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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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