Gardening can be expensive but before people spent lots of money for pots to start seedlings they made their own – it is easy, costs nothing, and even recycles.
There are at least three good reasons to start seedlings at home rather than just putting seeds into the ground. They apply to both vegetable plants and flowers.
First, some plants need a good start in northern climates or they won`t produce anything before fall. Tomatoes are a prime example.
Second, most gardeners and especially organic gardeners will not have perfect weed-free planting beds so tiny seeds and the tiny shoots they send up can easily get lost among the weeds and grass. Many plants fall into this category from head lettuce to broccoli. If you have established plants to put in the ground everything becomes easier, including the usual necessity of keeping seeds moist continuously until they sprout.
Third, it is much, much cheaper than buying plants ready-started in a greenhouse.
But seed trays ready to plant will cost about $10 each and even bare pots are expensive if you have a lot of garden.
Fortunately there is a simple and cheap alternative – make your own paper pots.
There are relatively expensive tools sold to do this but I`ve found that they aren`t necessary, or even that useful.
Take a piece of paper – brown paper bag, newspapers, almost anything but glossy magazine pages.
The size of the paper depends on what pot you are making, but a little experimenting will show you the way!
Have the paper ready, along with a few short strips of tape and a can of some sort.
Wrap the paper around the can leaving an inch or more overlap at the bottom – how much depends on the can – you need enough so you can fold it over.
When you get two or three layers wrapped around the form (can, pot, etc), tape it several places then fold the bottom over, press down hard on a table, then tape the bottom so it doesn`t come apart.
Use a plastic shoe box or other container and fill it with your paper pots.
To use simply fill the paper pot with good soil – you can microwave compost to sterilize it, or buy a bag of seed starter soil. You can also kill weeds in soil by putting it in a pot or other container and letting it grow weeds a few weeks, then kill them by covering with black plastic (trash bag?) in the sun. That isn`t quite sterile but is easy and usually good enough. Used coffee grounds make a good soil additive as do egg shells.
Put in the seed at the proper depth, put the pot in your plastic box and add water to the box – don`t pour it over the soil.
Cover for a Day
Then keeping moist leave uncovered in a warm part of the house until the plants come up.
To transplant a seedling, put a bit of soil or compost in the bottom of the paper pot, hold the seedling upright and fill with soil. Water well, again by pouring water into the tray rather than putting it right on the soil.
Squash doesn’t transplant well but tomatoes and many other plants do. In fact, tomatoes can be planted deep if they grew too large – burying a few leaves will only make a tomato stronger – really big ones can even be planted on their side in a trench.