Seed Starting Using Recyled Containers

seed starting 1seed starting 2It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds for your spring garden! Here’s a method that uses plastic containers that would otherwise be tossed in the landfill – a rotisserie chicken container and used k-cup coffee pods. This is especially convenient if you only want to start a few plants. One rotisserie container comfortably holds 12seed starting 3seed starting 4 pods.

Here’s how you do it…

Step 1: Purchase a rotisserie chicken and eat it. Wash it down with 12 cups of coffee!

Step 2: While you are at the height of your caffeine-induced mania, clean out the chicken container and gut the k-cup pods. Heck! Clean out your closets, your garage and your basement while you’re at it.

K-cup pods have fiber liners. Dump the grounds and tear them out. And hey, coffee grounds can be recycled too! Acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias love them.

Step 3: Punch holes in the k-cups. These holes will allow water to wick into the pods.

Step 4: Fill the k-cup pods with seed starting soil. Add about ¼” of water to the bottom of the container. Water the soil in the pods as well. Potting mix is light and doesn’t readily absorb water at first. In fact, it almost seems water resistant! Let the soil filled pods rest in the pool of water in the container. Slowly, the soil in the pods will relax and absorb the water. If the bottom of the container dries up, add enough water to just cover the bottom. If you prefer, you can mix the potting mix in a bowl or bucket of water ahead of time and fill the pods with moist potting mix.

Step 5: Now, you are ready to sow the seeds! Follow the sowing directions for each type of seed. Most seeds will only require a light covering of soil. Don’t cover too deeply.

Step 6: Place the lid on the container and put it in a warm spot. The top of the fridge works. You can also place the container on a warming mat made especially for seed starting. At this point, sunlight is not necessary. Humidity is key. Keep the soil warm and moist and everything will be okay. When the bottom of the tray is dry, add water to the tray… but not too much. Keep the soil moist but not soaked. The water will wick through the holes in the pods.

Step 7: After your seeds sprout, remove the lid as a humid environment is no longer necessary.  You can now move the seedlings to a cooler, but sunny location. Setting them under grow lights is ideal. Now, the seedlings need more light than they do heat. If you notice your seedlings leaning toward the light, turn the tray. If your plants start to look lanky, they aren’t getting enough light. Also, at this stage, you won’t need to water as often. Overwatering can lead to damping off (a virus that rots the seedlings at ground level). Add water to the container only when the soil feels dry.

Step 8: You’re ready to transplant your seeds to larger containers after they have developed a set or two of true leaves and are about 2-3” tall. Typically, this takes 2-3 weeks. Carefully transplant them in larger containers (filled with garden soil rather than seed starting soil) to allow for root growth. I like to use a small spoon to transfer them from one container to another. Disturb the delicate roots as little as possible. It’s okay to add a slow-release liquid fertilizer at this point. I use it at half strength.

Step 9: Your seedlings will grow like crazy after being transplanted! Before they are garden-ready, they need to be hardened off (toughened up). Even though they look quite strong and healthy, they are still tender and need to slowly be exposed to outdoor temperatures, sun and wind. Initially, set them in a sheltered outdoor spot for a couple of hours each day. Gradually increase their outdoor time. Eventually, if the temperatures aren’t too low, you will be able to leave them out all day.

Step 10: Plant your veggies and flowers in your garden and enjoy!

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