Monday, April 7, 2014

Mindful Monday: Repurposing Plastic Food Containers for Starting Seeds

Ah, April.  I now understand the the saying "March winds, April showers. . ." as this has been one wet month.  But it's only day 7, so maybe it will dry up and we'll be able to get out and turn some earth.  Just yesterday I was commenting to Bug about how nice it is that the ground is finally starting to dry out, and we don't sink every time we go to the barn.  C'est la vie.  

I did get a few things done over the weekend, though.  It was a gorgeous weekend, after all.  So, today's mindful topic is reusing empty--and clean--food tubs as seed starting pots.  

There are several benefits to this.  

  1. You are reusing or upcycling, which is part of reduce-reuse-recycle.  And you can recycle when you're through with the tubs.
  2. It saves money on buying seed starting kits.
  3. It saves money on buying plants.  You get more bang for your buck with seeds, and if you are saving your own seeds--as I am--they are free.

Here is my first container, and the star of today's post.  You'll never guess what it held.  ;)

Seeds of all sorts need the soil to be moist but well-drained.  Since the tubs are solid on the bottom, I used a craft knife to cut three small x's in the bottom.
Craft Knife
X in bottom of container
3 X's evenly spaced

I then filled the tub with potting soil.  (There are all kinds of specialty soils out there, but I use a basic potting soil that has moisture beads to help retain the moisture in the container.)  My bag is from last year, so it was a little dry.  I filled it to the top, then pressed down lightly to pack it just a little.  You want your seedlings to be able to push roots through it.  The pressing will also make the sop of the soil slightly lower than the top of the container, keeping water from running over the edge and possible washing out seeds.

Dry potting soil filled to the top

When I added the water, I used rainwater collected in mason jars waiting patiently to cover my peas.  
Rain water in mason jars

My soil was so dry, I actually had to use my finger to poke holes and pour the water in a little at a time. Then I mixed it around a bit, making sure to press it down again when I was sure the soil was thoroughly wetted.
Wet soil pressed down

Then I added my seeds.  I used cherry tomato seeds I saved from my crop last year. This was the first time I saved tomato seeds, so the process, while straightforward, was a bit foreign to me.  (I'll go over this in a later post, but it's not nearly the same as saving seeds from squash or herbs.)  With the way the seeds looked when I opened my little package, I'll be pleasantly surprised if they grow.
Cherry tomato seeds saved from last year's crop
They look nothing like the seeds you see when bite into a juicy fruit, right?  However, when I picked some up and sprinkled them on the soil, I was surprised.  They seemed to change into "normal" seeds.  Go figure. 

Now here is where my seed-planting technique varies from others.  Most people--experts included--will tell you to sprinkle fresh dirt on top of your seeds.  I poke little holes in the soil, drop the seeds in, and use the same soil to cover them.  I tap it lightly so it's packed, but not too tight.  I have never had issues with my method, but do whatever you are comfortable with.  (For lettuce, I just sprinkle the seeds in the container and leave them to their own whims.  It's not how they say to do it, but it works for me.)

I also plant more seeds in the container than they say to do.  While I have personal issues with pulling the weaker plants, I have never had any problems with planting more.  In fact, when I plant 3-4 cucumber seeds in a starter pot, I never pull any of the plants.  I just transplant all of them into the garden, and they thrive. 

Don't forget to label your seeds.  This is very important.  You don't want to mix up the plants later.  I also date them.  This helps me know when I should start seeing some growth, or when I can just call it and plant something else.  I usually give them about three weeks, regardless of what it is.  After having garlic chives come up two months after I planted it, I like to give the slow starters a chance.
Bet you didn't know Kraft makes
Whipped Cherry Tomatoes

You'll need to make sure your seeds and seedlings are kept in a warm place.  I usually just bring mine inside overnight or on colder days.  When it's nice out, I'll put them out in the sun and make sure to keep them moist.  Once they get bigger, I leave them outside and just bring them in when there's a chance of frost.

Please Be Mindful:
Reuse.  Upcycle.  Recycle.


  1. Jamie, if you mix your potting soil in a bucket with warm water with your hand before putting in the cups, your assured it will be moist enough and warm enough to activate your seeds. That's what dad( Mr. Bob) used to do. :) love your blog!

    1. Thanks, Kathy! I learned lots of tips from your dad, but not that one. ;) I'm glad you like my blog. You brought a ray of sunshine to this rainy day. :)