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Friday, Feb. 9th 2018

What You Need To Know About Seed Starting Containers

starting seeds


Starting seeds can be a truly rewarding practice for the home gardener, but it does require some basic know-how and the right materials. If you’re new to growing plants from seed, it’s important to understand that not all products or DIY ideas floating around the Internet will yield the same results. Here’s a brief rundown of some of our favorite seed-starting containers and how they work.

Recycled Materials

Using material you already have is both economical and eco-friendly. Plastic yogurt tubs and salad boxes, as well as newspaper, are all good choices. Be sure your plastic is safe to reuse and the ink on the newspaper is nontoxic.

Yogurt cups: Yogurt cups are large enough that you won’t have to transfer your plants until you put them in the ground or their permanent container. Just cut a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Be sure the container is not more narrow at the top than the bottom so that the plant will come out easily when it’s time to move it.

Salad or pastry boxes: These are great for creating a sort of miniature greenhouse. For this method, you’ll plant many seeds in one container and transfer them to individual containers when they develop true leaves.

Newspaper: It’s one of the few materials that will degrade quickly enough for you to be able to place the whole container in the ground or pot when your plant is ready to transfer. Don’t try to move newspaper planters when they’re super wet, and be aware that they can be time-consuming to make if you need more than a few. Here’s a quick tutorial. []

Cardboard: Egg cartons and toilet-paper rolls are popular options because they are biodegradable. However, depending on your soil type, they may not decompose fast enough. Constraining the plant to the container would leave you with a struggling, stunted plant.

Store Bought Containers


If you don’t have a stash of recyclables or if you need a little more convenience, there are several options available on the market. Here are a few of our favorites.

Plastic plug or cell trays: They aren’t biodegradable, but they are reusable, recyclable, inexpensive, compact, and practical. The cells come in different sizes, and many can be purchased with lids to hold in heat and moisture.

Peat moss pellets: These are designed to go straight into the ground or pot, so they’re ideal for delicate seedlings that are prone to transfer shock. However, they are on the expensive side, so it may be best to use them sparingly. They also tend to be too small for certain plants, and some people report that the netting doesn’t degrade as well as it should.

Fiber pots: Similar to peat pellets, fiber pots are biodegradable and ideally can go straight into the soil. But many gardeners find they need to tear off the bottom and parts of the sides to be sure their plants have enough room to grow. If any part of the container is above the soil when you transfer it, tear that off as well—otherwise, it will pull moisture away from your plant’s roots.

Of course, these aren’t all your options, but they’re a great place to start. For information on other materials you’ll need and a general overview of how to start seeds, check out this article.

More About Starting Seeds

Learn more at Garden Therapy.

20 ways to start seeds at The Freerange Life
Ruth Gulley

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University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener Program