a little overboard starting seedlings. Some people use cardboard tubes or make seedling pots from newspaper. I tend to grab what ever is nearby that will hold dirt! Many of my ideas need a little modification before the seeds go in, but they are working out well. My seedlings are thriving and getting big! None of this is earth shattering, or terribly original thought. It’s new to me and I thought it might be helpful to you, also, if you are a new gardener.
Using Coffee K-Cups as Recycled Seed Starters
The first step in using the recycled seed starters from Keurig cups, is to empty the coffee from the cups. There’s a couple of tablespoons of coffee in each cup. I save the coffee grounds to add as fertilizer. Turns out plants like coffee as much as I do. Seeds need good soil, moisture, warmth and a light source in order to germinate. When you start reading about starting seeds, you realize there is quite a lot to it. Seed starting is more than just pushing seeds into the ground and saying a prayer, which is my usual method of gardening.
Empty out the coffee grounds into a bucket or container. I leave the bucket open to the air but keep it from getting rained on. The goal is to have dry coffee grounds to use as a garden amendment, later. After emptying the coffee pods, I was ready to fill the pods with a good soil. You may notice that some of the pods gave up their liner readily and some did not. I decided to experiment and do some of both to see if it matters. I will update this post if there is any difference.
I poured about 6 quarts of soil into a large plastic bucket. You can see that the bucket is nothing special. It even has teeth marks along the top where the dog carried it around last year. Just a bucket. Use what you have. Add some water to the soil to get it moist but definitely not runny or soggy. Mix well and let it sit for a few minutes to settle and get moist. It should hold together when you pick up a handful but not be dripping water.
It should be looking somewhat like this photo. Sticking together but not wet wet wet.
Scoop potting soil into the recycled seed starters. Pack lightly but make the pod full. Now for the seeds.
The most important part of this step is LABEL the recycled seed starters. A lot of seedlings look alike. I know I won’t remember which is who and I’m betting you won’t either. A sharpie pen solves this dilemma. I write on the recycled seed starters because the outer shell is plastic. Perfect solution. Now I know what each one is, even if the tray gets rearranged. Or tipped over. Yes. That happens.
For the first few weeks after the seeds are in, and while they are still tender little delicate shoots, I water with a spray bottle set to mist setting. This keeps the dirt from washing out from a stream of water. It also prevents over watering. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Seeds will not grow properly if they are kept really wet.
Some recycled seed starters can be planted right into the ground with the seedlings. If you have egg shells, each half can become a seed pot. Using the same method as outlined above, fill with dirt and plant the seeds. When you are ready to transplant to the garden or larger pot, just plant the whole thing, egg shell and all. The calcium from the egg shell is beneficial to many plants. This is an especially useful tip to know when planting tomato seedlings.
Other Recycled Seed Starters from Your Recycling Bin
Many items we toss in the trash or recycle bin can be used to start seeds or make seed starting pots from scratch.
Plastic trays from take out or convenience foods
Discarded seedling trays from the nursery if you bought plants (learn how to disinfect the trays here in this post )
Each one of the above has some pros and cons associated with it and some care that must be taken when using these items.
And then, my experiment for the year- tin cans. Have you seen some pretty labels on some tin cans that you used? I have a few that I collected over the last year for this purpose. I liked the label and thought they would make attractive pots for seedlings. IF I decide to give any plants away, I can simply tie a piece of twine or ribbon around the can and it will look presentable!
Using a can opener, punch some drainage holes in the bottom of the tin can.
Add the potting soil.
Plant seeds or transplant a seedling into this container. This is a perfect size for a potted herb plant. I had one pepper plant that still needs to be planted in the garden. For now, it is planted in a tomato sauce can. It makes me think of salsa!
When Should You Transplant to a Garden or Larger Container?
Your recycled seed starters are a temporary home for your seedlings. It helps them get a good start without worries of too much heat, rain or wind. You can easily move trays to a better location or put in a green house if you have one of those. Eventually you will need to transplant your seedlings and thin out the weak plants. The general rule of thumb on this stage is to look at the plants true leaves. The first leaves to sprout are temporary leaves called cotyledons. The next leaves to sprout are true leaves. Once the plant has a few sets of true leaves it will have a better chance of surviving the transplant phase.
Take a look around your home and especially the items you are throwing out. You may decide that many of the waste items can be used as recycled seed starters. Doing this will save you a few dollars on the gardening bill and slow down the filling of our landfills.