Growing your own seedlings can be so rewarding and economical. Here are 9 Seed Starting Pots that will hold your seedlings as they grow and get ready to transplant outdoors.
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- What to look for in Seed Starting Pots?
- 9 Seed Starting Pot Ideas
- Potting packs & Seed trays
- Yogurt cups
- Paper & Plastic Cups
- Toilet & Paper Towel Rolls
- Soil Blocks
- Newspaper Seed Pots
- Take-Out Containers
- Cardboard Juice or Milk Cartons
- Strawberry or other fruit clam-shell plastic containers
- Seed Starting Pots not to use
What to Look for in Seed Starting Pots?
One of the 3 basic things you need to begin seed starting is seed pots. The basic requirements for seed starting pots are that it will hold soil and moisture, but it needs to drain well. These DIY seed starter pots also need to be food-safe and hold together long enough for your seedlings to grow (around 6 to 8 weeks).
Below is a list of 9 seed starting pots that I know will all work great for seed starters. Most of these seed starting container ideas are recyclables so they are made from recycled or re-purposed common household items. It would be a benefit to go look through your recycle bin to find a cheap source for seed pots.
There are a lot of well-meaning folks out there that have created lists of lots of household items that can be converted into seed starting pots. But I have an issue with many of these “clever” ideas. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the article for a list of seed starter pots I think you SHOULD NOT use!
9 Seed Starting Pot Ideas
Potting Packs or Seed Trays
Traditional Potting cell packs and seed trays are the best options to use when starting seeds. Seed Trays are my favorite seed starting container because they are not very expensive and they are the easiest to use.
Seed Trays can come from 2 different sources. First, you can buy them new from your local nursery or online. Be sure you buy packs that are at least 2.25 by 1.75 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep. Anything smaller just won’t be able to hold enough seedling soil mix and you will end up having to transplant your seedlings out into bigger containers.
Potting packs and seed trays can of course also be recycled. When you buy flowers from a shop be sure to save those containers! And ask your neighbors to save them for you as well. Well-cared-for plastic potting packs can last 5 years or more being used 2 or 3 times a season.
Yogurt Cups as Seed Starting Pots
Using Yogurt cups as one of your seed starting pots is a great way to recycle and reuse these cups! Yogurt containers as seed pots are perfect because they are usually large enough and hold enough soil that you don’t have to worry about your seedlings becoming root-bound.
Just be sure you punch a few holes (at least 2) in the bottom of the yogurt cup for drainage before you fill them with your favorite seedling soil mix.
One caution here. Some of the fancier yogurt brands use a cup that is smaller at the top than they are at the bottom. Don’t use these cups. The soil and seedling are very hard to remove from these types of cups. Be sure that the containers you use are taper up from smaller at the bottom to wider at the top. This makes it easy to remove the seedlings.
Paper or Plastic Cups
The next time you have a party (or your neighbor does) do a little dumpster diving afterward and save all the disposable cups. This is a great way to re-use what would normally be more junk in the landfill! Plastic cups will usually last much longer than paper cups when you are using them as seed starter pots.
In either case, be sure to cut a couple of small holes in the bottom of the cups for drainage. When you are done using the paper cups they could be composted, plastic cups that are worn out can be recycled.
Toilet & Paper Towel Rolls
The cardboard tubes left from your toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls can be cut into 3-inch pieces and used for seed starting pots. Place the tubes in a tray and then fill them with soil mix.
Water the trays from the bottom and the water will wick up in the soil. These toilet paper tubes as seed pots are pretty small so be sure to only use them for seedlings that will be indoors for 4 weeks or so. Otherwise, they may get root-bound.
When you move your seedlings outdoors simply peel the remaining cardboard off the soil and throw the cardboard in your compost bin.
Soil blocks are a container-free option for starting seedlings. The general idea is that you compress moist soil into a dense block shape and then plant seeds on the top.
The blocks are created using a soil block maker. If you would like to learn more about using soil blocks read this review article I wrote about using them.
Newspaper Seed Pots
This is a fun idea that creates a temporary seed pot made from sheets of newspaper. You can buy a mold that creates paper pots. Or even better learn how to make your own mold.
