I am looking for ways to start seeds for my garden that are cheaper than buying greenhouses. Money is extremely tight right now and I thought that some of you "green thumbs" might know of an easy, works-great way to recycle containers for greenhouses.
I make a mini green house out of a large clear plastic tote. It has a dark lid, so it attracts heat on cold days. The lid becomes the tray on the bottom and the base is the dome over top. Just make sure you allow air in it during the day as the weather gets warmer or you'll roast your veggies before they're grown!
If you ever get a cake (sheet cake is best) from a bakery, save the plastic container it comes in. This is a perfect starter for seeds. Simply put your peat pots (or use egg cartons) inside and water lightly and then put the clear top back on. It is like a mini green house.
My father-in-law used this method and his entire backyard was once a gardener's dream. He would start his plants in old ice cube trays that he didn't use anymore and then place the seedlings in a sunny location with old milk jugs cut in half over the plants. When the seedlings were ready to transplant into the ground, he would reuse the jugs, place the jugs on the seedlings at night, and remove the jugs midmorning. It worked great. He lived in Erie, PA and he had tomatoes growing from early June until late September in his garden.
Melissa, State College, PA
I put two rows of seeds, evenly spaced, in between two wet paper towels, then place the whole pack in a zipper freezer bag to hold in the moisture. I then place this on top of the refrigerator, near the back where the motor is. The heat from the fridge running and the moisture of the towels will make the seeds germinate. Once they are showing roots and stems, I cut the paper towels apart (be careful not to cut the roots) and plant the tiny towel square with a seedling in it.
To plant, I use window boxes indoors, planting long lines of seedlings and culling as they get larger. It is important not to use old cloth towels instead of paper towels, because they will not decompose fast enough and will rot the seedlings. Also do not pull the seedlings off and try to reuse the paper towels, or you will rip the stems and roots.
Use a tomato paste tin or a soup tin and wrap several layers of newspaper (cut these papers about two inches longer than the can you are using) around it and fold in at the bottom. Slip off the tin, and you have a biodegradable pot in which to grow your seeds. Plant the whole pot in soil. Be sure to cover all the newspaper with soil when you plant or the newspaper will wick the moisture out of the ground.
Save seeds from flowers that you or your friends grow. Ask friends and neighbors if they are splitting up any of their perennials and if they would give you a few (share or trade any perennials that you have too).
The reader should check out the website www.gardenweb.com. Click on the forum area and read the winter sowing forum, the growing from seed forum, and any others of interest. There is also a plant and seed exchange. Winter sowing has been highly successful for me. By buying seeds when on sale at 10 for $1 and trading, it can be quite inexpensive. It is possible to have a yard full of flowers for about $7.
We've started our own seedlings for over 20 years now, mostly with great success. Although you can do it without additional lighting, fluorescent lights make a world of difference in the end result. We don't use the fancy designer models, but instead we use the shop lights that are available all over rather cheaply. You can encircle three sides of these lights with an aluminum foil wall to increase the lighting. As for seed starting containers, almost anything will do. The main thing is that you want good drainage.
For the best seedlings, use a good seed starting mix. Seeds often don't sprout well in regular potting soil as it can be heavy. Pay attention to the seed packet instructions. Some seedlings, particularly flowers, require light to germinate and must not be covered up. I've read that the biggest mistake we can make is to plant seeds too deeply.
Once your plants have attained two true leaves (as opposed to those initial two that come up), then repot to a larger container. For the soil in these, I generally use a mix of seed starter and cheap potting soil. You can always use your own compost, but I've never done that. We start around 800 seedlings per year and getting that much compost seems a daunting task.
Your plants may need some fertilizer and you can use an organic one or get some time-release product. This spring, as your friends are setting out their store-bought seedlings, make sure you let them know that you could use their flower pots and containers. Good luck and happy gardening. It's easier than you think!
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