A wonderful way to reduce waste while getting your garden started is by making your own seedling containers out of used plastic containers already in your house!
You can make seed containers out of milk jugs, plastic bottles, cracker containers, oatmeal packages, and so much more! Simply find packages in your kitchen that are empty and get started with your summer garden today!
Why use old plastic bottles and jugs for your seed containers?
Using milk jugs saves money!
Nursery pots cost money! Instead of buying empty nursery pots or even ones with starts already growing, it's more economical to start seeds in containers you already have. You already bought the milk - why not get your money's worth out of the container as well!
Using plastic bottles reduces plastic production!
When we reuse a plastic container instead of buying nursery pots, we are reducing the quantity of plastic that we buy new. This, in turn, reduces the demand on new plastic products.
Using these containers promotes reuse of plastic products!
Making seed containers out of used plastic also promotes the concept of reusing! With single-use plastics infiltrating every aspect of our lives, it's very powerful to set an example of thinking twice about something before throwing it out. Once you've started your seeds, consider posting pictures of your creations to inspire others around you to reuse their plastic packaging!
Learn how to make seed containers out of egg cartons, egg shells, and avocado shells too!
Keep reading below to see how to make seed containers from a milk jug, Pepsi bottle, and an oatmeal package!
DIY Milk Jug Seed Container
Making a seed container out of a milk jug doesn't take much planning nor supplies. Simply rinse out your empty milk jug (you can use a plastic one or a cardboard one!) and cut it in half. You'll want to cut it long ways from top to bottle so that you maximize the surface area. If you need a deeper container though (like for tomatoes or pepper starts), you can cut off the top to have a nice deep milk jug.
Add your soil to both halves of the milk jug and place your seeds at the recommended depth and distance as specified on the package. You'll want to water your seeds and place them in a sunny location inside your house to encourage quick growth!
A clean, empty milk jug
Your favorite seeds
A sunny window sill
Remember that these containers are for starting seeds and you'll have to either move them to larger containers or plant them out in your garden. Research whether the seeds you choose should be started ahead of time inside and whether they can be grown indoors all year long. Basil, for example, can be grown inside all year long but will need to be moved to a bigger pot.
Check out my step-by-step guide on Pinterest to see exactly how to make a seed container from a plastic milk jug!
Can the containers be recycled once the seedlings are transplanted into the garden?
Whether or not a container is recyclable will depend on your specific recycling company. That's why you should always check what your city accepts before tossing something in the curbside bin.
Assuming you could usually recycle a milk jug or plastic bottle, then you can definitely recycle them even after using them as seed starters! Simply make sure to give them a rinse as you shouldn't be putting any dirty materials into your recycling bin.
An oatmeal container on the other hand will most likely not be recyclable after using it as a seed container. Curbside recycling usually requires that paper materials are clean and dry. Otherwise they bring too much contamination into the recycling stream. If you manage to keep your carboard container intact and can wash and dry it, then add it in! Otherwise it should be placed in a compost bin or simply buried in your garden to finish breaking down.
DIY Soda Bottle Seed Container
Clean, empty soda bottle
A sunny area inside your house
Will chemicals leach into my seeds if I plant them in plastic?
You're right to be concerned about chemicals leaching into your seeds. BPA, for example, is a chemical used in many plastic bottles and although the EPA and FDA say that it is safe for use in food products, I still steer clear of it.
Generally speaking, I only use plastic containers that are relatively new and that originally held food in them. Using plastic containers that were originally designed for non-food items runs the risk that there were different chemicals allowed in the package that wouldn't be safe for consumption.
Some plastic also leaks more chemicals as it gets older. That's why you hear about people avoiding using single-use plastic bottles over and over again as refillable ones. Clear plastic will begin to break down (a little!) in the sun as well so it's best to use them for just a single summer and then dispose of them. Plastic nursery pots are made of a much sturdier plastic that holds up longer.
DIY Oatmeal Tube Seed Container
Seed containers can also be made out of cardboard packaging, too! Oatmeal tubes make great seed containers as they can be cut to have much more depth than a soda bottle or even a milk jug. The cardboard also tends to break down and can be simply placed in the garden along with the seedlings when time (although make sure to break up the bottom of the container so the seedling has room to grow out its roots!
Clean, empty oatmeal container
A sunny shelf
Remember that the oatmeal container is made out of cardboard so it is more likely to become water logged and break. To be safe, place your container on top of a small plate or cookie sheet in case the water starts to leak out.
Check out my step-by-step guide on Pinterest to see exactly how to make a seed container from an oatmeal package!
Do the containers need drainage holes poked in the bottom?
Ideally all of your seed starting containers would have drainage holes to keep you from flooding your baby seedlings. If you have a place to store them (like on top of a cookie sheet), poke holes in the bottom of each container before placing dirt in them.
You can get away with not adding drainage holes though as long as you are careful not to overwater. Monitor the moisture of your soil and if you see any pooling of water, stop. Depending on the type of container, you may also be able to gently tip it and let any extra water run out the sides.
Your seeds will now happily begin to sprout in their DIY containers! Remember to check them regularly to see if they need more water. It's also a good idea to rotate them as the seedlings may start leaning towards the sun and we want even growth throughout.
Once the seedlings are big enough, move them out into your garden area!