The Garden

8 Ways to start seedlings

Starting your seedlings the right way makes all the difference! Here are 8 ways you can start your seedlings off, as long as you avoid the common seedling starting pitfalls you should be fine! Most of the options below avoid added plastics (with the exception of the Aerogarden) and are biodegradable.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I can’t help but get excited when its time to start seedlings for the new growing season. Ordering seeds (I get mine from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) makes me feel like a kid making out their Christmas list. I love planning out what I am going to grow, where I am going to plant them and what I will do with my bountiful harvest! But before that can happen then seeds must be sowed. So let’s take a look at eight different ways for you to start your seedlings.

1. Toilet paper rolls

Toilet paper rolls make great little seeding starters. They will decompose in the soil and the roots will be able to grow through the toilet paper roll which will become softer as it gets wet. Once the seedlings are a few inches tall you can put the whole thing in soil and just let it do its thing.

Seedings in toilet paper rolls

I like using toilet paper rolls as it is giving a second use to something, plus it doesn’t cost anything and you always have it in the house (unless you have run out of toilet paper and then you better get your butt to the store ASAP!).

2. Non-Woven Nursery Bags

These little non-woven bags are lightweight and biodegradable to they are great for starting seedlings. The mesh allows the roots to easily penetrate into the soil. One thing you need to watch out for is that they don’t dry out which can happen quite quickly as the soil in these bags is exposed to the air. One way to prevent this is to keep the bags in a sturdy tray like this one, and bottom water them. Once the seedlings have been hardened off you can go ahead and just pop the plant, bag and all into the soil.

3. Egg cartons

You can use the egg cartons to either hold the eggshells in or you can use them as well to start your seedlings. I already save them and add them to my compost bin as brown matter, so I usually have them handy.

Egg carton for seedlings

Once the seedlings have started to grow, the whole thing can be planted into the soil and it will biodegrade in place. You can put the egg carton into a clear plastic bag to turn it into a mini greenhouse as well.

A lot of people like to suggest using eggshells as seedling starters as well. But truthfully they are really too small to be effective for most plants. Also unless you crack the shells before planting them in the ground, they can actually impede the roots from getting into to soil. So they are better used in the garden or added into your compost.

4. Peat pellets

Peat pellets are another option, they hold moisture well and they are fairly self-contained. All you need to do is soak them in water until they regain their normal height and then put your seed(s) in the little hole in the center.

peat pellets and seedlings

Lots of them come with a mini “greenhouse” that they can sit in to help with germination. The “greenhouse” is usually flimsy but if you take care of it you should be able to save it and just get new peat pellets for the next season. When the seedlings have germinated, you can carefully peel off the mesh and then pop them into the soil to continue growing.

5. Mini greenhouse or cold frame

Another great option to get your seedling off to a good start is using a greenhouse or cold frame. This will let you start them outside sooner, but definitely not as soon as you could if you started them indoors. I am currently looking at getting myself a greenhouse/potting shed, plus I am planning on building a few cold frames to help extend my growing season.

6. Paper pots makers 

Even quicker to biodegrade than toilet paper rolls or egg cartons are newspapers. Which makes it perfect to use for seedling pots. All you need is a paper pot maker to help you make little pots to hold your seedlings.

7. AeroGarden

I love using my Aerogarden Farm Plus to start my seedlings (as well as grow food in my basement year-round). It is super easy and they seedling get a jumpstart as plants germinated in the Aerogarden tend to sprout 5 times sooner!

Aerogarden seedlings

When they are big enough transplant them into soil and put them under grow lights until it is time to harden them off and move them outside. Most models of the Aerogardens have seedlings starting kits. I love the one for my Farm model as I can start 80 seedlings in the same space I would normally grow 12 plants!

8. Outside 

If you live in a more moderate climate or depending on what you are growing, planting outside might be the best option. It will also depend on how long it takes the given plant to come to maturity. Natural sunlight is always best, so if this is an option then, by all means, go for it.

How do you start your seedlings? Do you start them inside or do


  • Martine Tomczyk
    September 22, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for so many ideas. Egg cartons won’t support seedlings as they are too shallow. Seedlings fall over, then, when transplanted, are too delicate and don’t make it. I even tried to bury much of a few seedlings and they too didn’t make it.

    • Kir
      November 10, 2020 at 12:56 am

      Hi Martine,

      I was planning on updating this post soon and will most likely remove the egg cartons as I think they would be better used in the compost bin!



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