You can see how I used newspaper seedling pots and learn how to make them by reading this article I wrote, that also includes a video!!
Smaller take-out containers like the ones you get from your favorite Chinese place are perfect to use as seed starter pots. Just fill them up with soil and be sure to make a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
Cardboard juice or milk cartons
Cardboard juice or milk containers are a great option for seed starting pots. I especially like the smaller milk cartons (like the ones you used to get from school) as they are a perfect size and a bunch of them can fit together in a tray. Don’t forget drainage holes and compost or recycle them when you are finished with them.
Strawberry or other fruit clam-shell plastic containers
I like these sturdy plastic containers for things like microgreens. Leaving the lid on them allows you to create a mini-greenhouse environment. These can also be great for starting a large number of small seedlings that will later be transplanted out to their own individual containers.
Seed Starting Pots you shouldn’t use:
There are many ideas out there for DIY seed pots but really they are not the best way to start seeds. I’ve seen a million articles, Facebook posts, and Pinterest Pins with all these clever ideas for seed starter pots.
Although many of these ideas are “clever” ultimately they are not good to use as seed pots! For example, I know a lot of people use peat pots but I just don’t like them. Peat pots just dry out too quickly. I have listed below some other examples of seed starting pots that I would prefer you not use.
Egg Cartons as seed starting pots?
The idea here is to use the individual cells of cardboard egg cartons for seed pots. The biggest problem with this idea is space. The individual compartments in an egg carton just can’t hold enough soil mix to really give your seedlings room for the roots to grow.
Eggshell Seed pots?
Along with the idea of an egg carton as a seed starting pot, I’ve also seen folks use egg shells. Again the biggest problem with this idea is space. Eggs are small and just can’t hold enough soil to keep your seedlings from becoming root-bound.
Citrus Peels or Avocado Shells
I’ve seen folks carefully cutting oranges, grapefruit, and avocado in half so that the peels remain in a cup shape. Then they use them for seed starting pots. I understand the desire to try and reuse these things but this idea presents several problems.
- The first is drainage. It would be hard to get holes cut in the peels to allow excess water to drain out.
- The second is the risk of pests. You may not even notice but there could be tiny insect eggs on the citrus peels that could introduce pests to your seed starting operation.
- The third is mold. Have you ever seen what happens to an orange peel when it starts to decompose? Mold starts to grow. The last thing you want to do is introduce your new seedlings to the world in a bed of mold!
Ice cube trays
All I will say here is space and drainage!! Ice cube trays are just not big enough to get the job done!
Cut plastic milk jug or soda bottle
These could have some use in seed starting if you are growing a plant that is going to need to be in the container for a long time and needs a very large container.
Or if you are starting a bunch of smaller seedlings that will later be separated out into individual containers. But for the most part, these large plastic bottles are just too big and impractical for use in seed starting.
Well, I hope this post helped you with some ideas for seed starting pots. To learn more about growing your own seedlings check out my Video course Seed Starting Simplified. Only $15 on The Online Gardening School.
Priority for today… sharpening my garden tools. ThNk you for the video.
Rick, your generosity in giving of your time and knowledge in so many areas of “how to” in gardening is beyone kind. I am most grateful. This article on “seedling starting” gave me some new ideas on the best kinds of containers to use. It has been one of my greatest joys, over the past 60 years, to plant small backyard gardens. Some failures, some successes; but, always a joy to just get my hands in the soil and plant the seeds, with hope and anticipation of that first sign of “life” as it pokes its head above the soil. At 81 years old, with a walking and balance disability, I’ve been a bit limited over the past several years; but, even if it’s just getting some cucumber seeds planted in those old tires, I’m a happy “gardener”!! This year I want to start seedlings for a couple other veggies (cucumber seeds do best just planted in a mound outside and are always very kind to me!) What would you suggest for a couple of veggies as seedlings that might be the hardiest/easiest to grow & then transplant. Thank you,
Phillis, Tomatoes and peppers are also pretty easy to start indoors.
You make very good sense but have you looked into the concept of winter sowing? That’s where the cut milk jugs shine. Also, have you ever seen egg cartons wetted to make a pulp and then formed to make seed starting pots? I’m going to experiment with this idea.