DIY Recycled Seedling Pots & Seed Starting Ideas

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You don’t need to buy new pots and trays to grow seeds this year. Instead, use these ideas for seed starting in waste materials! That includes using newspaper and paper cups to make recycled seedling pots, planting in eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. If it’s non-toxic and can hold a plant inside, you can probably use it to grow seeds.

It’s finally getting to that point of the year — seed sowing time. From now until the summer, I’ll be sowing a lot of the seeds for my vegetable garden in modules and pots and then planting them out. I do this to give my plants an easier and earlier start in life and to help them avoid slugs and other pests as they’re just emerging. While I do have plenty of purpose-made seed trays and modules to grow them in, I also use a lot of recycled materials. Toilet paper rolls, supermarket veg trays, and egg cartons, to name a few. Here’s a collection of ideas for seed starting with recycled materials. They’ll help save you money and reduce waste.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Toilet paper rolls are great for growing most plants, but especially ones that don’t like their roots disturbed: beans, peas, and sweet peas. This is because you plant them directly into the soil outside without having to take the plant out. Tip: they may start molding and breaking down before then, but it’s nothing to worry about. Also, make sure to peel back the tops of the roll before you plant them. This is especially important if you’ve not filled them all the way with compost.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening

Recycled Seed Trays

Do you know those plastic trays that you buy mushrooms, strawberries, and other fruit and veg in? Pop some drainage holes into the bottom, and they’re great to use as seed trays. They even stack really well together, so if you have a bunch, use them one year, then clean them out and store them for the next year, too.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Use plastic trays used in supermarket veg packaging to grow seedlings in

Recycled Seedling Pots

I recently shared two ways to make newspaper plant pots using glass jars or origami. Newspaper and the black and colored ink they’re made with are safe for the garden and break down over time. The pots will last long enough without falling apart and give you a gardening activity for a rainy day.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Newspaper pots are easy to make and also biodegrade into the soil

Grow Seedlings in Eggshells

Not only do these eggshell planters look incredibly cute, but they can also be planted directly into the garden. Wash them before using them, and consider popping them in a 130°F (54°C) oven for twenty minutes. That will kill off any germs and bacteria. Fill the eggshells with compost, sow a seed or three inside, and only lightly water. The shells won’t have drainage unless you carefully make some holes at the bottom. When planting, you put the plant and shell in the soil. Make sure to crack the eggshells gently before you put them in, though. It will help the seedling’s roots to break through and stop it from drowning in the meantime.

DIY Recycled Seedling Pots & Seed Starting Ideas including newspaper plant pots and using plastic bottles as cloches #gardening #gardenhack #vegetablegarden
Grow seedlings in eggshells

Egg Cartons

Once you’ve eaten your eggs and planted the eggshells, you can use the egg carton to sow even more seeds! Each egg cup can be filled with soil, sown with seeds, and then ripped off and planted directly in the garden. Like toilet paper rolls, the paper breaks down, making this growing idea very useful when planting out.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Egg carton seed tray

Paper Cup Pots

Unwaxed paper cups are perfect containers for starting off seeds and plants. They’re made to contain liquids, so they are a bit tougher than toilet paper rolls or newspaper, so plants can stay growing in them for longer. Make sure to poke a drainage hole in the bottom, and your plants will have a snazzy recycled home to live in. You could even stop by a local coffee shop to see if they’d mind you reclaiming some leftover from customers. While you’re there, ask if they have spent coffee grounds, too, since they’re great to use in the garden and in making compost.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Paper drinking cups make excellent plant pots

Water Dispenser Cloches

This is an idea from an allotmenteer here on the Isle of Man. I’m not sure where they got the large water bottles from, but the bottoms have been removed, and they’ve been converted into cloches. Cloches are also like mini-greenhouses that are fitted over individual plants in the garden. They keep the plant warm and help protect it from slugs, snails, wind, and the elements. It’s important to keep young plants protected from the cold, especially in early spring.

DIY Recycled Seedling Pots & Seed Starting Ideas including newspaper plant pots and using plastic bottles as cloches #gardening #gardenhack #vegetablegarden
Water bottle plant cloches

Plastic Bottle Cloche

Not everyone has access to large water dispenser bottles, but they might have plastic drink bottles. These can also be converted into cloches, either like the photo above or by using the top so there’s a bit more ventilation. This image and a lot more ideas can be found in gardening on a budget. Tip: try to use clear bottles since darker ones can block out some of the light.

DIY Recycled Seedling Pots & Seed Starting Ideas including newspaper plant pots and using plastic bottles as cloches #gardening #gardenhack #vegetablegarden

Pastry ‘Clamshell’ Propagator

If you’re starting seeds that need a bit more warmth, consider popping them into a pastry clamshell. This tutorial from the Empress of Dirt shows how she uses them to keep her African Violet cuttings warm and cozy. The clamshells essentially enclose the seedlings and help keep humidity and temperature up—much like a miniature greenhouse!

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening

Upcycled Outdoor Planters

Now that it’s warming up, you can begin sowing seeds outdoors. I have several recycled and upcycled containers, including an old Belfast sink, in which I grow leafy greens. Since it already has drainage through the drain, I’ve just filled the bottom with gravel and topped it up with soil, and it’s now a perfect planter. You could upsize this idea by planting in an old bathtub.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Use recycled containers to grow veg in like this Belfast sink

DIY Pallet Planter

A wooden pallet can easily be converted into another style of upcycled planter. All you need to create this Wheeled Pallet Planter is one wood pallet, 4-5 Caster wheels, a few other materials, and some basic DIY skills. It’s a great mobile planter for salad crops, leafy herbs, and other shallow-rooted crops.

12 Recycled Ideas for Seed Starting: Ideas for starting off your seeds in recycled materials and containers including toilet paper rolls, eggshells, and upcycled plastic cloches. #lovelygreens #gardening #vegetablegardening
Recycle a wood pallet into a planter

Save Tomato Seeds on Paper Towels

One of the easiest ways to save tomato seeds is to scrape them out onto a paper towel, goo, and all. Let it dry completely before storing it away or sending the seeds to a friend. When you’re ready to sow them, you tear or cut off a piece of the paper towel and plant it with the seeds into the soil.

DIY Recycled Seedling Pots & Seed Starting Ideas including newspaper plant pots and using plastic bottles as cloches #gardening #gardenhack #vegetablegarden
Save seeds on paper towels

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2 Comments

  1. Love this post Tanya! I also believe that gardening doesn’t have to cost and recycling in a contemporary world is not a choice but a must if we want to look after our environment. Great ideas here- I have successfully planted seeds in old mushroom containers, transplanted seedlings into cardboard tubes and old plastic cups.

    1. You’re well ahead of the game Hema — it’s great to hear that other people are actively recycling in their gardens too!