March is the time when many gardeners seek to get a jump on the growing season ahead of them by starting seeds in cold frames, greenhouses, or even indoors. Many seeds, particularly those of plants that prefer cooler temperatures, can be started during this time of year. While a lot of gardeners grow their own vegetables to save money on grocery bills, things can still get expensive if you find yourself having to purchase a lot of pots and soil. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a little bit of planning, you can easily save money on pots by using things around the house.
The best part of using biodegradable seed pots is that you can just plant them directly into the soil once the seeds have sprouted — without having to jostle or disturb any of their roots. If you’re starting plants that don’t do well with transplants, such as carrots, planting them in biodegradable pots will definitely give them more of a fighting chance in your garden.
When cut in half or into quarters (depending on the size of the roll), toilet paper and paper towel rolls can make great seed-starting pots for smaller varieties like greens and broccoli. When planted in the soil, the rolls will simply break down over time.
Don’t toss out your lemon, lime, and orange rinds! Save the halves to plant seeds in. The rind will biodegrade over time. You can similarly save your eggshells each day and plant seeds in each half-shell you have. Don’t worry about cleaning them out, as any leftover yoke will only help nourish the seeds. When the shells break down, they’ll also nourish the soil. If saving eggshells is just too icky for you, save your egg cartons instead. Simply cut the carton in half, fill both pieces with soil, and plant your seeds. When they’re ready to move to the garden, wet the carton halves and cut out each cup.
If you purchase coffee from your favorite café, keep the sleeves from your cups. The bigger ones are actually perfect for starting bigger seeds like beans, peas, and squash. Like that of toilet paper rolls, the cardboard from the cozies will gradually break down into the soil.
Newspaper is a classic alternative to store-bought plastic pots. While you can purchase tools to help you fold the paper into cup-like shapes, you can also do it without purchasing anything special. Just take the sheet of newspaper, fold it length-wise, and press the edges down. Then, wrap it around a juice glass or tin can, leaving about two inches of the edge free. Once you’ve rolled the paper around the glass or can, fold its edges down to form the base of the pot. Pull the glass and can out, and presto! You've got yourself a paper pot.
Reuse Your Plastics
If you feel guilty tossing away or recycling your plastic yogurt, cottage cheese, or premade food containers, consider using them to start seeds. Poke a few holes in the bottom to allow the containers to hold soil without getting too soggy.
When you get ready to plant the seedlings in your garden, be careful not to yank them from their pots, as you may damage their roots if you do. Instead, squeeze each container a few times to loosen the soil (especially if it has become compacted). Then, gently tip them to free the seedlings and plant them in your garden.
Other Biodegradable Pots
If you like the idea of biodegradable pots but haven’t saved any items that actually will biodegrade, you’re in luck — there are still plenty of options for you to purchase. Store-bought biodegradable pots are most commonly made from cow manure, coconut fiber, paper pulp, peat, and wood fiber. In addition to making it easier to transplant seedlings, they also allow the roots to get air, which is essential to growth. As a result, the roots are able to grow without restriction and get a healthy start before being planted in the garden. Just make sure that each pot has at least one drainage hole before planting them. If not, you may have to drill one yourself.
Things to Consider When Using Biodegradable Pots
Regardless of the type of pot you choose, there are a few things you should always consider. For instance, you'll want to place a napkin, paper towel, or coffee filter on the bottom of each one to prevent soil loss. Before you actually fill the pot with soil, however, you should moisten it with a bit of water. You don’t want it sopping wet, but you do want to get it just slightly moist. You’ll want to continue to moisten the pots after you’ve planted the seeds to keep them from drying out. Be aware that mold can grow in the pots if the soil is too wet, so try to find that happy medium where the seeds have enough water to grow but not so much that the only thing that grows is mold.